AVILA: PLACES TO VISIT
Avila is the capital of the province of Ávila and has the highest altitude in Spain, situated 1.131 metres above sea level, next to the Adaja river. It is located in the Castile-León autonomous community.
When visiting Ávila, we invite you to immerse yourself in the pre-Romanesque origins of the Vetton culture, especially by taking the time to look at zoomorphic sculptures such as verracos, which are typical Vetton sculptures of pigs and bulls. The most notable verraco being The Bulls of Guisando.
Following the late Iron Age period with the Vettones, the Romans arrived, leaving the bridge over the Adaja river, roads and various mosaics of said period behind. Following this period, during the Visigothic era, Ávila formed part of the Kingdom of Toledo and was converted into an important episcopal headquarters.
Like the rest of the Iberian peninsular, Ávila suffered a Muslim invasion and was destroyed in 714. In the 11th century, Alfonso VI of León strove to bring Spain into the orbit of European Christianity, and this is when he reconstructed the Walls of Ávila, which, today, symbolise the city. During this time, the San Andrés and San Segundo roman churches were also constructed. The Basilica of San Vicente and the church of San Pedro were then erected. They also then began to build the Cathedral of the Saviour (the first Gothic cathedral in Spain) and built its apse on the turrets of the city walls.
During the Renaissance, Pedro Berruguete was the most influential Spanish painter responsible for painting the high altars of the Cathedral of the Saviour and the Monastery of Saint Thomas. Typically, Catholic Kings would reside in the Cathedral and the Monastery during the summertime.
During the reign of Carlos I, Ávila suffered The Castilian War of the Communities and was actively participating, thus provoking an extensive depopulation of the city. The city was reborn again thanks to Phillip II and his opposed stance towards the Cortes of Castile.
During this period, there were witnesses to two more distinguished figures: the mystical Saint Teresa of Ávila, an Ávila native who devoted 30 years of her life to the Monastery of the Incarnation; and Saint John of the Cross, who was born in the town of Fontiveros.
Saint Teresa was the founder of the Convent of Saint Joseph in Ávila, a monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns.
Other notable buildings of this period include Los Velada palace, Los Valderrábanos Palace, the Tower of Los Guzmanes and Los Dávila Palace, which had the following engraved onto one of its Renaissance windows: “when one door closes, another one opens”.
Renaissance buildings also include the Chapel of Mosén Rubí and The Four Posts shrine, where you will be able to get the best views of the city. During the War of Independence, the city suffered the looting of French soldiers, which resurfaced at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to the construction of Spanish railways.
Today, we are able to enjoy Holy Week or patron saint festivals such as the festival of Saint Teresa and the festival of San Segundo. There is also an ancestral market held in the Plaza del Mercado Chico every Friday, where you can expect to find local produce.
Gastronomically speaking, we have the famous Barco beans (dried, white large beans), Avileña-Black Iberian cows, the emblematic Yemas de Santa Teresa (a traditional pastry of the Ávila province) and the delicious patatas revolconas (a traditional garlicky, porky mashed potato dish).
In the surrounding areas, we can find the Sierra de Gredos (a mountain range in central Spain), the Arévalo municipality, las Arenas de San Pedro (a municipality located in the province of Ávila), the Palace of the Infante Don Luis, the medieval town of Candeleda, Madrigal of the High Towers, where Isabella I of Castile was born, and finally, las Navas del Marqués (an additional municipality located in the province of Ávila), where the Castle-Palace of Magalia is located.