Horta do Laranjal stretches through a large orchard full of diversity, hence the name "garden of the orange trees". From oranges to olive trees (that we use to produce our organic olive oil), there's a bit of everything. And everything is used on the farm. It's a family-run agro-tourism business where we live amongst animals, the quietness of Alentejo, and a never-ending landscape. Surrounded by mountains and with all the commodities for a happy stay, it's easy to be inspired by silence and the countryside.
I call it a garden because it's very fresh and green, full of water and nature. Sometimes it feels like we're not in this world, and that feeling is worth the trip for those who look for tranquillity. But not all is slow at this farm. The Horta is split into two parts - the calm one and the social one. There is room for all the moods, all people, and all moments.
The project I'm developing in the old animal's area is also interesting and something that will stand out. I was a child when we moved here from a property a few kilometres away. The two hectares of land anticipated many of the memories that marked my life. I think the reason why I became an archaeologist was that I lived in an archaeologically rich place. This seems like an odd detail for the sake of this story, but my job and my interest in arts is what led me to build a pre-historical park at the estate. It's something I'm still developing and that I don't know yet when will be done. I always ask people to visit, and the reactions have been positive so far. It's not the only reason to visit, but it's a good complement for the whole experience, and of course, it partly represents my personal history and humankind's history.
An area in the estate that was meant for animals was useless, and since I had been designing a project for a pre-historical park for some time, I decided to move forward with that challenge by myself. It's something unique and different, and that's connected to my job as an archaeologist and my interest in arts. It's a travel back in time that begins 7000 years ago, BC, and that follows the history of the megalithic menhirs. That journey is made through large panels with illustrations and scale reproductions of menhirs, villages, and the huts where people lived in that period. It's a space that's both entertaining and educational, where you can have championships with pre-historic weapons like bows and arrows, or work with clay.
Our story and mission
Rio de Moinhos was always my home. I wasn't born here, but at a property nearby. Later my family bought this farm, where I grew up and made many beautiful memories.
I think my future was sparked by a strong recollection of growing up here. There's a cypress tree from the Iron Age in a nearby piece of land. I've heard the stories and legends about it since I was a child, saying there were two pots inside the tree - one with gold and one with the plague. I believe these tales and the archaeological richness around me led me to become an archaeologist. For many years I was a professor at Universidade de Lisboa, Faculdade de Letras, and later at Faculdade de Belas Artes. The fun fact is that my first assignment, the first excavation I led, happened precisely on that land owned by my family.
Maybe this is my life’s primary role - to defend, preserve, and value our heritage through archaeology.
A few years ago, we didn't quite know what to do with this property. We were busy with other projects and time went by. Five years ago, we finally decided to restore the property and turn it into an agro-tourism business. My sister and I are trying to keep this family-owned property alive while respecting its original function as a farm. We are preserving and improving heritage sustainably. Forty years ago, I began to grow products here organically and never looked back.
“Wilding” is another one of my methods, which means giving room to nature to return to its wild state. Trees grow as they want at their own pace - I have some gigantic trees here.
In addition to the sharing and preservation work I do here at Horta do Laranjal, I don't think anyone else in Portugal does as many archaeological charts as I do. As an archaeologist, I've been to almost every field in Alentejo, and I know them better than anyone else. Archaeological prospecting is looking for archaeologic traces and recording them. By doing it, we are safeguarding our heritage, preserving it, and sharing it with the world.
We’re located in Borba, at a small parish called Rio de Moinhos, and part of a landscape that people often refer to as Marble Region. Between Sousel and Alandroal, it's a hilly landscape where marble has been harvested since the Ancient Rome times. Marble, like all types of limestones, absorbs and stores the rainwater. That water creates streams that permanently flow into the river, something that's rare in this area of Alentejo. This abundance of water led to the founding of large estates and the growth of farming. We're right at the outskirts of that area, and we're very influenced by its signature landscape.
On one side we see the limestone massif, and on the other side, we see the mountain. It's a unique landscape.
Vila Viçosa is right next to Borba, two county capitals a few kilometres apart, which is a rare thing but helps give the region some momentum.
On the other hand, we have the largest mountain in central Alentejo (Serra D’Ossa), which you can see from Horta do Laranjal. In old times, the mountain provided with firewood, herds of goats, and so many other essential goods. It was a sacred place where once there was a convent of hermit monks. Its rich biodiversity and archaeological heritage are reason enough to pay a visit.
The name Rio de Moinhos (River of Mills) comes from the abundance of watermills in this region, which no longer exist. Today the village is mostly known for its cheese. There are about 15 family-owned cheese factories specialising in cheese made with a mix of sheep milk, using ancient methods.