Immersed in the glorious Alentejo countryside, between orange and cork groves (and next to the largest megalithic monument in the Iberian Peninsula), is Imani, a unique country house. Rustic elements like old beams and stone hearths, pots bursting with flowers, stone tanks are combined with vintage touches like a quirky display of antique sewing machines and salvaged neon signs in the garden plus walls full of modern art. In the extensive, mature gardens and lawns are two swimming pools, plus a pair of donkeys roaming the estate. It is incredibly peaceful out here, though Évora is just a 15-minute drive away.
Rooms and suites feature the same design principals, fusing antiques, retro and contemporary with chrome-and-glass tables, polished concrete and flea-market finds beneath soaring rafters. There’s seven of them in total, six set in the old workers quarters who have lavender-fringed terraces gazing out over the orange trees and a duplex suite with a rolltop bath in the main building with a view of Évora shimmering on the horizon. Floors are wooden, with boldly designed local rugs decorating them and wood burning stoves adding warmth. A gourmet minibar is stocked with wine, chocolate and even cheese.
The restaurant, serves seriously good Alentejano fare with a sophisticated twist at dinner. Light lunch consists of wraps, salads, hamburgers and spaghetti and in summer is served on the black-and-white-chequer board terrace. Do try the house wine, Improviso, created by acclaimed local wine maker Paulo Laureano especially for Imani. Breakfast – served until noon – offers fresh local breads and pastries, fruit and eggs to order and freshly squeezed juice from own oranges. The fun, funky and very well-stocked honesty bar, which sits under a pergola in the garden, flanked by sofas, table football and a giant chess. The hotel even produces its own olive oil from century-old trees that grow around the estate – evidence, if more were needed, that this romantic retreat remains firmly rooted to the land.
The hotel has two small unheated pools, set in the gardens and surrounded by boulder-strewn lawns, pine and cedar groves. A range of activities and experiences is offered. Choose from a menu of relaxing massages, which take place beneath a pergola overlooking the gardens. Ask about tastings with award-winning local producers, or head out on a guided tour of the region’s top wineries. There’s birdwatching, hot air ballooning, star gazing, horseback riding, exploring UNESCO-listed Évora or simply read a book in the garden.
Your host: Mariana Roxo
✅ free Wi-Fi • size matters: 7 rooms & suites (35-80m2) (377-861 sq ft) • hotel opened: 2011 • architect: Andrew Shore • interior design: Mariana Roxo & Zé Pedro Vasconcelos • bathroom amenities: Hermès ✅ free on-site parking • no pets allowed • wheelchair accessible • open year-round • Évora: 15-minute drive • Lisbon: 1-hour drive
The DNA: Born from the ruins of a sprawling farm, Imani (believe in Swahili) is the brainchild of TV producer Mariana and her actor husband Zé Pedro, who have skilfully turned the whitewashed shells into an intimate, romantic and surprisingly contemporary retreat. Quinta de Montemuro, the official name of the estate, gained its name in the early 20th-century with 50 full-time workers, but the exploitation is much older, as can be seen by a complex underground system of mines, wells, and tunnels of Roman irrigation, which still today guarantees the excellent distribution of water throughout the farm and make it a green island in the middle of the golden Alentejo fields. With the aid of an Australian architect who fell in love with the region and top notch interior design from the owning couple themselves, the result is an impressive display of Portuguese hospitality that actually manages to capture the rustic charms of the Alentejo with a certain sophistication.