Finca Santa Marta is a former olive oil mill which was converted into a country inn – B&B, situated in the heart of the outstanding natural landscape of the Extremadura dehesa.
Story of the “Lagar”
The word lagar is used only in few regions of Spain. In Extremadura it evokes the existence of a wine-producing farm; in Asturias it is used by the cider-making farmers.
As from mid-19th century Finca Santa Marta belonged to middle class entrepreneurs of the Trujillo bourgeoisie, in absence of the nobles who ruled the country life in previous centuries. Their business was probably related to textiles, as the processing of merino wool was in full swing. The slopes of the nearby hills being sufficiently fertile to cultivate vines between the usual olive trees, some of the more dynamic-minded gentry amplified their secondary residences with wine cellars and olive-oil pressing units, thereby providing locals with year round work opportunities.
The small Pago San Clemente hamlet, gradually grew into a residencial area. With its chillier weather at the foot of the first hills of Guadalupe, it still retains in the eyes of the neighbouring villages a slight aura of distinction. The mansion owners occupied only the first floor of these residences, as they usually only came for the week ends. The foreman and his family settled on the groundfloor, near the wine cellars with huge casks.
Sunday services were held at the family chapel; its tower supports a huge stork nest where presumably the same bird couple returns in February. Through the orange tree shaded patio, donkeys returned to their “cuadra”(cobble stoned stables with the original granite mangeoires). But the last “capataz” of Santa Marta who had inherited his function from his forefathers, told us his prestige was mainly based on managing the production of olive oil. The process from the grinding of olives by a donkey gyrating granite-cones to a still-existing pressing machine took place until 1965, in a huge barn, called “prensa” or “almazara”.
Since the present owners took possession in 1990, the barn has now been converted into a dining- and breakfast-room. Set between two lovely patios with orange trees, guests can still experience the unique aromas of an authentic Extremadura farmhouse.
The other wine-producing section of the house and its annex were converted into a country inn, as from 1993. They jointly belonged to a member of the Trujillo gentry. Its foreman used to scribble until 1945 on the wall of the cellar (bodega) short vertical lines to indicate the “arrobas” (11 litres) he produced each year. That area is now the present living room of the country inn.
Story of the Present Family Owners
After retiring from the Dutch diplomatic service in the nineties, Henri and his Spanish wife were one of the first “outsiders” to purchase a farmhouse complex, already called Santa Marta (like Henri’s wife), at a time when the rural emigration had reached a peak. This home however had changed proprietors 20 years earlier; as an agronomist, the intermediate owner had uprooted 1000 century old olive trees to replace them with almond and cherry trees. Cherries were however too difficult to market, as Henri found out after purchasing the property. Some plots were replaced by cabernet savignon vines in espalier. So in all, vineyards, almond and olive groves presently fill the scenic landscapes. An enjoyable habitat for a variety of birds and a delight for those who go for a walk up the hills.
Young staff, and particularly smiling Laura, the assistant manager, are in charge of the management and maintenance of the place. Specially regretted by innumerable guests in the course of the last 15 years, our Finca’s faithful housekeeper and cook, Inés, praised in innumerable Guestbook pages, retired recently to return, after 30 years of wanderings, to her homeland Chile.