Tuesday, 29 December 2009

La Maroma: 2,065m high. A granite mass standing like an ancient totem, giving rise to overwhelming vistas of Axarquía. The ethereal and solid view is impressive: a bare, toothless peak like a plain levitating and looking the Mediterranean in the eye. It’s robust, sturdy, high, arrogant. And on its slopes there’s Canillas de Aceituno –a bunch a impeccably white buildings. It’s a white stripe that resembles a cotton ball, as if a cloud had fallen from the bright blue sky, rather than a colourful village (the village I was to discover later), full of flowers, paths, balconies, warm people, and hearty food (Canillas-style stews, roast kid, onion-stuffed black pudding…). The trip to Canillas de Aceituno is food for your body and your soul –poetry, tradition, and daily bread. Coming close.


I climbed up the winding road (in pretty good condition) slowly. With every bend, the crater of Axarquía, surrounded by hills and ravines, receded, La Viñuela reservoir shimmering down there. Farmhouses and white cortijos –distant promises of relaxation– peppered the sierras. The whole landscape is a beautiful natural viewpoint, Sierra Tejeda its reference point. It gets so much colder up there due to the nearby mountains. And suddenly, perched on La Maroma, there was Canillas de Aceituno. The town centre and the 2,065m-high mount look like one thing, although the town actually lies 650m above sea level. I stopped by the road in an authorised zone to take a few pictures and feel the first Axarquía smells. I couldn’t stop looking at La Maroma; there was a helicopter hovering above. I drove on.


I found a free parking area in the town centre. It’s an ideal place to park your car, for the streets get impossibly narrow at this point. There’re other parking options, but you’d better leave them to locals. Canillas de Aceituno isn’t that small (2,300 people live here), but you can cover it on foot. And besides, walking is the most enriching, fruitful way of getting around. I walked down Andalucía Avenue to Plaza Maestro Francisco Gallero Badillo, where I could walk on along Iglesia Street or turn right into Castillo Street. I turned right, looking up before doing so, for the little square projected an image of Canillas de Aceituno: a maze of streets climb up to the Blas Infante scenic viewpoint, which would later afford me great panoramic views of Axarquía.

Walking, Looking, Smelling, Enjoying…

In Plaza del Castillo, a sign indicated that this place used to be the town’s defensive fortress. No doubt, it has a privileged location, on a robust rocky mound which also made the foundations of the city walls. On the opposite street, you can access a small scenic viewpoint, strolling amidst the remains of the old walls, where there’s even a niche dedicated to Virgin Mary. It’s here that the narrow cobblestone streets begin, drawing an impossible labyrinth with blind alleys everywhere. Despite its prominent role in the region, Canillas de Aceituno has managed to keep its Moorish essence intact. And much of this has to do with its street maze, taking travellers back in time without much effort. The streets are steep, abrupt at times, overcoming the uneven terrain the town sits on. Most of them end in viewpoints over Axarquía, La Maroma standing on the other side. All walls are white, white, white. Take your time to explore Canillas de Aceituno: its secret corners, intimate steps, hidden sanctuaries, unexpected squares. The town’s a sort of architectural puzzle where streets are connected in ways beyond the rational. So it was by chance that I got to Plaza de la Constitución.

The Casa de los Diezmos, the High District, the Church, the Onion-Stuffed Black Pudding…

Plaza de la Constitución is the nerve centre in Canillas de Aceituno: sheltered by the Town Hall, next to Casa de los Diezmos (House of Tithes), a group of old people chatted amiably. A couple of tourists sat at a table in a bar, their cameras at the ready. Three kids rode past in their bicycles… Life made its way into town. Casa de los Diezmos, a.k.a. Casa de la Reina Mora (House of the Moor Queen) was the place that controlled the production and sale of white mulberry tree leaves and silkworms for the area. Its white tower, crowned by double blind arches, is part of the fine Mudéjar architecture that is present all over Axarquía. In fact, Canillas de Aceituno is one of the points in the Mudéjar Tour that links Arenas, Árchez, Salares, and Sedella. From Plaza de la Constitución up, the maze of streets becomes an implausible labyrinth. I walked up. Houses gave way to walls and broken mountains. I suddenly came to Calleja Street (the narrowest street I’d ever been to), facing the Church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario. Climbing up, I came across two hikers who were coming down. As a matter of facts, one of the trails to get to La Maroma cuts across the town, so you can see lots of hikers around. The ones I met were a young man and a girl; they were wearing hiking boots and hydro backpacks, hiking sticks in their hands. They were coming down quickly, focused on what they were doing. My climb was slower. Sierrecilla Street afforded me one of my ecstatic moments in Canillas de Aceituno, as I could see the town at my feet –a white hamlet with orange terraces and ochre roofs. And the ocean beyond, to the southeast, promising future trips. La Viñuela reservoir glistened down there. And in the background, behind the mountains, I could make out the highest peaks of Sierra de las Nieves. I could feel the murmur of life in Canillas de Aceituno: people talking, girls and birds singing, pressure cookers whistling. The sounds whetted my appetite as I was seized by the strong smells of old recipes. Moving on, I reached the Blas Infante scenic viewpoint. I sat down, looking at the landscape that stretched out to the horizon. Meanwhile, I struck up conversation with a Canillero. He told me about the best corners in town, the streets behind the church, the past, the present and the future. I said goodbye and walked across the viewpoint to climb down Cuesta Street. Flanked by flowerpots and colourful flowerbeds, I waved hello to the night jasmines while climbing down impossibly narrow, impossibly steep streets. Back in the square, I visited a butcher’s shop: Carnicería Esperanza. Canillas de Aceituno is famous for its traditional onion-stuffed black pudding. Since 1987, the town has had its Black Pudding Day on the last Sunday of April. Designated as a Provincial Fiesta of Tourism Singularity, this celebration has black pudding as its star dish, alongside the so-called “wine of the land.” I bought five black puddings (€4.33) to taste later with friends. “Yummy!”, “Delicious!”, “Outstanding!” was what they said about Canillas de Aceituno’s morcilla. Equipped with the victuals, I went to the Church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario. As the door was ajar, I stepped in, only to find a simple yet elaborate temple, featuring three naves, yellow-trimmed white columns, little niches housing various figures, and a remarkable coffered ceiling. Canillas de Aceituno has a Patroness: the Virgen de la Cabeza, much loved among parishioners. There’s a beautiful sculpture dedicated to this Virgin in the church. Going out, I walked along the streets behind the temple, enjoying the flowers, pots and perfumes –harbingers of spring. I then took Hortezuelo Street, which was to lead me to the Arab well, dating back to the Middle Ages. It’s accessed through private property and it’s probably not the nicest aljibe you’ll see. It’s a site for historians or archaeologists rather than tourists. On the same street (under a different name now: Calle Placeta), there’s El Bodegón de Juan María, an inn recommended by Encarnación, a.k.a. “La Mora.” I went in, with the certainty that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Lunch: Roast Kid
It was the typical country restaurant: white walls, varnished fired clay floor, wooden ceiling. Everything was spic ’n’ span. It’s a well-known and popular eatery, so you’d better book your table in advance (phone number (+34) 952 518 041). I arrived early, so there was no-one eating. The whole restaurant was dominated by a huge wood-burning stove. A woman rushing about it. After picking my table, I had a look at the menu, which mostly contained traditional, homemade dishes. I ordered black pudding croquettes (€7), a Canillas-style stew (spinach, fennel, chickpeas, black pudding, and chorizo), roast kid (“a lovely quarter,” in the words of the waiter, €30), a beer and a bottle of water, and custard with turrón, washed down with a glass of sweet wine “of the land” (€3 + €2). The bill = €51.30. The Canillas-style stew was quite similar to the fennel stew prepared in other locations in Málaga, such as Sierra de las Nieves, but it was powerful and strong, with an exquisitely intense smell. The black pudding croquettes, which I had as an appetiser, were a smooth yet strong experience. The star dish, however, was the roast kid. So white, so delicate, so fresh, spiced up to perfection. When you taste it, its robust and traditional flavour seems to have been in your mouth for ever. The offal, cooked with onions, was included, and it was delicious too. As I worked through my lunch, the restaurant filled with patrons. Four travellers sitting at a nearby table stared at my kid with wide open eyes. When I was done, I took a walk to facilitate digestion.

Goodbye to La Maroma
Snaking down towards my car, I stopped again at the scenic viewpoint to get a final view of Canillas de Aceituno in all its magnificence. The sun had come out and the streets shone with its bleaching glare. Frowning, La Maroma shows, a storm cloud pierced by its peak. After seeing pictures of the roofs in Canillas de Aceituno laden with snow, I thought it’d be nice to come back in winter. I could also fancy, though, the blooming flowers in spring…

Travel Tips and Useful Links

What to do: Hiking: Canillas de Aceituno is an ideal place for this sport. La Maroma, Sierra Tejeda, and a zillion hillsides and slopes make it so. The Town Hall website ( suggests and describes three hiking tours from the town centre to La Maroma (“Ruta de los Neveros”), El Saltillo, and El Castillejo (“Mirador de los Tajos Lisos”). Black Pudding Day: Canillas-style black pudding or onion-stuffed black pudding is a unique food product. Black Pudding Day is a popular fiesta established in 1987. In 2009, it was designated as a Provincial Fiesta of Tourism Singularity. Canillas-style black pudding is made with onion instead of rice, which adds a special flavour to it. On Black Pudding Day, everyone tastes this special food. There’re music and shows as well.
Useful links: This time I’ve used the websites of the Costa del Sol Tourist Board and Canillas de Aceituno Town Hall ( and

Comments, suggestions, and opinions from travellers/ visitors to this blog are very welcome. See you under the Bright Blue Sky.