Villa Extramuros is a strikingly beautiful contemporary guesthouse located in the Alentejo, one of the last wild regions in Europe with kilometers and kilometers of nature and wilderness.
How would you describe São Lourenço do Barrocal in a nutshell?
A project that I was naive to think would only take a few years to develop; instead, it took 14. It is now a rural retreat in the wild landscape of the Alentejo, where people of all ages can connect, not only with nature and with local people but also with each other. São Lourenço do Barrocal is a hotel that offers the utmost service and all the comfort of modern living while also allowing the experience of staying on a productive farm.
What’s the story behind São Lourenço do Barrocal and what was the inspiration to open a hotel?
The property was founded in 1820 by one of my ancestors, a gentleman called Manuel Mendes Papança, and has been in my family ever since, I’m the 8th generation. For a while, however, the estate was nationalised and, for about 10 years, it stopped all its activity. When I started to plan what to do with Barrocal, in the early 90s, I had a set of derelict buildings and almost 200 years of history to uncover and bring back to life.
How would you describe the atmosphere and the interior design of São Lourenço do Barrocal?
The hotel is all about preserving the vernacular architecture and the way the old farm buildings were constructed: handmade terracotta bricks, whitewashed walls, cobblestone streets. No artificiality, only natural textures and tones, which actually end up giving it its contemporaneity. We used a lot of local crafts in the interior design, from pottery to tapestry, to marble and leather, because we want things to last, and feel real, and give a sense of place.
To you personally, what is so special about São Lourenço do Barrocal?
The vastness of nature, and the freedom and peace of mind it allows me to have while I’m there with my three kids; it is a place that becomes special because I see them play with other kids that they just met, allowing them to build new friendships and even lasting ones because some of those kids will come back the next year.