Driving from Villanueva de la Serena in the north-east of the province Badajoz towards Magacela, you reach the entrance to one of the most solitary and beautiful regions of Extremadura: the Serena. From the fortress Puebla de Alcocer you have a panoramic view that will make you better understand what is so unique about the Serena. It is situated exactly between the artificial channel Orellana and la Serena. The scenery has a unique and romantic atmosphere, particularly at dusk. At daytime the Serena is so calm and seems limitless.
The Serena forms the biggest steppe area of Spain. The feeling of being in the vicinity of North Africa is particularly strong here. Roads in the Serena are extremely long and are not much frequented. There are not many villages and small towns in the steppe. The unique atmosphere of the Serena is enhanced by the sheep herds and shepherds with their dogs trekking across the land. In the evening the sheep are not brought back to the stables, they live outdoors every night and day. This is a kind of transhumance management of pasture: it is the oldest way of keeping livestock in human history, which is still in practice in the Serena. Almost all societies stopped practising transhumance in the course of the 19th century. In the Serena however, herds of sheep are still trekking through the land year in year out. Shepherds vary the pasture place for their herds three of four times seasonally, depending on the availability of the fodder.
Sheep herds, which can be seen in the open spaces between Villanueva de la Serena, Zalmea de la Serena and Cabeza del Buey, enjoy the climate of Extremadura and the steppe vegetation. The long-established cheese factories manufacture the milk of the sheep into Torta de la Serena, which is also related to the very popular Torta del Casar de Caceres. Serena’s cheese factories merged in 1981 into a cooperative that today has 100 members. There are 70,000 sheep in each herd, which together provide half a million litres of milk each year. The cooperative has a strong quality control and gives seals to cheese factories that use only the four ingredients according to the traditional recipe: prickly leaves of thistle and salt. The milk of 15 sheep is necessary for producing one kilo of Torta. It must ripe for 60 days before getting the seal on the back of the package, without which it cannot be sold. The best way to savour Torta is to carefully open the cover, cut off a piece from the inner part and then seal it again. You eat Torta with a glass of dry wine and white bread. You can also eat the feta cheese in small pieces in a salad as a side dish, or as an ingredient in soups or sauces. Torta has its own fairly strong and slightly bitter taste. Thus, we recommend the cheese to people who are discovering the delicacy for the first time.