CACERES: PLACES TO VISIT
“Cáceres is the head, Trujillo is the heart, Plasencia sheds no tears, Coria speaks no words”.
Cáceres is the second largest province in Spain after neighbouring Badajoz. Both form part of the Autonomous Region of Extremadura and share borders with neighbouring Portugal.
Prehistoric remains have been found throughout the province. It is likely that Cáceres has its origins in the Roman colony of Norba Caesarina, located near the Roman road known as the Via de la Plata (Silver Route) that linked the north and south of the peninsular.
The Visigoths razed the original Roman settlement, and until the Arab invasion in the 8th century, sources make no reference to the city. Remains of the Almohad city walls and cistern date from this period.
With the Christian reconquest of Cáceres by Alfonso IX of León in the year 1229, the city was granted its own charters and a significant portion of its lands was bequeathed to the military orders of Santiago and Alcántara.
Later, under the Catholic Monarchs, the city experienced a marked renaissance. A number of prominent Extremaduran figures of the time took part in the conquest of America, including Hernán Cortes in Mexico, Pizarro in Peru and Francisco de Orellana in the Amazon, with Brother Nicolás de Ovando becoming governor of the island of Hispaniola.
The successive wars suffered during the following centuries provoked the decline of the Extremadura region: the Revolt of the Comuneros against Charles I, the Portuguese Restoration War, culminating in the War of Portuguese Independence, and the Spanish War of Independence against Napoleonic troops.
The city experienced significant growth in the 19th century thanks to the discovery of phosphate deposits and the subsequent mining boom, with the railway arriving in 1881.
Encircled by the city walls, the historic centre of Cáceres is in itself a historic monument. Within the walls lie the Co-cathedral of Santa Maria, the Baroque church of San Francisco Javier and the church of San Mateo with its Plateresque facade.
The walls preserve various towers and entrance gates such as the Arch of the Star and the Tower of Bujaco, symbol of the city, that connects the Plaza Mayor with the walled city; the Arch of Christ, the walls’ oldest tower; the Tower of the Pulpits, erected after the Reconquest and the Tower of the Wells, the tallest of the old quarter’s remaining towers.
The city is also home to a wide variety of palaces such as the 13th century Episcopal Palace; the Palace of Las Veletas, constructed on the ruins of the Muslim Alcazar; the Palace of Los Golfines de Abajo with its Plateresque façade; the Palace of Los Golfines de Arriba; the Palace of Las Cigüeñas; the Palace of Mayoralgo and the Palaces of Godoy and Carvajal.
The province of Cáceres boasts a wealth of natural treasures such as Monfragüe National Park, the Garganta de los Infiernos Nature Reserve, Los Barruecos Nature Reserve in Malpartida de Cáceres, the wild Sierra de Gata and the Jerte Valley with its spectacular display of cherry blossoms in Spring.
In addition to charming towns such as Plasencia with its two cathedrals, Trujillo and its statue of Pizarro in the Plaza Mayor, Coria and the cathedral of Santa María, Hervás with its Jewish quarter and groves of Galician chestnut trees, not to mention Alcántara and its Roman bridge over the River Tajo.
Not forgetting the monastery of Yuste and the monastery of Guadalupe, with its paintings by Zurbarán, or the castle of Jarandilla de la Vera, now a National Parador.
Extremadura has a rich and varied gastronomy including Iberian ham, paprika from La Vera, Jerte Valley cherries and cheeses from La Serena, Ibores and the famed Torta del Casar.
Cáceres also offers a host of delicious regional dishes such as morcilla patatera (black pudding made with potato), Extremaduran migas (a breadcrumb dish), chanfaina (lamb offal), cojondongo (traditional gazpacho), zorongollo (roasted peppers and tomatoes) and the popular almond and egg yolk dessert Técula Mécula.