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A working farm and boutique hotel in Portugal's Alentejo spins simplicity into gold.

If you pare it down to the plainest facts, São Lourenço do Barrocal is an award-winning boutique hotel on an expansive estate in Portugal’s Alentejo. Of course, that’s not all there is to it, but it’s this distinctive simplicity that makes it so magical. Interiors that at a glance seem monastic are revealed to be masterfully considered. The awards they’ve been notching up since 2015 have been earned by doing hospitality very beautifully. The resulting accolades, the most recent being a spot on the 2023 Conde Nast Traveller Gold List, sees this hotel boxing above its weight given that most of the other contenders are on the grand hotel end of the spectrum.

The 2,000-acre herdade has been in the same family for more than two centuries. The vision for the hotel was cultivated by an eighth-generation son, António J. Uva, and is rooted in his ancestral heritage. From its origin as a megalithic settlement, the land is marked by inhabitants from the Iron and Bronze Ages, on to the Alentejo’s 700-year Roman occupation, through the Middle Ages - when the area was a refuge for Jews fleeing the Inquisition across the nearby Spanish border - and into the nineteenth-century. At around this time, the estate evolved into a self-sufficient small village that supported livelihoods for 50 resident families. Today guests occupy the converted former sheds, workshops, and schoolrooms, while the estate’s farming activities - which include beekeeping, olive oil production and a winery - continue on the farm. Everything that São Lourenço do Barrocal is about, stems from this powerful sense of place.

São Lourenço do Barrocal by Bev Tucker

The Alentejo makes up 30% of Portugal; a country within a country, aloof from the ciggy’nchips kiosk that mass tourism has made of parts of the coast. This hinterland is all sun-drenched horizons where traditional clay-tiled Montes Alentejanos homesteads preserve the architecture, farming methods and time honored crafts. The ancient story of the region meanders through dryland olive groves, whitewashed medieval villages and marbled hill fortresses. Distilled in the understated style of São Lourenço do Barrocal, it draws a following of annual faithful to its threshold. 

I’ll leave you with this insider’s tip from the owners, “We like the rooms that were once used to house the estate's farm machinery, tools and brick kiln, as they are slightly bigger than the rest (shhh). If it’s one of the cottages you’re after, we’d pick number 28 or 29 – in our opinion, they’ve got the best views.”

Images and video Sao Lourenco do Barrocal. Ash James. Luis Piteira. Rory Wylie. Bruno Feder. Nuriel Molcho.

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