|Segovia & Avila|
Segovia & Avila|
Segovia is one of Spain's most famous historic cities and a World Heritage Site. It is located in the Castilla and León region just half an hour's drive from Madrid. Madrid, Segovia and Avila form a convenient triangle for visiting in any order and the two cities come a cracking second to Toledo for trips from the capital. Moreover both are accessible to Salamanca by bus.
The collection of historical monuments, their conservation together with its beauty make this an impressive city to visit. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1985.
Some of the surrounding villages, entrapped in small valleys within the canyons of the River Doratón also have superb Roman historical monuments to see. Segovia is a relatively small province and you can get to most of the nearby well known villages very easily but for those looking for something more peaceful off the main tourist route there are a number of lesser known but equally interesting villages which offer accommodation in rural hotels.
Ávila is best known for its superb walls. Segovia is best known for its Roman Aqueduct and its Alcázar. There are spectacular views around the city. The Plaza Mayor is vast and holds the cathedral in one corner. There are Romanesque churches dotted around and must be regarded as a real attraction. San esteban and La Trinidad are the best up in this area. It is under 10 minutes direct walk to the Alcázar. The sight of it, perched on the walls, high and almost vertically above the area beyond, has to be impressive. The fact that neither Snow White nor Chitty Chitty Bang Bang appear seems to render it not quite complete. Apparently it was rebuilt in exaggerated style after a 19th century fire. Look for the white storks flying in to nesting in the Alcazar. Just on the city side of the Alcázar is a small park where you can look out directly from the walls. The view down to the octagonal church of Vera Cruz, originally modelled by the Knights Templar to resemble the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In addition to the fine Romanesque churches already mentioned, the mansions, which you come across more or les inadvertently in the streets, the walks round the walls on the west side as you face the Alcázar and those fabulous views are what justify some real time in the upper town.
The Roman Aqueduct really is something else! Although I have a soft spot for the one at Tarragona as well, this has to be regarded as something really special. It was built at the turn of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. The whole water channel is about 16km long and the portion above ground is about 728 metres long and 30 metres high with 165 arches and no less than 24,000 granite blocks from the nearby Sierra de Guadarrama. There is a considerable length in the middle with a double row of arches. Are you impressed? OK here’s the best bit. In the whole structure there is no mortar whatsoever!! Unlike at Tarragona, where the rural setting of the aqueduct has its own appeal, this one is very much an aspect of the city itself, situated at the bottom of the bus route between the station and the Plaza Mayor. This means you can get back up by bus if you need or want to.
Walls of Ávila
Ávila existed before Roman times and is the highest provincial city in Spain. Its walls were built in the 11th and 12th centuries and these alone give sufficient reason to visit. If they don’t give you a bit of a tingle, it would seem you are a bit short on engineering and historical imagination. This is a city where a ride in the tourist ‘train’ is a good idea. The cathedral is a fine building inside and out, although in parts it is built directly into the walls.
The Basilica of San Vicente, just outside the walls and close to the terminus of the ‘train’ is another place that screams for a visit, El Monasterio Real de Santo Tomaso is a bit further out, The city’s most prominent citizen(ess), Santa Teresa de Jesús, can become a bit much of it if you stay long. However Ávila makes an ideal first night break if you are heading from Madrid towards Galicia or León.
Segovia is a province of great contrasts. It covers 7000 km2 and rises to 2500 metres above sea level in its mountainous areas and drops to 750 metres in its lowest areas. The province borders with the south of Madrid, the north of Burgos and Valladolid, the east of Soria and the west of Ávila and Guadalajara.
The climate: Segovia has a stable climate with cold winters and hot summers, very typical for Castilla and Leon. It does not have very extreme temperatures unlike other areas further north. The average temperature is between 10 and 20 degrees although this may drop in the higher areas.
Fiestas in Segovia: The fiestas take place on 25th Octuber, San Frutos. And there are fiestas to celebrate San Juan in June (24th to 30th). The Easter processions in Segovia are famous throughout Spain. There is also a well known puppet theatre festival in Segovia in May called Titirimundi in which almost 100 puppet theatre companies from all over the world participate.
Historical Sites in Segovia:
The Aquaduct: This is Segovia's best known historical monument, clearly visible from the outskirts of the city. It was built towards the end of 1 A.D. It measures 800 metres and at its highest point it reaches 28 metres, in the la Plaza del Azoguejo. This impressive piece of Roman engineering has 166 arches and 120 columns on two levels. Until relatively recently it was still in use and is probably one of the best conserved Roman aquaducts in the world.
The Cathedral: Located in the Plaza Mayor, this beautiful Cathedral looms over Segovia's historic centre. It was built in a Renaissance Gothic style in the 16th century following the destruction of the previous Roman cathedral. It has a museum which has the first printed book in Spain from 1472 - el Sinodal de Aguilafuente. This Cathedral is acclaimed for both its size and beauty, designed by Juan Gil de Hontańón, it has 3 naves with adjoining chapels on each side.
Alcázar de Segovia: Located a short walk from the Cathedral, this impressive fortress could have Roman or Celtic origins. (recent excavations have found similar stones to those used in the construction of the aquaduct.) It was built in the 14th century when the transiton from Roman to Gothic began. Alfonso el Sabio converted it into one of his favourite residences and during the rest of the middle ages it was still visited by the Kings of Castilla. Isabel la Católica used it as a place to start her royal procession before being proclaimed queen in the Plaza Mayor.
Calle Real: This is a pedestrianised street which joins the Plaza del Azoguejo to the Plaza Mayor - it has lots of interesting monuments:
Palacio de los del Río (16th century)
Palacio del Conde de Alpuente (5th century)
Palacio de los Torreagero (15th - 16th century)
Mirador de la Canaleja
Casa de los Picos
Plaza de Juan Bravo
Iglesia de San Martín (15th century), one of the best examples of a Roman church in the city.
Convento de San Antonio El Real: Built in 1455 as a summer residence for Enrique IV, it was later given to nuns of the Order of Saint Clare by Isabel la Catolica. This beautiful building became a national monument in 1931 although it was closed to the public until very recently.
Convento de los Padres Carmelitas: The remains of the poet San Juan de la Cruz who wrote Llama de Amor Viva are kept here.
Corpus Christi: This is an old Synagogue from the 13th century which was the centre for the Hebrew population in Segovia in medieval times.
Iglesia de la Vera Cruz: Roman church on the outskirts of Segovia where it is said a piece of Christ's cross was received.
Museo de arte contemporáneo de Segovia (The Contemporary Art Museum): Located in an ancient palace which once belonged to Enrique IV, Renaissance style architecture. It has a permanent exhibition of work by Esteban Vicente
Palacio Episcopal: Dating back to the 16th century this building is currently used as an episcopal residence. Located next to the 11th century Roman church, Iglesia San Esteban, Bicentenary of the 2 May 1808The historical rising of the Spanish people against the invasion of French troops is to be remembered in this city of monuments in the Castile-León Region.8th April - 14 November
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