The Alentejo region stretches across two-thirds of central and southern Portugal between the Algarve and Lisboa regions. Its pastoral landscape includes endless olive trees, cork trees, vineyards, wheat fields, white-washed houses, roman ruins and charming towns. Much of the population make a living from agriculture. It is often referred to as the new Tuscany. To be honest, I had never heard of this region prior to my visit, but immediately fell in love with it’s simple and tranquil way of life. There is nothing touristy about it. The whole point of coming to this unpopulated area is to slow down and to enjoy nature. And that, is exactly what we did!
Our home base for the next 3 days was Villa Extramuros, which is situated in the countryside on the outskirts of a small village called Arraiolos, only 15 minutes north of Évora. As you drive onto the property of Villa Extramuros, past the cork and olive trees and the herd of sheep grazing in the fields you are mesmerized by the contemporary white house juxtaposed against the bright blue sky and the natural surroundings. The only sounds you hear are the birdsongs and the clanging of bells that hang around the neck of the sheep. It was heaven.
We are welcomed by owners François and Jean-Christophe, who provide a quick tour of their home. The modern architectural design of the exterior completely compliments the minimalist contemporary style of the interior which includes an extensive collection of furniture and decorative pieces from all the great artists and designers of the 20th century. Virtually every collected piece has been carefully chosen and placed. For guests, there are a few common spaces that are large enough to offer a great deal of privacy. A large L-shaped lounge area, a dining room where we enjoyed our delicious daily breakfast, outdoor patios and courtyard space and an incredible infinity pool that overlooks the peaceful countryside. Each of the guest rooms, I think there were 5 in total, have a large private terrace, and our room, #4, had a perfect view of the local village of Arraiolos with the countryside in the foreground.
Confession time…staying at Villa Extramuros was our initial draw to this region. And, if you love and appreciate interior design, Villa Extramuros needs to be at the top of your list of places to stay.
It is a small village just north of Évora and is infameous for its tapesty rugs, which date back to the 16th century and its designs were heavily influenced by Persian and Turkish carpets. In the center of village, you will find many shops and a museum dedicated to this art. This is a traditional town, full of whitewash buildings with bright gold trim.
It is a mecca for historical landmarks and museums, and remained undamaged by the great earthquake of 1755, so it is not a city you can see in a just a couple of hours, hence the reason why our home base was only 15 minutes away. This lively and beautiful town full of whitewash buildings with mustard yellow trim features a roman temple, medieval walls, cathedral and many more other historical landmarks that make for a full day of touring.
Alentejo towns we missed, but you shouldn’t
- Castelo de Vide – a traditional hilltop village close to the Spanish boarder
- Marvão – a scenic hilltop village full of whitewash buildings features a castle and roman ruins
- Elvas – a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for being a fortified town is close to the Spanish boarder
- Estremoz – an authentic hilltop town made of marble
- Monsaraz – a charming and picturesque village nestled on a hill
We didn’t realize just how beautiful this region was until we got here. There is so much to offer that we will definitely return and explore further.