Situated one hour inland from the Costa del Sol and 2,300 ft up in the SIERRA DE RONDA hidden in the soaring mountains and straddling a mighty gorge, RONDA is the stuff of dreams and is precisely the kind of magical town found in fairy tales.
Ronda is encircled by three natural parks - the Sierra de las Nieves, Sierra del Grazalema and the Alcornocales. The A-397 from San Pedro snakes through rugged cowboy country to the vertiginous mountain town which pierces the clouds at 750 metres above sea level - giddy limits .
Ramshackle white houses, church spires and historic walls and towers, this is Ronda. ANDALUSIA'S third most visited place, targeted by history lovers, nature lovers and lovers in general. There is a romantic, fairy tale element to the ‘city of dreams’ that even cast writer ERNEST HEMINGWAY and actor ORSON WELLES under its spell.
Much of Hemingway’s work is a love letter to the town. He wrote in his novel DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON, "it is where you go to Spain on a honeymoon or if you ever bolt with anyone". The entire town and as far as you can see in any direction is romantic background.
Sipping coffee in the main Plaza del Socorro, it’s not difficult to imagine HEMINGWAY scribbling in the shadows of a backstreet café. His legacy remains in a street running round the back of the Parador Hotel, the Paseo de Hemingway. Hemingway celebrated his final birthday in 1960 in Ronda.
This wonderful and historic white town is perched on the edge of a 100 meter deep gorge – EL TAJO.
The 18th century PUENTE NUEUVO - NEW BRIDGE, a spectacular Roman Bridge, which despite its name, was built between 1755-1793, separates the old and new parts of the town. EL TAJO has witnessed many a death with the area surrounding RONDA in the past being notorious bandit country, and it is said many of the bodies of the bandits enemies were thrown from the bridge and certainly at the time of the Civil War hundreds of victims from both sides were hurled to their deaths from the bridge.
Hemingway’s most memorable chapter in FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS recalls the horror of Franco’s victims being hurled over the ravine to their deaths.
The BANDOLEROS MUSEUM,, dedicated to the bandit is colorful, full of history and well worth a visit.
The old part retains MOORISH influence with narrow streets and interesting buildings. The Banos Arabes, (Arabian Baths), today just a ruin, dates from the 13th century, the PALACIO DE MONDRAGON and the PALACIO DEL MARQUES DE SALVATIERRA are just two of the beautiful buildings worth a visit.
The CASA DEL REY MORO was built in the 1700's believed on Moorish foundations. From the garden an underground stairway called La Mina leads to the river below via 365 steps, built by Christian slaves to provide a means of getting water in case RONDA came under siege.
The new part of town known as MERCADILLO was the original site where traders, who were not allowed in the city, set up their market stalls.
RONDA has what is believed to be the oldest bullring in Spain, open to the public and contains a fine bullfighting museum. The bullring is now owned by the famous bullfighter ANTONIO ORDENEZ on whose ranch the ashes of the late actor ORSON WELLS are scattered.
Spain’s oldest, 230 this year, it is a stunning classical building well worth a visit, with some fabulous Goya etchings in a side building. Outside there is a statue of local lad Pedro Romero who is dubbed the ‘father of the corrida’ for introducing bullfighting on foot and the matador’s balletic style. Septembers annual Goyesca bullfight in 18th century costume pays tribute to Romero and Goya’s matador paintings and is famous world over.
Syrian Prince Abu’l-Flda said Ronda "is an elegant and loft city in which the clouds serve as a turban and its towers as a sword belt".
Irish novelist and poet James Joyce said "Ronda with the old windows of the houses, they eyes which spy out hidden behind the latticework, so that their lover might kiss the iron bar".
And finally, Orson Welles said "A man is not from where he is born, but where he chooses to die".
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