Opened in 2002, the Almssera Vella was designed to be both a home and a centre for retreats and residential courses. Your hosts are Marisa Lillo-Verdú, an Alicantina by birth, and Christopher North.
Marisa manages all the accommodation and catering; she specialises in Mediterranean cuisine with a strong emphasis on local dishes. Formerly a surveyor in Buckinghamshire, Christopher is a widely-published, prize-winning poet who has many years of experience running poetry workshops and mentoring on courses, as well as spending a time as Poet in Residence with a local newspaper.
The main house at the Almàssera Vella was originally a traditional oil press in the mountain village of Relleu. After extensive refurbishment it now boasts relaxed open living areas, which are complemented by an enormous terrace and swimming pool coupled with extensive grounds including olive, almond and citrus groves. Further accommodation is available in the annexe, a charming three-storey casa rural which offers cottage and self-contained flat accommodation for restful holidays, as well as being a perfect location for comfortable and secluded artist's and writer's retreats.
The roots of the ancient village of Relleu stretch far back, interweaving Iberian, Roman and Moorish strands, and the village has a number of interesting historical and traditional sites including the ruins of an 11th century castle, one of the oldest pantanos in Europe and the remarkable cultivation terraces bancals which ascend the sierras to incredible heights. The village has good mobile phone coverage and offers all the basics including a modern pharmacy, an internet café, cashpoint facilities and a number of shops and bars. The nearest sizeable town is Villajoyosa, a half-hour drive away on the coast, and around 20 minutes beyond lies Alicante, with good national bus and train connections, and the airport.