In the collective imagination the province of Alicante is represented by an idyllic picture of beaches with golden sands and hidden coves, a history fashioned by native and alien cultures, a gastronomy that is as varied as it is hedonistic and, of course, a disturbing wild and arid landscape.
It is true to say that, in general lines, this impression is not far wrong. However, not many people link this land with the infinity of natural resources dotted around its uplands in corners yet to be explored.
When we leave the coast and head inland, here and there authentic oases of life emerge. These are areas of great environmental value and they are almost always protected by the local authorities. Among these strongholds, the Font Roja Natural Park and the Sierra de Mariola Natural Park stand out owing to their wealth of fauna and, especially, to their abundant flora.
Overlooking the Mediterranean, barely 30 kilometres away as the crow flies, and at a height of between 800 and 1390 metres, pines, holm oaks, savin junipers, common junipers, ashes, maples, gall-oaks and so many other species have lived together for centuries, oblivious to the passing of time.
At their feet, the stony ground that slips towards small valleys on the sides of hills and headlands, is carpeted by an infinity of medicinal plants and aromatic herbs. Savoury, heather, hawthorn, lavender, fennel, St John’s wort, lemon balm, oregano, thyme, sage, buckthorn, wall germander… There are so many that, after having catalogued more than 1,200 varieties, the botanic community is hesitating as to whether to classify this privileged area as the richest natural reserve in the world in medicinal plants and aromatic herbs.
And that is not all. Since time immemorial, the explosion of colours and aromas that impregnates the atmosphere, varying according to the seasons of the year, has been enriched by those of the olive.
This tree, so Mediterranean and so well-established in this particular environment since it was brought here by ancient civilisations, has not only become accustomed to the cold winters and warm summers that regulate the climate of the area, but, moreover, it has benefitted from the extensive range of temperatures to give rise to a higher presence of polyphenols in the oils that Masía el Altet has extracted from its fruits with the utmost care for many generations.