Picking oranges from the tree may seem like a basic thing for many people in the Algarve, but it's not for people living in cities and in colder climates. To that can be added the possibility of going later to Quinta dos Avós, getting your hands dirty and learning how to make orange pie and then eat it freshly out of the oven.
These will be just two of the many experiences that tourists (and beyond) will be able to live in the future Rota da Orange, which is being designed and was presented yesterday at the opening of the 2nd Mostra Silves Capital da Orange.
Joana Silveira, from the Tourism Division of the Municipality of Silves, responsible for setting up this initiative, explained that the Route will start «from the nurseries, where the trees are produced, will pass through orchards and farms, will visit the citrus processing industry, will also include the handicraft, intangible heritage, gastronomy and accommodation", integrating "leisure and well-being activities", "along the entire territory of the municipality", from the coast to the barrocal and the mountains, in a logic of "sustainable tourism" .
Because citriculture, which is the most important agricultural sector in the municipality of Silves, occupying about 7 hectares, has processes that extend throughout the year, the route will also allow to «alleviate the seasonality» of tourism.
For companies that join Rota da Laranja (many are already doing so), this will be a way to further promote the «Silves Capital da Laranja» brand, as well as creating «new business and partnership opportunities» and bring “more and new consumers” to a high quality product.
Rota da Laranja will thus create themed itineraries throughout the county, with programs of flexible duration. As Rosa Palma, Mayor of Silves revealed, “will challenge visitors according to their availability, if they have an afternoon or if they have three days. Visitors will know what to visit, where to stay, where to eat, where to experience».
The route will also pay attention to two tourism niches that, in the municipality of Silves, are of great value or may come to have it: caravanning and accessible tourism.
Desidério Silva, president of the Algarve Tourism Region, expressed his satisfaction with the creation of this new and original tourist product, which takes advantage of a local wealth, the orange, «fruit that must be promoted and valued».
«A few days ago we learned the figures for tourism in the Algarve, in 2017, which were the best ever: we had 19 million overnight stays and 1000 million income. But the number of beds has not increased. What increased was the diversity, offer and quality of the region, with more barrocal and mountain ranges, more local accommodation, more rural tourism, more companies bringing people to the interior, more local development associations promoting tourist animation initiatives ».
For his part, Vítor Neto, former Secretary of State for Tourism, businessman, current president of NERA and still born in Silven, invited to speak about the importance of creating initiatives such as the Rota da Laranja, began by recalling that his great-grandfather, « 120 years ago, there in Vale Parra, he produced oranges that he sold in Lisbon, sending them there on the train that had been inaugurated a short time ago».
The businessman, manager of the family business based in São Bartolomeu de Messines, stressed that this route “will have several impacts and not only in the citrus industry”, even defending that it is not only Silves who needs this project. «It is the whole Algarve that needs this project to go forward».
Vítor Neto underlined the «strategic importance of citrus fruit in the Algarve», defending that «we have to revalue the importance of agriculture in the production of wealth in our region».
The Algarvians themselves, he said, “do not know the strength and weight of citrus fruit in the economy of our region. We have to change that». Fernando Severino, regional director of Agriculture, had already recalled that «citrus fruits are the main agricultural crop in the Algarve, which concentrates 70% of national production and generates 70 to 80 million euros of annual turnover».
Vítor Neto highlighted the creation of Rota da Laranja as «a new tourist product that allows you to feel another Algarve». “There will be thousands of people who will go from here saying: I ate the best oranges in the world! How much is this not worth?”
This is, he argued, «a project that deserves our affection and we must also conquer the entire region for it. It is also a challenge for the Tourism Region».
«Tourism will only have a future in the Algarve if it has around it a set of economic activities that sustain it. Tourism alone cannot survive», concluded the president of the main business association in the Algarve.
But while the Orange Route is not working in the field – it is expected that it will be until the end of this year -, the orange continues to be highlighted in Silves. The Mostra dedicated to her continues this Saturday and Sunday. Gastronomy, sweets, artisanal orange beer, citrus fruits of all varieties, freshly squeezed juices filled with vitamin C, handicrafts, the latest innovations in agricultural machinery and technology, entertainment are just some of the ingredients of this free-entry event. At night, Amor Electro (this Saturday) and Moçoilas (Sunday) take to the stage.
And, tomorrow afternoon, there will even be a surprise for those with a sweet tooth: Quinta dos Avós (which, at the fair, has a specially made orange cake for sale), was also in charge of making a giant orange pie. And certainly from the gifted hands of Dona Encarnação Gonçalves, an orange pie will come out to eat…and cry for more!
Photos: Fabiana Saboya | Sul Informação