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.