Upon the land that embraces Torre de Palma Wine Hotel, amid ancient vineyards, rolling hills, and the thundering hooves of horses, one comes upon a tower from the Middle Ages. It’s here that Paulo Barradas Rebelo and Ana Isabel Rebelo, two pharmacists-turned-hoteliers, like to take their guests. “Every day we go to the top of the tower to see the sunset and talk about our experiences and the rich history here,” says Ana. And given the unlikely personal histories that have led them to owning a hotel on this spot, those conversations likely go long into the night.
“The Romans are a model for us,” explains Paulo. “They brought wine, olive oil, horses, and spas to this land, and their model for living is ours—2,000 years later, those very elements are what Torre de Palma is all about.
It didn’t take 2,000 years for the long-married couple to become hoteliers. It just felt at times as if it did. “We met in pharmacy school and worked in that field,” explains Paulo. “What did we know about being hoteliers or running a vineyard? Nothing! We drank wine with friends, but we never made it.”
“The reason we are here,” Ana interjects, “is because we knew this farm was in ruins, but we fell in love with it and felt that someone must save it. It’s a place with tremendous history and beauty.”
Ana Isabel Rebelo
The pair bought the property nine years ago and though they knew the area well—they had family nearby—they immediately began speaking with many people in the region and some experts about how to proceed. “We decided to get the best architects in Portugal,” Paulo says proudly. "We love heritage and we respect creative people.”
The result of their work was almost instant. “The hotel was recently nominated for a Mies van der Rohe award,” notes Ana. “What we have here is so beautiful and modern, a fusion of the old and new.”
But for the pair, experience is as important as setting. Which is why, as Ana explains, hotel guests can readily immerse themselves in those many Roman passions.
“We have a traditional winery here,” she says, “and we want guests to experience things authentically. We do wine traditionally, artisanally, which means guests can partake in every step of the winemaking process if they want. They can select and harvest the grapes, even stomp them with their feet!” Guests can also ride the region’s traditional Lusitano horses and take lessons that range from dressage to those for beginners or children.
Ana Isabel Rebelo
Today, the couple has four grown children. Paulo is the cofounder and President of Bluepharma, a Portuguese pharmaceutical group that was created when he and his colleagues bought a state-of-the-art industrial unit from Bayer in 2001. It has grown from 58 people to more than 400.
Ana, meanwhile, got a degree in tourism and hotel management after they bought the property. Yet to hear her enthusiasm for the hotel and its land—“this the oldest and most famous wine region in Portugal!” she exclaims—one gets that the degree may not have been necessary. “We have one of the best skies in Europe as there is no light pollution,” she says proudly. “You can even see the Milky Way.” Then she adds, “You can feel the positive energy here. Yes, we sell positive energy. That’s us working!”