Newest Review: ... inside Ronda's bullring just to see what the auditorium and complex looked like without bulls rushing around and mad Spaniard's darting h... more
One of Spain's Best los Pueblos Blancos
Member Name: Praskipark
Advantages: Terrific scenery, interesting historical old town
Disadvantages: Not the easiest of Spanish towns to navigate if you have poor mobility
The town of Ronda lies in an impressive position on a steeply dropping rocky plateau, split asunder by a very narrow 100 metre deep gorge, known as El Tajo. The southern part of the town, the Ciudad, consists of the old town, which was founded by the Arabs. North of the gorge is the 16th century 'new' town, El Mercadillo. The very high Punte Nuevo which was built from 1784 to 1793, links both parts of the town and is the town's main attraction. Two older bridges span the Tajo river lower down the hillside where the terrain is flatter: the Puente Romano, which was rebuilt in the early 17th century; and the Puente Arabe, which has Moorish origins, has also been rebuilt.
While day to day life unfolds in El Mercadillo, you can't help but be drawn across the Puente Nuevo into the old town and this is where you will find most of the tourists, right into Calle Tenorio and on to Plaza del Campillo, from where there is a stunning view over the valley.
Bullfighting is a spectacle that I am not fond of and all the years of travelling to Spain and living in Portugal I have never witnessed this barbaric method of entertainment. However, I have stepped foot inside Ronda's bullring just to see what the auditorium and complex looked like without bulls rushing around and mad Spaniard's darting here there and everywhere. Ronda's bullring is a historical part of the town and Ronda is proud of its status as the birthplace of bullfighting. It was here in the eighteenth century that the Romero family first laid down the rules that remain valid to this day. The arena here, inaugurated in 1784, is the oldest in Spain. A Corrida Goyesca (so called because the toreadors and some of the audience dress in the 18th century costumes of Goya's paintings) is held in September, during the annual fair.
Part of the complex houses a museum which I have viewed and found extremely interesting mainly because of the posters which are very colourful and have a sort of kitsch look about them. Some of the black and white photographs were quite old but I found the photography enchanting for the time and still to this day prefer black and white photos. Many costumes were displayed; delicate lace, velvet and suede, intricately stitched and so interesting to see the sizes of the costumes and how small they all seemed. Well, small to me because I am taller than the average Spaniard. Most of the items were once owned by famous toreadors including some of the daggers used to kill the bulls. The museum is open daily, 10 am until 7pm.
Moving on - a narrow alley leads first to the Palacio de Mondragon. This wonderful residence was used by the Catholic Monarchs after the reconquest of the town, it still has some of the original Moorish mosaics and is now home to a modest archaeological museum which includes the reproduction of a dolmen. The narrow alley then leads you on to Plaza de la Duquesa de Parcent.
On the south side of the square lies the scant remains of the Alcazaba, while to the north stands Santa Maria la Mayor, which was built on the foundations of the mosque. If you enter the church through the bell tower, originally the minaret, the mosque's prayer niche can be seen in the vestibule. Days can be very hot in this part of Spain and you need always be on the look out for shade. Behind the church is a shady square with a handful of antique and souvenir shops.
If you turn back on the main street, Calle Arminan, to the Puente Nuevo you will see just before the bridge a road leading steeply downhill, with the Casa del Rey Moro on the left hand side. A flight of some 365 steps cut out of the rock in Moorish times leads down from the garden to a spring in the gorge. The Casa has now been converted in to a luxury hotel although you can still visit the gardens.
Other interesting sights are the Arab baths complex (Banos Arabes) in the new town which were built around 1300. To the right, on the edge of the town, stands the Espiritu Santo Church which is a very pretty 16th century church. If you walk through the panoramic viewing terraces, the Alameda de Tajo, to Plaza de Espana, there is an a amazing view of the old town, the gorge and the 18th century bridge.
Although the town of Ronda is extremely pretty and it's location is spectacular the surrounding areas are just as interesting. If you take the road out of the town past the steep mountain slopes and lush cork, and chestnut oak forests of the Sierra de Grazalema you will encounter some of the finest of the white villages (los pueblos blancos). They are named this because of the dazzling whiteness of the interlinked blocks of houses. Nestling on the hillsides, the houses cluster around a church. From a distant, the compact, gleaming villages look like snow on the dark mountainsides. Ronda and its surroundings are a world apart from the Costa del Sol and it's a part of Spain I can recommend.
Summary: A cracking town in southern Spain