Ronda

For most of my guests a visit to Ronda is a must. Only an hour or so from here along beautiful mountain roads it is worth the spectacular drops you see along the way. Some guests find it scary but most enjoy the ride!

Main sights

There are three bridges:

  • Puente Romano (“Roman Bridge”, also known as the Puente San Miguel).
  • Puente Viejo (“Old Bridge”, also known as the Puente Árabe or “Arab Bridge”) and
  • Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge”).

All the bridges span the spectacular canyon you see in the photo. The term “nuevo” is a bit of a misnomer as the building of this bridge commenced in 1751 and took until 1793 to complete. The Puente Nuevo is the tallest of the bridges, towering 120 metres (390 ft) above the canyon floor.  All three serve as some of the city’s most impressive features.

The ‘Corrida Goyesca’ is a unique and historical bullfight that takes place once a year in NeoclassicalRonda in the Plaza de toros. This is the oldest bullring in Spain. It was built in 1784 by the architect Jose Martin de Aldehuela who also designed the Puente Nuevo.

The partially intact Baños árabes (“Arab baths”) are found below the city and date back to the 13th and 14th centuries.

The former town hall, which sits next to the Puente Nuevo, is the site of a parador (Government owned top class hotel chain), and has a view of the Tajo canyon to die for. I always sit there with a coffee on the terrace looking out over all that history and amazing landscape.

Cultural influence

American artists Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles spent many summers in Ronda as part-time residents of Ronda’s old town quarter called La Ciudad. Both wrote about Ronda’s beauty and famous bull-fighting traditions. Their collective accounts have contributed to Ronda’s popularity over time.

In the first decades of the 20th century the famous German poet Rainer Maria Rilke spent extended periods in Ronda. There he kept a permanent room at the Hotel Reina Victoria (built in 1906) where his room remains to this day as he left it, a mini-museum of Rilkeana. According to the hotel’s publicity, Rilke wrote (though probably not in Spanish) “He buscado por todas partes la ciudad soñada, y al fin la he encontrado en Ronda” and “No hay nada más inesperado en España que esta ciudad salvaje y montañera” (“I have sought everywhere the city of my dreams, and I have finally found it in Ronda” and “There is nothing that is more startling in Spain than this wild and mountainous city.”)

Hemingway’s novel ‘For whom the bell tolls’ describes the execution of Nationalist sympathizers early in the Spanish Civil War. The Republicans murder the Nationalists by throwing them from cliffs in an Andalusian village, and Hemingway allegedly based the account on killings that took place in Ronda at the cliffs of El Tajo.

Orson Welles said he was inspired by his frequent trips to Spain and Ronda (e.g. his unfinished film about Don Quixote). After he died in 1985, his ashes were buried in a well located on the rural property of his friend, the retired bullfighter Antonio Ordoñez.

English writer George Eliot’s book Daniel Deronda (“Daniel of Ronda”) tells the story of a Spanish Jew brought up as an Englishman. There has been some speculation that Eliot’s ancestors may have lived in Ronda prior to the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

In the fashion world, Italian designer Giorgio Armani specially designed the bullfighting costume called ‘Goyesco’ for famed bullfighter Cayetano Rivera Ordonez on the occasion of the ‘Corrida Goyesca’ that took place on September 6, 2009, in Ronda. Cayetano’s suit of lights was in the Goyaesque style, comprising a jacket, trousers and cloak in techno-satin. The three pieces are embroidered with sequins, small glitter stones and thread, all matching the colour of the background fabric.

As you can tell there is a huge literary influence in Ronda and there are many beautiful buildings to see. Try and park in the square by the Tourist Information Centre and get details of houses which open to the public for an insight into how the rich and famous lived here in a bygone era. A day is not quite enough but you can see all the highlights.