HOTEL CASA VESTA
Review by Michelle Chaplow
Small, stylish hotel in the Sierra de Aracena, full of contemporary art with stunning lake views.
Why should you stay here?
Do you dream of being transported to a relaxing, peaceful place in sun-drenched southern Spain, where the only noises are birdsong and the occasional chimes from church bells?
Casa Vesta is a remote, luxurious, independently-owned small boutique hotel in the hills of Aracena. Proprietors Fernando Franco and Gisela Loewe are avid art collectors and Casa Vesta has one of the finest private contemporary art collections in Andalucia.
The nine-room hotel offers 360-degree views to the lake below and surrounding countryside with gently rolling tree-covered hill, with a fabulous infinity pool on a stunning terrace dotted with plants. Share the peace with your significant other at this stylish romantic retreat.
Where is it?
In the village of Zufre in the north-west of Huelva province. Zufre is described as "a white village hidden amongst the clouds and nature" and is just an hour's drive north of Seville, in the middle of the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park.
Zufre is 87km from Seville, 89km from the Portuguese border, 27km from Aracena and only 20 km from Extremadura. The nearest airport for international travellers is Seville (SVQ) (92km). Reaching rural Zufre by public transport is not easy, so driving is advised. Nevertheless, local taxis are available (75€ Seville - Zufre or viceversa).
What kind of person stays there?
People who want a break from urban life, history-lovers - Zufre dates back to Moorish times; curious independent travellers who want to experience an off-the-beaten track village in Andalucía. Also hikers, bird-watchers and stargazers - the skies are so clear that you can almost touch the stars, while of course lovers of contemporary art will be intrigued by their private collection.
Very well-suited to stylish, artistic guests; ideal for couples and groups of friends, as Casa Vesta has a policy of no children under the age of 16.
What's it like?
A large white two-storey building in typically harmonious Andalucian architectural style with wrought-iron balconies, arched colonnades and wooden shutters. Sevillian architect Valentin de Madariaga designed the immense picture-frame window looking out to the lake.
Proprietors Fernando and Gisela have successfully created a very welcoming and comfortable contemporary space, with a boho yet modern feel - sleekly-moulded chairs with angular legs have cushions and soft-to-the-touch fabrics.
The lounge has a grand piano, a telescope and many shelves of books; there's also a billiard room.
Below the large terrace with pool, shady gazebo, and sun-loungers, there is a large perfectly-manicured lawn.
This hotel is the perfect venue for great conversations with friends and family outside on the terrace on balmy summer evenings, and by roaring open fires in the lounge during the winter months.
What are the rooms like?
The nine rooms are individually decorated, with contemporary artworks on display; many have four poster beds, all have quality cocoon-like bedding. The dark mahogany furniture contrasts with the crisp white bed linen. All rooms have elevated positions with commanding views. Spacious marble bathrooms with ETNO amenities; free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.
What should I eat there?
The accommodation is on a bed and breakfast basis, served on the stunning outdoor terrace in summer, and in the beautiful dining room in winter.
A delightful breakfast with traditional Spanish gastronomy and an international flair, gluten-free cakes and seasonal produce - remember this is the land of Iberian cured ham, fresh orange juice and locally produced olive oil and cheeses.
What should I see and do in the area?
There is so much to see and do in Zufre, as well as in nearby area - explore the cork-oak and chestnuts forests of the Sierra de Aracena, visit unspoiled mountain villages, head north to the neighbouring region of Extremadura. In summer, you can swim in the lake - Fernando and Gisela will share their secret hideaway spots with you.
The village has many historic monuments, from the local town hall with a chair from the Spanish Inquisition, to the beautiful Fuente de Consejo, a fountain that has provided water since Roman times.
Next to Casa Vesta you'll find the small chapel of Santa Zita. According to local legend, when some Genoese prisoners were held in the chapel, they prayed to their home-town saint for help - Santa Zita de Luccar, patron saint of domestic servants. After their unexpected release, they returned to Zufre to donate her image to the chapel. Around 27th April every year, the saint's image is carried in a procession to the Iglesia Parroquial de la Purisima Concepcion.
The 12th-century chapel itself is a blend of Gothic and Renaissance. When the floor was replaced in 1920, an eighth-century Visigothic capital (piece at top of a column) was found, and is now used as a baptismal font.
The hotel first opened in 2008 as Huerta Santa Zita (named after the chapel next door). The current proprietors - Fernando, an entrepreneur from the space industry, and his artist wife, Gisela formally a judge in Germany - stayed the night in room 2 and, while there, decided to purchase the property, changing its name to Casa Vesta.
Weddings Casa Vesta is a superb all year around venue for a boutique wedding
Artists that have their work in the private collection at Casa Vesta include: Ana Corberó, Xavier Corberó, Miguel Gómez Losada, Dionisio González, Todd James, Alex Katz, Gisela Loewe, Gloria Lomas, Nico Munuera, Manuel Salinas, Juan Suárez, Adriana Torres, Baltasar Torres, Rosemarie Trockel, Cristina Ybarra, José María Yturrald.
Hotel Casa Vesta
Huerta Santa Zita