Setenil de las Bodegas in Cadiz region of Andalucia, Spain

On my Facebook page today a friend posted about this amazing town. I had to investigate for you and the following is what I found out. I lived in the Granada region for many years in the Sierra Nevada mountains about 3 hours drive from my place in Seville and there is a town there called Guadix which has an extensive cave dwelling history. But I didn’t realise there was a similar one so close to me here.

Setenil de las Bodegas is a town (pueblo) in the province of Cadiz, famous for its dwellings built into rock overhangs above the Rio (river) Trejo. The town  has a population of only 3,016 inhabitants. It has an exact antipodal city: Auckland, New Zealand

This small town (pueblo) is located 157 kilometres (98 miles) northeast of Cadiz. It has a distinctive setting along a narrow river gorge. The town extends along the course of the Rio Trejo with some houses being built into the rock walls of the gorge itself, created by enlarging natural caves or overhangs and adding an external wall.

Street in Setenil

Modern Setenil evolved from a fortified Moorish town that occupied a bluff overlooking a sharp bend in the Rio Trejo northwest of Ronda. The castle dates from at least the Almohad period in the 12th century. However, the site was certainly occupied during the Roman invasion of the region in the 1st century AD. Setenil was once believed to be the successor of the Roman town of Laccipo, but it was subsequently proved that Laccipo became the town of Casares in Malaga.

Given the evidence of other nearby cave-dwelling societies, such as those at the Cueva de la Pileta west of Ronda, where habitation has been tracked back more than 25,000 years, it is possible that Setenil was occupied much much earlier. Most evidence of this would have been erased by continuous habitation.

Tradition holds that the town’s Castilian name came from the Roman Latin phrase septem nihil (‘seven times nothing’). This is said to refer to the Moorish town’s resistance to Christian assault, allegedly being captured only after seven sieges. This took place in the final years of the Christian reconquest. Besieged unsuccessfully in 1407, Setenil finally fell in 1484 when Christian forces expelled the Moorish occupants. Using gunpowder artillery, the Christians took fifteen days to capture the castle whose ruins dominate the town today.

Due to the strategic importance of Setenil, the victory was celebrated widely in Castile and was the source of several legends in local folklore. Isabella I of Castile is said to have aborted during the siege with the ermita (chapel) of San Sebastian being built as a tribute to the dead child, who was named Sebastian. However, there appears to be no historical basis to this story.

The full name of Setenil de las Bodegas dates from the 15th century, when new Christian settlers, in addition to maintaining the Arab olive and almond groves, introduced vineyards. The first two crops still flourish in the district but the once flourishing wineries—bodegas— were wiped out by the phylloxera insect infestation, which effectively destroyed most European vine stocks.

Over the intervening centuries, Setenil also gained a reputation for its meat products, particularly chorizo sausage and cerdo (pork) from pigs bred in the surrounding hills. As well as meat, it has a reputation for producing fine pasteles (pastries), and its bars and restaurants are among the best in the region. Its outlying farms also provide Ronda and other local towns with much of their fruit and vegetables.

So now you know all about it, when you visit the more famous towns of Ronda or Cadiz or Jerez de la Frontera why don’t you do a slight detour and obtain some fascinating photos to wow your friends with! Enjoy.