Welcome to Finca Santa Marta

Finca Santa Marta is composed of two typical lagares (wine and olive oil farmhouses), whose original owners belonged to ancient bourgeois families from Trujillo. In a setting of 30 hectares (approx 75 acres), this complex was dedicated to the production of wine and olives. The winery, the olive oil press, the patios, the stable and the chapel were its prominent dependencies. The foreman (in Spanish, lagareño or capataz) stayed with his family at the farm, whilst the owners resided in larger towns.

The slow re-conversion of the country house (cortijo) into one of Extremadura’s first country inns, was undertaken with respect to its original structure, using the talents of the old local workmen, who were gradually drifting to unemployment.

Gardens, woodlands and vines

Spacious and generously sprinkled gardens now surround the place. Those who like the freshness of a swimming pool, or the silent spaces of nature find their solace here. Some follow winding trails among the pine-olive and centenary cork trees, to be rewarded with stunning views from the hills around the Finca. Here and there, derelict farmhouses bring to mind the sad emigration from the countryside of the farmers’ children. The church bell of the once vivacious hamlet of nearby San Clemente, where just one bar now remains, projects melancholic sounds to the traveller supping a tipple within.

The living rooms

One of the two living rooms (with TV) is the old bodega-winery, rearranged so as to allow small groups enjoy their privacy. The low hanging beams and the granite grape-trampling recipient are features that enhance the guests’ intimacy.

The other living room was once the horse’s stable; birdwatching guests like to gather there to tick off the birds viewed in the course of the day (average of 60). It leads from the patio to the spacious garden, with the pool, floral-settings and loose chickens. Further on, some plots of vines (cabernet savignon, tempranillo), end in the background, leading on to olive tree dotted hills.

Life in the countryside surges with tractors humming during harvest time, and horses cleaning the surface of remaining grass. Harvesting the hundreds of olive trees is now no longer associated with pole-whipping farmers, but with tractors preceded by a shaking, upturned “umbrella”.

The chapel

The chapel tower nest used to accommodate the Finca’s first of the year’s guests: the circling storks, eventually settling after their long journey from Africa. Strangely they and many of their kin, are gradually abandoning the area. But the Nordic cranes still abundantly fly over towards the nearby lakes near Guadalupe.

Family celebrations still take place at the restored chapel with its white washed walls featuring some religious tokens from far away countries: a Croatian fresco, a Holy Mary 18th century painting from Cuzco. The large granite stone baptism water font, together with an old wooden bench belong to the original church interior.

The ancient olive oil barn, (in Spanish prensa or almazara) attracts probably the most attention from visitors. Now a dining room (for max. 26), the word “signifies a working hall where farmers, laborers discharged their animals from loads of olives which were then crushed by grinding them under great granite cones. The blindfolded donkey, circling around, is a long vanished animal from the Extremadura landscape. Suffice it to imagine the mass of crushed olive, spread between a dozen mats, capachos, piled upon each other in a 1860 machinery. Two farmhands pushed an iron bar to squeeze the oil from the crushed mats. Travelers who opt for dinner at the farm, may thus immerse themselves in the original setting. A huge window, newly installed, opens up the enclosed unit; a local wine opens up the mind.

Our housekeeper and cook at the finca for 20 years – a Chilean who had remained with the family during 30 years in 7 different diplomatic posts – had been a pillar of the house, difficult to replace. Extremadura produces a varied cuisine, but housewives are reluctant to leave their own homes.

Our young staff waits upon the candle lit dining tables. Dinners are optional, upon request (we do not serve dinner the whole year) a four-course, one menu meal, reserved in advance. Wine and liquors, freely available, help the guests relax from sometimes long journeys in isolated areas; or from trips in the marvellous parks rich in wildlife; or from visits to medieval towns.