Words by Benjamin Russell
Entering Olhão in our rental car, the streets grew narrower to a point where we not only began to think we were lost, but questioned whether the tiny cobbled streets of the old town are even accessible by vehicle.
As the line on the sat nav shortened and disappeared, telling us we had arrived, we looked around us and decided it was time to call our contact at Casa Fuzetta. After all, a villa which sleeps 24 people couldn’t possibly be hard to miss. A few moments later, house manager Claudia appeared around the corner, and it transpired that not only were we parked right outside of it, but the house also even had its own garage.
After the car was stowed inside, Claudia showed us around the property, starting with its impressive hallway which leads into a huge, vaulted living room complete with grand piano.
The house was built in the nineteenth century as a gentleman’s residence for Dr Carlos Fuzeta, who was a lawyer, philosopher and a much-loved philanthropist. He was a popular figure in the town, so much so that after his death he was honoured with a plaque on the property. In the years that followed, the house fell into disrepair and was split into various sections, for a time even serving as the offices of the electricity board.
Fortunately, between 2014 and 2016, it was lovingly restored by its British owners with the help of local craftsmen and artisans and has been tastefully decorated making it easy to feel at home, even with its imposing size.
The house is constructed around a central courtyard over three floors plus additional roof top terraces technically taking it to four stories. On the ground floor, the courtyard makes for a relaxing garden while on the next level, a mezzanine space provides a sizeable dining area complete with an outside fireplace and barbecue.
We said our goodbyes to Claudia, opened the bottle of wine she had kindly left for us and decided to go for a wander. It turns out our initial search for the villa wasn’t the only time we’d get lost that day, and each whitewashed staircase seemed to take us to another portion of the property we had not visited. Not surprising considering it has 1000sqm of internal space and another 560sqm outside.
Eventually we found ourselves back in the kitchen, adjacent to which is the games room complete with a pool table, and from there, a secret door disguised as a bookcase leads back to the second floor courtyard and up to the rooftop where a private pool awaits. After a swim we climbed one of the towers and watched the sunset over the rooftops of Olhão.
Something that makes Casa Fuzetta extra special is the feeling of it being a secret hideaway. To be right in the heart of this vibrant old town, but with the space and facilities you would expect in a rural villa was almost surreal.
Despite having the place to ourselves, we felt extremely well looked after. As well as nice touches like 100 percent Indian cotton robes made by Warwickshire company Tania Llewellyn, Casa Fuzetta is serviced for three hours a day each morning by a team of five people, meaning the house is always clean, your bed – complete with linen from The White Company – is made every day and the organic toiletries by La Eva are always well stocked.
Should you wish your stay to have even more of a hotel feel, the owners will arrange for a chef to cook for you, a teacher to conduct private rooftop yoga classes, a beautician to conduct treatments, or even for meditation sessions or sound baths in the villa’s own sizeable meditation room.
Once settled into Casa Fuzetta, it feels like you could happily never venture outside again, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t take a boat across the water to the islands that hug the coast of the eastern Algarve, and explore the white sandy beaches that give the Caribbean a run for its money.
The old town location of the villa also offers easy access to a raft of great bars and restaurants that I would happily recommend. Chá Chá Chá is just round the corner and serves fantastic local cuisine while Pizza Na Pedra is a great place for a bite on the waterfront.
But if you’re staying at Casa Fuzetta, my tip is to make use of the well kitted out kitchen and outdoor eating space. Olhão’s vibrant market, which sells incredibly fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables is just a short walk away, and once stocked up on ingredients, you can grab some wine from the Vinhalgarvia wine shop and head back to enjoy your own secret palace.
Casa Fuzetta sleeps up to 24 people and prices start from £11,200 per week.
Bookings and enquiries can be made through casafuzetta.com
Images courtesy of Garrett Walsh.