Across the landscape of Spain, from Extremadura to Catalonia , through Andalusia, Murcia, Castilla-La Mancha, Valencia and Aragon, olive groves paint a unique landscape of soft red sandy hillside crossed by perfect lines of silvery green. The olive tree has set deep roots in this countryside, and everything around seems to pay tribute to olive oil. Well-known as the mainstay of the Mediterranean diet, this valuable product is also the basis of an entire culture. Olive estates that have existed for hundreds of years are opening their gates to tourists, restaurants are proud to claim olive oil as the foundation of their speciality cuisine and the precious golden liquid is used in spa treatments. There are a hundred and one ways to soak up this great Spanish tradition, and here, to start you off on the right foot, we suggest some delightful hotels set in converted oil presses.
Hacienda La Laguna
Set in Baeza, Jaen, in the middle of a 500 acre plantation dating from the seventeenth century, this hotel complex houses an olive oil museum. It's the perfect place to learn about the history of olive cultivation and to discover traditional oil production methods, different techniques of olive pressing and the modern side of bottling and marketing. The hotel comprises 28 rooms laid out around a courtyard and decorated with olive wood furniture, as well as a catering school which pays homage to the liquid gold and two restaurants where traditional and innovative dishes are served.
In Calaceite, a traditional village of historical and artistic interest, a former olive press dating from 1735 has been converted into a charming boutique hotel. Some of the original features of the building have been retained, and the grinding stone can still be seen in the cellar. The five double en-suite rooms are named after varieties of olive: picual, hojiblanca, arbequina, empeltre and molino. Some of the suites have separate living areas and they all boast modern facilities and offer fine views of the Montes de Beceite mountains. The hojiblanca attic room has access to a small terrace which is delightful both during the day and at night.
Molino del Arco
Surrounded by olive trees and fields of wheat, and supported by the great attraction of the town of Ronda, this old farm and olive press mill dates back to the eighteenth century. It offers 15 rooms and suites that are named after varieties of olive and combine the serenity of the olive grove with the elegance of the noble houses of the area. Several lounge areas and two pools add to the attractions, as does the restaurant where the best local produce - and local olive oil - forms the basis of fine cuisine.
La Almazara de Valdeverdeja
The Almazara is an ideal place to enjoy the simple pleasures of life: calm, countryside, peace and quiet, good food, spacious rooms... The building of the old olive press adjoins the small hotel and a handful of individual villa-suites spread across the farm to form a complex loyal to the tradition of the great houses of La Mancha. The oil press is still in working order and now speciality olive oil soaps are made here. The restaurant serves traditional and imaginative dishes based on high-quality local ingredients: meats, cheeses and wines - not forgetting the virgin olive oil, of course.
Hacienda La Colora
In the heart of the Sierra Morena, stands this typical Cordoba plantation house or hacienda, on a vast 100 hectare estate dedicated to the organic cultivation of olives. The hacienda is arranged around a central cobbled courtyard and retains a number of elements of the old oil press, including the counterweight wall, the cellars and the original tank that supplied the water needed in the oil production process. The old stone building houses 13 simply decorated rustic rooms. There are a number of sports facilities, including a pool and football and basketball courts, and the gardens offer fine views of the mountains and countryside.
Torre del Visco
In a secluded spot in the province of Teruel, surrounded by olive trees, orchards and woods, we find this noble fifteenth-century farmhouse belonging to the prestigious Relais & Chateaux hotel chain. It is a labyrinthine lodging, set apart from the bustling world, a romantic place, furnished with British elegance. The tower suite, the piano lounge and library are particularly impressive. The oil used for the excellent Mediterranean cuisine served in the hotel restaurant is produced in the press itself. Oil and wine tastings are offered. A luxurious setting where neither TV nor telephone are needed.