Recently, it seems, the marketers all decided to start promoting the Alentejo as the “Tuscany of Portugal.” I get it. The pastoral district south of Lisbon but north of the Algarve’s beach resorts is both rugged and agricultural, wild and organized around cultivation.
The Alentejo embodies living well while also living simply. There are rolling hills, painterly landscapes, gnarled old olive trees, zesty full-bodied wines, and many ways to eat a pig.
But as much as I understand the impulse, I think comparing the Alentejo to any other place does it a disservice. It is a world all its own. Everything is golden. Time moves slowly, steeped as it is in history, memories of past generations and the unrelenting summer heat that sears everything into clear relief. It is also a world that has no place for formality. There is zero reason to dress up. The Alentejo is one of those places that is unabashedly come-as-you-are.
And so, it seems, every so often, another dreamy, come-as-you-are hotel opens—keeping a personality all its own but also raising the bar in a region whose popularity is deservedly growing. (I’ve written about a number of my favorites.)
The latest hotel to clear that bar is the greatly expanded Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, in the lower Alentejo, where things are even balmier, slower and more soulful. Although the original elements of the place—a