About Us


Quinta da Saraiva has a family history dating back to the 18th century. The current house was built by the great-grandparents of the last generation of siblings: Ester, Anália, Salete, Sidónio, Alzira and Heliodoro. They were born on the farm with the help of the midwife Senhora Agostinha. The history of the property was collected through interviews and discussions recorded by the descendants of the Figueira family. The surname “Figueira” has Jewish origins due to the Inquisition. Some family members have physical characteristics that suggest a mixed heritage, possibly Celtic or Norse. Although the ancient family tree is unknown, there is a Figueira tree on the Saraiva property – just ask the staff where to find it.


Quinta da Saraiva, which historically comprised three houses, one of which is now the Hotel, had a larger area that included the lands known as Quinta do Leme, Estreito and Jesús Maria José. Many changes have occurred over time, evidenced by photos in the digital gallery. The best example that still remains is the large pond, a former tourist attraction. The Figueira’s, owners of Quinta da Saraiva, cultivated various Madeiran crops such as wheat, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, tomatoes, grapes, figs, among others. They also raised cows, goats, chickens and pigs, the latter was used for the Christmas feast. Pork meat was salted and preserved, and the fat was stored in pig bladders. At the time, electricity was rare, and night lighting came from kerosene or whale oil lamps, sourced from the hunting activity in Porto Moniz. A traditional recipe, especially for Christmas, was meat in wine and garlic made with pork meat cooked with dry Madeira wine, vinegar, black pepper, bay leaf, garlic and lard, resulting in a ready-to-eat delight!


At Quinta da Saraiva, many residents of Câmara de Lobos sought employment as day laborers, especially on Thursdays, which were busy working days. The owners of the farm offered cabbage soup with pork and potatoes as a meal, which was appreciated at the time. The Figueira’s, owners of the estate, had a peculiar method of interviewing applicants by observing how they ate. If someone took too long, they were considered lazy and rejected. Despite being demanding bosses, the Figueira’s were also known for their generosity and solidarity. Madeira, was afflicted by poverty due to isolation, many workers would turn up barefoot in search of work at the same time as many other people came to Quinta da Saraiva to ask for handouts. The Figueira’s would help out on Saturday, giving food and money to the less fortunate, taking advantage of the free time at the weekend.


Despite their poverty, the Madeirans also loved to celebrate and come together as a community. The men acted as party-goers, organizing the collection and sale of wine to finance the local festivities. The young women of the Figueira family wore handmade dresses for the festivities, especially for the Arraial de São João that took place every June 24. The most important festivals throughout the year were São João, São Francisco and Christmas, and there is no Madeiran Christmas without bolo de Mel, a Saraiva family tradition. The bolo de Mel, a traditional Madeiran sweet is made with wheat dough, nuts, sweet Madeira wine, cane brandy, fruit cider, almonds, raisins, confiture fruit, Madeira cane honey, yeast, baking soda, ground black and white pepper, cumin, cinnamon, and sugar. Its preparation required two days of beating the dough and a resting period, and the cake could be consumed up to six months later. Honey Cakes are also available for tasting at Quinta da Saraiva.


In the first half of the 20th century, growing up in Madeira usually meant receiving only a basic education up to fourth grade, focused on grammar and arithmetic. Boys went on to commercial business or agriculture, while girls learned domestic chores and wifely duties. The schools offering education beyond fourth grade were in Funchal, but this was not practical for the Figuereans as the bus ride was expensive and time-consuming.

To get around this, great-grandmother Ines decided that her children would attend the local convent, where the priests and nuns of the Sisters of the Congregation of Our Lady of Victories taught. The children went to the convent daily, bringing their own food with them in wicker baskets.

Despite this, the Figueira made annual trips around the island with family and friends, renting a bus to explore the region. It is remarkable how these trips were a significant occurrence, considering that a trip within the island at that time was similar in terms of difficulty and rarity to a trip to a different continent in modern times.


Quinta da Saraiva, was a rich household, but, faced times when basic amenities were not available, girls had to secretly go to the creek in the early hours of the morning to avoid the prying eyes of the local community. Gossip was a popular activity in this isolated environment. The culture of gossip, combined with a conservative Catholic society, limited interactions between young people of different genders, except on special occasions, such as when girls watched suitors from the veranda. Encounters often involved exchanges of looks, as when Ester, from the Figueira family, met her husband Arnaldo during one of these moments. Sunday Catholic Mass was one of the rare opportunities for interaction between the sexes. During Christmas, Madeirans attended the Mass of the Rooster at midnight on the 24th and the Mass of the Shepherds at 4am on the 25th. Discos and bars were practically non-existent at the time, in contrast to the many cinemas on the island, where boys and girls would gather to watch the evening “shows” at 5pm on weekends.


Finally, we must devote a final section to the special relationship between Quinta da Saraiva (and Madeira in general) with the country of Venezuela. Due to poverty and the policies of the dictator Salazar, many young Madeirans were conscripted into the army, while others sought opportunities abroad, such as Australia, South Africa and Venezuela. Two Figueira siblings established permanent lives in Venezuela, where Portuguese immigrants thrived, forming a united community and contributing significantly to the country’s economy. Anália, from the Figueira family, married José Rodrigues Diniz, a neighbor from Câmara de Lobos, who looked after Quinta da Saraiva until his death in March 2018.


To maintain the legacy and spirit of Saraiva, it is the descendants of Analia and José who took over making Quinta da Saraiva Hotel a reality over a span of 3 years from September 2016 until its inauguration in November 2019 – led by grandson Juan Daniel Gonçalves Rodrigues. We all hope that you can join us and share an unforgettable and authentic Madeiran experience that will live on with you and your loved ones forever. Quinta da Saraiva truly is a special place that is meant to be shared.