Oct 27, 2017
While the hillside hamlets of France and Italy are well known (those in Provence and Tuscany come instantly to mind), those of Spain aren’t. Its dozens of small towns and villages are collectively known as the pueblos blancos – or white villages – so called because of the whitewashed façades of their buildings, derived from the time the region came under the rule of the Moors in the 8th century and brought with them traditional whitewash that kept their homes cool in the blazing summers.
Ronda is one of the most popular towns on this circuit. Dating back to the 9th century BC, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in Spain, and remnants of its Moorish and Roman past survive in the form of the Roman Theatre and Arab baths, along with other monuments.
Perched on a clifftop, this classic pueblos blancos overlooks the magnificent Serrania de Ronda mountains and El Tajo gorge, which bisects the town. To the south of the gorge lies La Ciudad, the old, Moorish part of town that was a centre for trade and commerce during the Moorish period, and to its north lies El Mercadillo, the ‘new’ town built in 1485. The 18th-century Puente Nuevo (Spanish for ‘new bridge’; above) connects the two.
Towering 120m above the canyon floor, the breathtaking structure is one of the town’s principal viewpoints and the perfect vantage point to take in the Cuenca Gardens, located on the ledges of the gorge. Another prominent tourist attraction is the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, one of the oldest bullrings in Spain.
Apart from tourists, Ronda has long been a magnet for artists and writers, including Alexandre Dumas, Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles. Hemingway featured the bullring in several of his works, and was so enamoured with Ronda itself that he said, “The whole city and its surroundings are a romantic set.”
– BY CHARUKESI RAMADURAI