Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Before being Villanueva del Rosario, this village was El Saucejo and Puebla del Saucedo. Its coat of arms shows two of the trees that lent it their name. Locals are still called “Saucedeños;” time and history haven’t been able to erase the demonym. Villanueva del Rosario is a village with mountains and valleys, green olives and golden wheat, old fountains and births, sunny chapels and shady hallways. Villanueva del Rosario is also a new, reinvented town, with the character of those who know that they are always the same and yet always different. Traces of old crossroads, natural boundaries, popular pass for travellers, Roman centurions, Christian kings, and emirs from Granada. El Saucejo’s seen it all under the shade of the sierras. Welcome to Villanueva del Rosario.

Getting Closer

In the slumbering summertime, I drove across the Málaga Mountains. Although it was early, the 27º C could be felt. The mountains wore their summer brownish cloak, which brought out the leafy green of olives against the background of yellow grass under the bright blue sky. The velvety skin of cereals glittered beneath the sun, rippling like a golden ocean. When I left the Málaga Mountains behind, I faced the imposing sierras of Jobo and Camarolos –natural fortresses reaching for the sky amidst the olives. Villanueva del Rosario emerged like a white brushstroke in a landscape of contrasts. The cereals lay piled up in the fields, making impossible buildings. The tractors, like huge metal insects, ploughed the earth up, clattering in clouds of yellowish dust that then vanish into thin air.


I drove to the town centre and parked in Plaza de Andalucía, the boundary between the older and the more modern parts of town. I had my cap and my bottle of water (although there’re lots of fountains in Villanueva del Rosario), my sunscreen and my SLR and my compact cameras, my pencil and notepad, my sunglasses and comfy shoes… I had the whole kit. Plaza de Andalucía was cool, its wrought-iron benches in the shade of horse chestnuts invited me to take a seat. But I took Adoquines Street instead and turned right towards the Church of El Rosario.

The Church

Pasaje de los Escalones, to the right, connected Adoquines with Luis Molina Street. The houses I saw were similar to others in Antequera and Nororma (Northeastern Málaga): open hallways anticipating cool, shady courtyards, tiling in lively colours (green, yellow, blue…); black wrought-iron balconies and windows; big wooden doors, some of them quite overelaborate. When my eyes fled beyond the streets, they stumbled upon the granite mass of the sierras, stading in sharp contrast two the mildly undulating fields. When I came to the fish shop El Faro, opposite the tobacconist’s, I turned left. The Church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario was in Plaza de la Constitución, a shady square whose wrought-iron benches and leafy trees give shelter from the obstinate sun. There was a fountain as well; its spout produced a thread of water, but it was enough to quench my thirst. The church was a modern temple abiding by classical styles. Nothing very high-pitched. A white façade with a rose window in the middle and a two-bell towers to the left. In contrast with the austere exterior, the church was surprisingly rich inside, boasting a highly ornamented high altar. The single nave is flanked by eight shrines containing images of saints. I walked out.


Adoquines Street forked out into Virgen del Rocío Street, leading to Plaza de España, where the Town Hall was. Plaza de España was a huge square featuring traditional buildings and a small ice-cream parlour. Down Carneros Street, I took Pasaje de los Arcos to the Right. In Villanueva del Rosario they have found a way to connect parallel streets: there’re two cobblestone alleyways, Escalones and Arcos, that can make distances much shorter thanks to their long steps.

The Chapel and the Viewpoint

I turned to Plaza de Andalucía and to my car, for I wanted to go to the Chapel of Virgen del Rosario. I’d asked some “Saucedeños” how to get there and they suggested driving to the place. It was near, only 2km away, but it was really hot. I drove down to the entrance of town. Behind a bend, I found the directions to get to the chapel and the recreational area known as Llano del Hondonero. I zigzagged down a few trails and got to Fuente Vieja, a meeting point for both young and elderly people featuring a big stone fountain. The road to the chapel ran parallel to a valley brimming with tight clusters of olives. It led to the mountains, which looked like the work of a capricious mad painter. The area around the chapel, known as “Fuente Vieja Hondonero,” boast a viewpoint affording views of the whole region: olives, cereal, and mountains. Sierra de Camarolos, close to the viewpoint, is thought to have been inhabited since the Palaeolithic. In fact, cave paintings have been found in some of its caves. On the slopes below the viewpoint there was the source of the river Cerezo or, as locals call it “El Chorro.”. It’s here that, on April 25, there’s a popular pilgrimage to honour St Mark. The Chapel of Virgen del Rosario was silhouetted against Sierra del Jobo, crowned by Chamizo, the highest peak. Its pinnacle rivals the mountains in height, whereas its whiteness stands in contrast to the green olive orchards. The chapel was built in 1997 as a response of the demand for a religious place during the procession, held in the first week of August, and with the help of all church-goers and a series of institutions. I could see the homes in the town centre, standing out against the fields in the background.


Silence, sierras, olives… Green and blue from the bright blue sky blended. I could hear the cicadas and dogs barking in the distance. I sat down on the edge of the viewpoint, staring at the vast meadows coming in my direction. It was a matchless landscape, where smoothness and aggressiveness go hand in hand without producing dissonances. The contrasts supplement the beauty of it all. My eyes got lost right there, where the golden fields and the bright blue sky met across the horizon.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

What to see: Archaeology: “The history of Villanueva del Rosario goes back to prehistoric times, when there were settlements in the area. However, the dwellers didn’t stay here for long, for they were nomads. The oldest archaeological site in the Upper Valley of the River Guadalhorce is to be found in Ventorro del Cojo, in Llanos de Salinas. It belongs to the Lower Palaeolithic. In the so-called ‘Cueva del Malnombre,’ in Sierra de Camarolos, traces of cave paintings have been found. Under the Romans, the area reached its climax. The mounts were considered as strategic, so several settlements were established within today’s municipal boundaries. There was the city of Ulisi, for instance, in Peñón de Solís. The Visigoths brought Roman rule to an end in Spain, opening a new chapter in Villanueva del Rosario’s history. Several Visigoth necropolises have been found in the area, such as La Calerilla, Repiso, La Rabia, or El Picacho. They contained utensils like clips, rings, jars, and so on” (source: Town Hall website).
What to do: Hiking: Villanueva del Rosario is an attractive destination for active travellers. Check out the Town Hall website for hiking routes. There’re five interesting options with high historical, natural, environmental, and landscape value (Hiking Routes in Villanueva dle Rosario). Useful links: For more about Villanueva del Rosario, visit the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board, Villanueva del Rosario Town Hall, and Association for the Development of Northeastern Málaga.

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


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

La Viñuela is a green-water mirage. A mirage framed within wild mountains. A mirage feeding the landscape with rolling hills rising up to the highest peak in La Maroma. La Viñuela is its reservoir, an undulating green sheet rippled by the breeze. La Viñuela is leisure by an inner sea, the largest reservoir in Málaga Province. La Viñuela is a mirror reflecting not the Mediterranean but its own image.

The Town

Although the town owes its name to the reservoir, it doesn’t stand by the reservoir itself but by a the shady riverside, sheltered by the branches of huge willows. Its streets are narrow and zigzagging to match the capricious geography of the area. Secluded corners, secretive bends, minute squares dominated by a lemon tree or a fountain… I drove across the whole town centre to find a parking space, and did so on the bank of the river Salia. I left my car in the shade of a cluster of willows. Everything is quiet and sober in La Viñuela. Slow, calm, morose in the early afternoon. I can smell fruity aromas, citric perfumes. La Viñuela is the youngest town in Axarquía. It had its first mayor, Juan Lucas García del Rey, appointed in 1764. This is why its Moorish layout is surprising. Before walking up the main street, I explore a park featuring a playground for children and parts of old oil mill machinery. It can’t be quieter. Up the main street, I almost bump into the Church of San José, a humble temple behind a courtyard brimming with flowers. Built in the sixteenth century, it has a rectangular floor plan and a wooden frame. The belfry tower was added in the eighteenth century. The left side marks the end of the main street. A little bit ahead is La Viña, a bar that’s the embryo of La Viñuela, as it used to be the meeting point of all mule drivers in the area. “At the intersections of the roads to Granada and Antequera, this inn was built to house mule drivers on their way to multiple destinations. It was one of the first constructions in the village. As it had a little vineyard, it used to be called ‘Venta de la Viña,’ which is why the town is now called ‘La Viñuela’” (source: board at the entrance to the inn). I can hear the sound of birds, mixed with dominoes on a table. Afternoon at leisure: games, cards, dominoes. I resume my stroll in the town centre with wandering eyes: big lamps on façades, whitewashed walls peppered with flowers, alleyways… There’re signs marking the starting points of hiking routes: Camino de las Fuentes, 3km, to Cortijo Maquizo and river Salia. Back to the car.

The Reservoir

This modern reservoir feeds on the rivers Salia, Benamargosa, Bermuza, and Rubite and the Madre del Llano de Zafarraya stream, originating in the basin of the river Guaro. “It’s the largest reservoir in Málaga, with 170cu hm for a maximum depth of 230m. It covers the valley connecting La Viñuela with Los Romanes, the surface area of the Guaro basin being 119sq km. It irrigates southern Axarquía and even Málaga City, in case of drinking water shortages. The dam is made of earth and rockfill with exterior banks made of schist and slate. Its total height is 89m; its crowning length, 460m. 4,000,000cu m materials were needed to build it. Work began in 1982, and in late 1988 water began to be collected” (source: Town Hall website). The importance of the reservoir to the local economy and tourism industry is huge. So much so that it’s part of the municipal coat of arms, as an integrating element in the social and cultural life of viñoleros.

La Viñuela Hotel

Before coming to the reservoir itself, I take a detour towards La Viñuela Hotel, set on a privileged location affording wonderful views of the reservoir. Awarded a Q for Quality and Excellence in Tourism, the hotel boasts a great terrace, where I take a seat and order a soda and an iced coffee (€4). Tourists from England and Germany are having alluring ice-creams on the neighbouring tables. In fact, gastronomy is one of the attractions at this hotel. The menu is the perfect blend of Andalusian tradition and avant-garde trends: “Andalusian gazpacho with Iberian ham shavings and olive oil ice-cream,” “Málaga-style reddish almond and cumin soup with catshark,” “Shepherd’s breadcrumbs with crab-stuffed peppers”… The prices are reasonable for such an establishment. So a meal here is an affordable treat. How could you say ‘No’ to the caramelised lamb in cinnamon and orange with sweet potatoes au vin? Sitting on the terrace, I stare at the water sheet. The reservoir is really like an inner sea, ripples glittering in different shades of green. They move, they change, they morph to create an ever-changing surface that yet is always the same. That’s life! (Photos: La Viñuela Hotel website)

The Reservoir II

The La Viñuela Reservoir Visitor Centre is a one-floor 108sq m building divided into hall, exhibition room, archives, and gift shop. The permanent exhibition includes interactive boards and images of various municipalities, the reservoir, hiking routes, and sports activities. The Visitor Centre is also the place to get tourist information for this area in Axarquía. Ask about cultural sites, restaurants, or hotels in La Viñuela, Alcaucín, Periana, and Riogordo. The shop sells crafts and foodstuffs. The environs of the reservoir are of high environmental value. There’re water sports facilities and a recreational area including barbecues, a mini golf course, and a football pitch. The best way of getting to know the reservoir is taking the skirting route that starts near La Viñuela Hotel. Read about it here: Reservoir Environs Route.

Los Romanes

Los Romanes is one of the districts that make La Viñuela. As it’s one the highest districts, it affords excellent views of the area. From here I can see the iridescent water sheet in the valley with La Maroma (the highest peak in Málaga Province) in the background. Located west of the reservoir, Los Romanes can be accessed following clear directions, up a winding road flanked by eye-catching villas in which old traditions and modern architecture shake hands. The common denominator is the balcony they form overlooking the valley of the reservoir. I get off, take a couple of pictures, enjoy the greenness of it all: the water, the olives from Periana, the fruit trees from Alcaucín, Mesa de Zalía, Boquete de Zafarraya, La Maroma… Los Romanes also marks the beginning of the trail leading to the Watchtower, which I’ve seen for a while from other points, watching over the valleys and the rivers. “This is a fifteenth-century beacon tower. It was built by the Arabs to protect the lands of Zalía from coastal invasions, using slate and lime mortar. One of the original corbels of the projecting watching structure some 6.5m high above a door has been kept. Brick jambs and stone lintels hide the half-destroyed brick vault. Being 9.5m high, the tower was built in a single night with materials gathered from the surrounding area and water from the river Guaro. It was connected to other watchtowers along the coastline and the Zalía Castle” (source: information board on the way to the tower). The road to the tower is 5km long and can be negotiated by regular cars. I make every effort to soak up the landscape, the sun, the bright blue sky.


I’ve touched the water already. Just the palms of my hands, my fingertips, my toes. Fresh water, nice green shades, strong aromas. Two men fishing, kids playing football, families talking round a table… I take a final look at the reservoir. It seems to have been there since the dawn of time, like an inner sea. La Viñuela, reservoir, green-water mirage.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

Where to stay: There’re lot of places to stay at when you come to La Viñuela. There’s La Viñuela Hotel, of course, and there’re many other accommodation options in the environs of the reservoir, from Camping La Viñuela to a great many country houses, for all kinds of travellers and all budgets. Check them on the Internet, on the website of the Costa del Sol Tourist Board, or just google “La Viñuela turismo rural” (La Viñuela + country accommodation).
When to come: Raisin Day: One of the most popular fiestas in La Viñuela and one of the oldest celebrations in Axarquía, Raisin Day was first held in the 1960s as a tribute to a staple of local and regional economy. If you want to join in, come in the second half of September.
Useful links: More about La Viñuela on the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board, La Viñuela Town Hall, and Association for the Promotion of Axarquía.

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


Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Manilva looks the sea in the eye from its green vines and vineyards. Looks its long past in the eye, as long as the Mediterranean is old. Manilva has sipped its own wines since the dawn of time, enjoying muscatel and colourful fruit. Manilva watches over Mare Nostrum, which laps at its feet in Sabinillas. Manilva: blue flags on the beach, wide strips of white sand, crystal-clear water. Manilva drinks from the sea while standing on a hillock, watching and protecting it as if it were its child.

From the Coast or Upwards, or from the Highway or Downwards

You can access Manilva from the N-340, the crowded road along the coastline, or from the AP-7, a toll highway. If you choose the former, then you should leave San Luis de Sabinillas behind to the left and climb up to the town centre. If you prefer the latter, you’ll have to pay €5.50 at the tollbooth, but you’ll come directly into town. In fact, this was my choice, for I wanted to visit the town centre first and then go down to Sabinillas, La Duquesa Marina, the Castle, and the Churrera Tower to the east.

In Manilva

I drove towards the Church of Santa Ana to the right, along the streets of Manilva. When I saw the church, I parked, on Pozo del Rey Street. I took my cap, camera, and notepad and got off. Nobel Street led to Santa Ana. But before telling you about it, I’ll tell you that Manilva is set on a hillock that’s been known as Loma de los Mártires (Martyrs’ Hill) since time immemorial. It’s a privileged vantage point 3 kilometres from the sea, where you can get views of the bright green and misty blue horizon, relishing the image of vines and the crystalline magnet of the sea. When the streets vanish into the horizon, they get trapped within the vineyards, the sierras –Crestellina–, the ocean, and the corn fields and vegetable gardens. I approached the façade of the church and looked at its dark bricks. The parish church is quite big, its façade crowned by a square belfry tower, its lintels and frames painted red. The entrance comprises three low round arches. Next to the church, to the left, there’s the town cemetery. To the right, a square bearing a Lorca-inspired name: Romance de la Luna. I walked up Iglesia Street. I looked through open doors into cool, shady courtyards. Flower pots hanging from balconies painted the walls. I came to the main street, Doctor Álvarez Leiva, a small tree-lined avenue featuring the Town Hall building on the right and the exit to the start of the Pedreta roundabout on the left. I reached the roundabout and took a stroll along the natural balcony overlooking the meadows and the sierras. Then I went back to the car.

Vines and “Frutas Pascual e Hijos”

Going down into San Luis de Sabinillas, I stopped at “Frutas Pascual e Hijos,” a classic in Manilva, a must-stop in fact if you want to buy must, sweet wine, muscatel grapes, and the like. Beware, though: it’s just behind a sharp bend, so you have to be very cautious with parking. “Frutas Pascual” is one of those traditional venues drawing locals and out-of-towners alike. They sell delicious fruit, homemade cheese, dried fruit; at the back they keep their most precious treasure: bottles and jars of sensuous sweet wine –the perfect liquid to drink cold as a dessert or boil your meat in. There’re jars of raisins or grapes in eau-de-vie too. Of course, I couldn’t resist the temptation: I bought ¼ cured cheese, 1 pack of raisins, 1 pack of almonds, and a little bottle of wine, all for €16. The stock and vines came right up to the edge of the Manilva-Sabinillas road. They even seize the first streets on the outskirts of the town, as a tribute to its past and present, and in keeping with the town’s slogan: “Manilva, a bunch of sensations.” According to the Town Hall website, “Sometime between 1515 and 1520, the Duke of Arcos, the landlord of Casares County, granted the first lands to be used for vine-growing in the old area of Manilva. By the mid sixteenth century, vineyards had spread to most hills, taking up most of the suitable land. Since then, vineyards have never stopped expanding in Manilva, their growth reaching a peak in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries thanks to the wine and eau-de-vie trade with Catalan merchants.” I haven’t tried the wines produced in the eighteenth century, but I can tell those made in the twenty-first century are top-quality wines. Vineyards have always been an integral part of life in Manilva. So much so that in September there’s a Harvest Fair including the grape stomp, a traditional method to extract the first must of the year, which is then served to friends and visitors.

San Luis de Sabinillas and the Beach

I sauntered down to the shore. San Luis de Sabinillas used to be Manilva’s fishermen’s quarter, and it’s kept its original flavour. You can still see barges on the sand, waiting for their time to go fishing. I parked on Marqués de Larios Street, which is parallel to the Sea Promenade. I was so close to the sea that I could feel the salt in the air. I could also feel the charcoal-grilled fish that’s ubiquitous along the coast of Málaga. My walking tour began at the Parish Church of San Luis de Sabinillas, a humble, modern, dark-red building. From there I reached the Sea Promenade, ready for a long walk under the bright blue sky. I was wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a cap. And I had a swimsuit and a towel in my rucksack, in case I can’t resist taking a plunge. There’re 8km of beach in Manilva. My walking tour took me from Sabinillas to La Duquesa, where the marina and the fort are; it was a fast-paced 30’ walk. All beaches boast crystal-clear water and all the facilities that have earned them several EU Blue Flags. They are unique wide sandy areas, from the secluded rocky coves and low cliffs of La Chullera to the cheerful, busy La Duquesa. Sabinillas, facing the town centre, is the most crowded of them all. Complying with high cleaning, sanitation, and safety standards, it provides a wide range of services for comfort and entertainment. It’s been granted the Blue Flag on several occasions. When coming, look out for clams, fine shells, and razor-shells. The sand sighed when touched by the sea; the sun sparkled on the water; the bright blue sky and sea found a mirroring surface in bathers’ bodies. Half a dozen barges rest on the sand while others, run aground, are ready for the sardine skewers. Embers, salt, sea, sand, sun…

La Duquesa Marina

La Duquesa Marina is a private marina where the houses stand by the jetties. It has such a high number of international restaurants scattered between the moored ships that it seems to contain all the flavours in the world. This marina offers moorings and berths, and a wide array of activities, from animal- and bird-watching expeditions to world-class eateries to all manners of water sports, from the traditional to the bold. In fact, La Duquesa is one of the leading leisure venues on the Costa del Sol, where you can do lots of things by the sea.

Sabinillas Fort or La Duquesa Castle

I continued my stroll eastwards. Manilva is the last village in Málaga, bordering on Cádiz. I skirted the marina to reach the fort, which at present belongs to the Town Hall and houses the Municipal Archaeological Museum. The pieces on display at the museum have been unearthed at the Roman site in the environs of La Duquesa Castle, which must have been occupied from the first to the fifth centuries A.D. There’s a collection of everyday pottery, a funeral outfit, personal ornaments, and so on. Also on show are hooks, coins, and other everyday objects. (If you want to read more, go to the Town Hall website.) The fort was built over Roman ruins in 1767. It was intended to become a watchtower against Berber attacks. It’s imposing, sound, thick-walled, with no room for delicate beauty between the roaring cannons at the entrance. I pictured the soldiers scanning the horizon behind the reed beds, their feet deep into the nearby marshes. Suddenly, they spot a sail swelling up and try to figure out whether it’s an allied or an enemy ship. They look on, they never turn their eyes from the horizon.


The long walk, the smell of fish skewers, the sun, and the breeze from the sea all whetted my appetite. There was a beach bar, “Andrés y María,” opposite the fort, where I could have my fried fish by the sea. It was a noisy place, filled with local patrons and tourists from all over the world. I treated myself to something good this time: razor-shells (€8), anchovies (€9), tomato cubes (€3); beer (2), water (2 small bottles), sodas (1); and the star dish, grilled big prawns (€14). The bill = €40.20. I sipped and munched at will. The prawns were delicious; the anchovies were well fried; the razor-shells were great. I think I’ll never forget these flavours.


It’s hot, the sunbathers are lying on the beach in search of the tanning sun. The kids play around, building sand castles only to destroy and build them once and again. The teenagers talk in groups or listen to their iPods while their parents walk along the shoreline, getting their thirsty feet wet. Older men and women stay out of the sun, sheltered under their merciful umbrellas. The sea was calling me with an alluring sound. I spread my orange towel on the sand and produced my swimsuit: red for me, fuchsia for my companion. I felt the sun warm up my skin and then head for the refreshing sea: one-two, one-two, one-two…

Travel Tips and Useful Links

What to do: Hiking: Manilva is an oceanfront town with mountains in the background, so it boasts a fabulous setting for hiking. There’re many routes connecting different points across beautiful and historically interesting landscapes. Find at least four different hiking tours –Miraflores, Cuestas del Molino, Canuto, Paseo paralelo al litoral– here.
Useful links: To read more about Manilva, visit the websites of the Costa del Sol Tourist Board and Manilva Town Hall. The latter’s contents are always updated.

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


Saturday, 3 July 2010

Periana: verdial olive oil and peach, fruity notes, and historical fits. Periana: outstanding landscapes and rolling hills. Periana: a reconstructed town. Periana: new narrow streets, shady parks, and generous fountains. Periana: peach. Periana: olive oil. Periana: laden bright blue skies. Periana: Guaro and Vilo. Periana: rivers. Periana.

Periana in Context

The road zigzags in an orchard brimming with olives, holm oaks, and peach trees. Tree tops reflect the whitish shades of the stubborn sun, as if they were a peaceful lake, rippling to the rhythm of the breeze. The mildly rolling landscape stands in sharp contrast to the village’s hectic history, its foundations undermined in an earthquake, its vines affected by phylloxera, some of its areas ravaged by floods. The 1884 earthquake took a death toll of 56 and forced the town to reinvent itself. However, the inner city is no less genuine than it used to be. For the town is blessed with something no earthquake can snatch from it: great views of La Viñuela reservoir, of Axarquía and, beyond Vélez-Málaga, of the sea, opening up a series playful contrasts between the tamed body of water of the lake and the brave ocean waves.

Arrival and Parking

As soon as I drive past the sign telling me that I’ve come to Periana, a roundabout leads me to the thermal baths of Vilo ahead of the town centre to the left. I choose the latter. Past the Civil Guard station (right), along the suggestive Bellaviste Drive, I come to Plaza de la Constitución, where the Town Hall and a perfect place for parking are. Right form the square, the views of this area of Axarquía are just perfect. It’s so different from other parts of the region, its shapes so mild… The rolling hills, the hamlets and cortijos scattered like drops of white paint on a green and blue canvas… The reservoir inevitably catches my eye.

The Way to Plaza de la Fuente

Equipped with my camera and notepad, I go into Periana. Paseo Bellavista leads to a square, full of fresh shadows, where old men and women gather and shelter from the broiling sun. From the square you can see that backyard of the Church of San Isidro Labrador. I drink from one of the fountains and move on. I soon reach a bend where, under an archway, I see the entrance to Arroyo Cantarranas Park. Here I’m greeted by sweet Arabic music, which brings me back to the times of Al-Andalus. The main thoroughfare is narrow and winding, even when it was redesigned after the earthquake. The houses have managed to keep their hallways and traces of the old wall-walks; whitewashed walls prevail over colours, and the Mediterranean aromas haven’t come off with the tremor of 1884. They stand next to newer buildings, with rectangular landscape windows, wooden blinds, flat rooftops, grilled doors, and gargoyles in the shape of mythical creatures. In Plaza de la Fuente, four ground-level spouts from a sort of trough. St Isidore stands atop the fountain. Perianenses love him. I enjoy the cool water as an invaluable gift.

Periana Peaches...

Turning left from Plaza de la Fuente, I take Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente Street. A curious fact: all number plates on house doors look alike –a white number crowned by two peaches still hanging from a branch. And so I come to one of the themes of Periana, for peach production is one of the pillars of the local economy. According to the Town Hall website, “Although they’re famous the world over, peaches were introduced in Periana 200 years ago by a local man nicknamed “El Rojo.” He’d been to Argentina to visit his family, and when he came back he brought some shoots to plant in estate of Altabacares. The mild weather and the fertile soil made the area apt for peach growing, and so the peach orchards multiplied readily. Beasts of burden were used to carry the peaches in baskets or even sacks. Soon afterwards, a group of pioneers got organised to market their fruit in the capital and neighbouring villages. Mule drivers left for the hinterland (Alfarnate, El Trabuco, Zafarraya, Loja) and sold or bartered their goods. This is how the peaches grown in Periana became famous. Wholesalers hailing from Murcia and other provinces came to buy them and, in the 1970s, growing methods were perfected to produce over 4 million kilos a year. Velvety, intoxicating peaches for the most demanding palates have earned Periana a household name.” I don’t need to add a word here. I’m off to unveil the other of Periana’s treasures.

...And Periana Oil

I’m only gone 50m and I find a detour to the right signing the entrance to the premises of Sociedad Cooperativa Olivarera San Isidro, dominated by a huge red brick smokestack which has fallen into disuse. If the peaches produced in Periana are excellent, the local verdial olive oil is one of the village’s hallmarks. Olive groves were known to the Phoenicians, the Romans, and the Nasrids who settled in the area; they were well acquainted with the quality of the olives growing in the area. Verdial olives owe their name to their bright green colour when ripe; and, in turn, they’ve lent their name to a type of fandango which has come to be known as verdiales. Experts describe verdial oil as strong, fruity, naturally scented, and subtly yellow. After tasting it, I can only agree. I couldn’t help getting into the cooperative’s headquarters and buying two 5l bottles at an amazing price (€15 each). I talked to one of the cooperative members about the importance of the oil-making industry, the use of the latest technology available to make it competitive, and the characteristics of verdial oil. It was an interesting, educational talk. Hours later, at home, I tasted the oil with great relish. It’s a foodstuff, a dish, in its own right.

Church of San Isidro, Earthquake, and Alfonso XII

Walking ahead, I come to the Church of San Isidro Labrador, lying only 10m from the oil cooperative. It’s a newly built church, erected after the 1884 earthquake, but it’s really charming. Its white walls are complemented by brick lintels, columns, baldachins, and belfries, which lends it an industrial air. The Mudejar interior comprises a single nave and two aisles, separated by pointed arches. Its little-tile floor is a unique feature. The façade tells an overwhelming story on a big marble plate: “At 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Day in 1884, the earth began to shake in Granada and Málaga, in an area that was 200 kilometres long and 70 kilometres wide, affecting 106 villages destroying some of them. Buildings collapsed in most areas; 736 people died and 1,253 were seriously injured; no-one escaped grief and horror. The generous and bright king Alfonso XII came when the scourge was still fresh, wind and snow blocking the roads. He wiped tears away, helped those in need, comforted their souls. Calling for universal charity to face the aftermath of the catastrophe, he launched a collection and raised 3,448,734 pesetas in Spanish domains and 3,006,363 in other countries. With the funds raised, 14,000 homes were repaired or rebuilt soon enough, and in the new district in the village of Periana this parish church emerged.” The chronicle gives quite a clear idea of what the 1884 earthquake meant. The King’s aid was crucial to the reconstruction. Periana’s gratitude to him is condensed in the name of the church backyard: Plaza Alfonso XII.

Time for Lunch

The side street to the right of the church takes me back to Paseo Bellavista and Plaza de la Constitución, where I need to find my car to leave the oil there. Light again, I go down the main street towards Verdugo, a restaurant recommended by a friend whose relatives live in Periana. They prepare different appetisers every day, and they are announced by the waiter. “Today, ajoblanco, puchero, sopa de picadillo, and gazpacho. I order ajoblanco and soup. The main course I can choose from the menu, which includes pork, lamb, kid, anchovies, squid, and more in several languages. I choose grilled squid and roast chops (with potato and vegetable garnishes). Verdugo is a restaurant for local patrons (I bumped into one of the managers of the oil cooperative); they serve hearty homemade dishes in generous helpings. It’s cool inside, and that’s good. My ajoblanco is accompanied by apple and cucumber. The soup sends strong perfumes off. To wash everything down, a beer and a 1.5l bottle of water. After the meal, iced coffee. The bill = €19.50.

Vilo Thermal Baths

After letting the food go down for a while in the shade of a generous tree, I head for my car to drive to the Vilo Thermal Baths. The roundabout in the entrance of town indicates how to get there, so this is where I go. 2km from the town centre, I can choose between the roads to Alfarnate or Colmenar. The former goes into a Periana district; it’s a narrow road flanked by houses. The latter leads to the thermal baths through a sharp bend and a steep climb. Either can be used to get to the site, but be careful: you can miss it altogether, for it’s just behind a newly developed holiday resort and the sign is only visible when you come in front of it. I can hear the waterfalls of the river Vilo, a ceaseless fluvial murmur. On the far bank, across a little stone bridge, there’s a small construction: two walls and a tower, and a treasure hidden inside. It’s a treasure of defiant smells and a bright turquoise colour. A puddle, protected by the walls from the outside world, stands like an ancient pool. Water shimmers in it. The smell is strong (rotten egg), but it’s immediately associated with natural spas, classical thermal baths, wellbeing. The only thing I can hear is the murmur of water. The temperature in the Vilo thermal baths remains constant at 21º C all year round. The area was used for sulphurous water baths in the nineteenth century, until a flood destroyed the precarious resort that had developed around the hot spring in 1907. Rehabilitation work is now being done.


I take a seat near the baths, hearing the sound of river music, feeling the shades of the trees and the protection of the walls, looking at the turquoise water before me, spellbound. I take my shoes off and shyly put my feet into the water. Perfect temperature. I get transported to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when bourgeois citizens from Málaga City or Vélez-Málaga came to Periana in search of the healing properties of water. I get carried away…

Travel Tips and Useful Links

When to come:
Verdial Oil Day:
In April, Periana pays tribute to one of its staples on Verdial Oil Day, which has been designated as a Fiesta of Provincial Tourist Interest. The celebrations are aimed at publicising the “golden liquid” extracted from verdial olives, unique fruit worshipped by the Phoenicians, the Romans, and the Nasrids, producing a sweet golden oil whose flavour is unique and original. If you come to Periana on Verdial Oil Day, you can taste the oil, have a miller’s breakfast, listen to pandas de verdiales, and attend the Verdial Oil Award ceremony, honouring leading personalities of society, politics, and culture. For more information, photos, and videos, visit the Periana Town Hall website at Verdial Oil Day.
Peach Day: On this day, Periana pays tribute to the other staple of local economy, peaches. The highlight of this fiesta is a culinary competition in which chefs must use –guess what– peaches in their dishes. There’s music and a host of cultural activities. Peach Day is held in June. Click here to watch related videos.

Useful links: To plan your trip to Periana, the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board, Periana Town Hall (which contains up-to-date information) and Association for the Promotion of Axarquía can be useful sources.

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