The contrast can’t be greater…. Upon our arrival at Faro airport, the majority of travellers turn right (read: west) into the Algarve, and a select group of travellers turns left and head east. This is where the undisturbed beaches, rugged authentic fishing villages and the beautiful hinterland are to be found. Here, the coastline hasn’t yet been spoiled by ugly apartment buildings and you won’t be tripping over groups of drunk British tourists celebrating a stag party. British Tara and Jonathan discovered this part of Portugal in 2013 and instantly fell in love with a gorgeous, but derelict, townhouse in Olhão. A diamond in the rough, as many of these abandoned buildings in Algarve’s largest port are.

The restoration took over two years, during which the ruin gradually transformed into a gorgeous stylish house, featuring 12 bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a large living room with fireplace, a spacious kitchen opening onto a terrace, a meditation room, a hidden ‘man cave’, two massage rooms and, the real cherry on the cake, a roof terrace that offers a stunning 360° view of the Olhão rooftops, complete with heated swimming pool and outdoor bar. The guardian angels were favourable to Tara and Jonathan and certainly didn’t bring them bad luck. On the contrary, Casa Fuzetta is a jewel and the warm yellow colours of the facades shed a welcome light over the narrow alleys of Olhão.

I was lucky to be invited to the official opening – a four-day retreat for old and new friends, during which we were introduced to the house, its possibilities and the surroundings. It was a unique chance to experience the Hideaway as it is intended, for this mansion can only be rented as a whole (max. 24 people): by groups of friends, family, likeminded people…etc. The perfect venue for a (wedding) party, a holiday or, as was the case now, a yoga retreat. Different additional services, whether it be a chef or a yoga instructor, can be booked separately and make Casa Fuzetta a wonderful example of perfect taylor made hospitality.

First, we were shown around the house, and this brought on lots of oooohs and aaaahs, for everything, even the tiniest detail, is perfect and the decor is beautiful and perfectly harmonious. All the bedrooms are light and airy, the ensuite bathrooms are fully equipped, with White Company London bed and bath linen (for the connoisseurs among us) and boasting a wonderful power shower (1 bathroom features a roll top bathtub). The spacious common (open air) areas are super cosy and are large enough to find a quiet spot or, if you prefer, to socialise. The expansive dining tables are an invitation to long evenings of dining…which we did J. Every day, a different guest chef happily showed off his or her cooking skills…..delicious and lavish! This is an example of one of the additional services that are available, so that you won’t (always) have to do the cooking yourself. And anyway Claudia, the house manager, is available at least three hours a day to offer assistance and clean the rooms.

As you can imagine, we definitely needed some exercise to work off all this lovely food and wine, and thankfully the inspiring and charismatic Sanne hosted a daily yoga class on the roof terrace. We also went on a bike ride from Fuseta to Tavira: such natural beauty, the Ria Formosa Natural Park’s salt flats with flamingos and wild flowers galore (the perfect season). There were so many beautiful beaches nearby that we simply couldn’t skip going to one – and the great thing is that some effort must be put into reaching the best beaches, which is just how Mrs. Local Hideaways likes it! For instance, a water taxi or ferry (10 minutes) will take you to Ilha de Armona, and if you follow the central walking trail to the other side of the island, where the large white sandy beaches contrast beautifully with the azure sea, it’s much like on a tropical island. And what’s more, this is where you will find the perfect beach bar/restaurant, which serves the best prawns and sardines….paradise found! And by the way, there are several more islands off the coast if you’re looking for a bit of variety.

Olhão was a wonderful surprise to me. I had visited this side of the Algarve before but had never been to this city…and it is such a hidden gem. Not for everyone, thankfully, only for those looking for some authenticity and ruggedness. Nothing is polished here, which I think is its great attraction…the beauty of the decay, stunning old building on the verge of collapse but hiding gorgeous old tiles and doors, and all of this combined with buildings that have already been renovated. The Moorish influences are very visible and the city reminds me of Morocco a bit. There is an abundance of inviting little restaurants, you can eat delicious fresh fish or petiscos – Portuguese tapas – for next to nothing and the wine is cheaper than a glass of cola.  And don’t forget to visit the indoor market, with its separate area for fish….never in my live have I seen so many different species together! On Saturdays, the market is even livelier and bustling with activity. Olhão has been able to maintain the balance between locals and tourists, thus preserving its authenticity, let’s hope this will remain the case for a long time!!

In short, Casa Fuzetta is a dream house, spacious, luxurious, cosy, with the perfect vibe…..ánd located in such beautiful surroundings that you will never want to leave! If I were you, I would start mobilising friends and family and turn left at Faro airport!

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