Casa de Terena

Terena, Alentejo, Portugal Book from Eur75

Reviewed by Tom Bell
A super-cosy hideaway in an undiscovered hilltop village with long views across a lake to the hills
A small untouched village that basks in the hot Alentejo sun. At the top of the hill, once the bishop’s manor house, Casa de Terena stands bathed in bougainvillea, shaded by the castle walls. The house is fascinating in every way, be it the vaulted brick roof in the sitting room, the marble stairs ‘rescued’ from a Roman temple (Julius Caesar visited in 43 BC), Stella’s fabulous pottery, or paintings from all over the world that fill the walls and alcoves.

Quietly chic bedrooms extol the virtues of uncluttered simplicity. Those at the back have huge views across olive groves to the Lucefecit reservoir and hills; those at the front have Juliet balconies serenading the castle. Help yourself to a drink, then potter across the cobbled lane and sit at a table outside the old church; don’t expect to be disturbed by cars. Your hosts can organise mountain-bike safaris, canoe trips up river gorges, visits to local wineries, or hands-on cheese-making sessions. If you yearn to escape the crowds in a blissful pocket of undiscovered Europe, apply here.

Highs

  • The house and the village; both are gorgeous, a great base for those who want to explore
  • There’s something exquisite at every turn: a calçada (tiled) entrance hall, Italian sofas, voile wall hangings, sumptuously upholstered armchairs, mellow lighting, an open fire in winter
  • You’re in the heart of one of the loveliest areas in Portugal and you’ll have it to yourself
  • It's fantastic value for money

Lows

  • It's remote - 185km from Lisbon airport - but that is also part of its charm
  • Jeremy and Stella are often away in South Africa, but their right hand man Cesar is apparently very helpful and knowledgeable
  • No pool on site, but you can walk or cycle to a nearby farm and swim in their pool (free of charge)
  • There’s no air conditioning, but ceiling fans and shuttered windows keep you cool
  • The only outdoor seating area is on the cobbled street outside, but it's a great spot for relaxing and watching village life go by

Best time to go

The Casa is closed December through February. July and August can be extremely hot.

Our top tips

Book one of Cesar's special food days: you start the day with a walk to pick produce, arrive through the hills at Juan de Viega where you milk goats with the local cheese guru and help make the regional queijo fresco, and later enjoy that - plus a full evening’s dinner - around a long table at Monte dos Vicentes.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Foodie
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 6
  • Breakfast (and picnics) only
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

If you want the view, try for the rooms at the back; if you want a tiny balcony, ask for those at the front. If you're not sure, stay for a week and swap halfway through; you won’t regret it. All the rooms are lovely: simple, but elegant with a very friendly price. Expect pure cotton sheets, freshly-cut flowers, ceiling fans and terracotta-tiled floors. Walls have been painted in smart creamy colours, so have some of the wooden beds. Funky rugs were woven up the road, groovy glass was blown by a local hippy.

You get power showers in neat little bathrooms. Some are tiled in Portuguese style, others are more contemporary with cast-iron lampshades and round terracotta sinks. Wander at will and find West African wall hangings, small TVs, decanters of port and angels above one bed. One room at the front has room for an armchair in an alcove; you can throw open the French windows, gaze up at the castle and lose yourself in a good book (there are many sprinkled around). All are shuttered, so you can sleep with the windows open in summer and still outwit the wicked mosquito.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Safe box
  • Tv

Eating

A snug breakfast room is nicely social and the window frames views of the hills. The buffet includes a few treats: a jug of freshly squeezed juice that comes from village oranges, homemade muffins and banana bread, plates of freshly cut fruit (pineapple and papaya, melon and peaches), local honey and jams, strong coffee anyway you like it and a selection of teas.

Gourmet picnics can be arranged: wine, bread, smoked local ham, cheese straight from the maker. Or if you're staying in, you can use the Casa's kitchen to prepare snacks and simple meals.

There's no dinner, but the food in the area is exceptional. In the village, a tascas (simple restaurant) serves good pork and lamb.10km up the road in Alandroal, A Maria and O Chaminè are both well-respected. Or head to São Rosas in Estremoz for the best grub in the area.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Cooking classes
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Mountain bikers and ramblers will love it here: tracks lead deep into gently undulating country, and you can be met at lunchtime with a picnic under an olive tree
  • There’s no pool at the hotel, but you can swim in the pool at Monte dos Vicentes (6 mins' cycle ride or 15 mins' walk), or in the lake if you're brave
  • Or borrow a canoe: Jeremy will take you down to the lake, leave you to paddle up the river gorge (a couple of hours) and meet you at the other end with a picnic; you may see locals fishing the lake, perhaps a shepherd on the hills, but that’ll be it
  • Hire a 4WD (or Jeremy can chauffeur you) through the fascinating back country, discovering Neolithic remains, ley lines and carved stone slabs (some of which ended up in Lisbon's National Archaeological Museum, others in Casa de Terena's steps). One summit has exchanged hands regularly – Celts, Romans, Moors, Vandals and Christians – while on another, a temple to Cupid was built (even though nothing survives, the view is spectacular)
  • Pre-book pottery or cooking lessons, visits to vineyards (you get to taste the local brew) or the cheese maker who supplies Lisbon’s best restaurants
  • Don’t miss Monsaraz, one of the area’s most beautiful hilltop towns; the graceful pomp of gorgeous Estremoz; a walk in the eucalyptus forest in the Serra de Ossa; the palace at Vila Viçoca, or sleepy Alandroal
  • The border with Spain is about 3 kms as the crow flies. It is marked by the Guadiana River and a combination of driving and walking will take you to its shores

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Art classes
  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

Children under 10 are free sharing their parents' room. Cots and babysitting are available on request.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

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