The exotic charms that captivated poets and artists in the late nineteenth century are more valid than ever in this town in Malaga. Ronda stands as one of the oldest settlements in Spain and capital of the mountain range of the same name. The city, which has about 40,000 inhabitants, is the origin of ancient stories and many legends, so it is worth discovering it with a book in hand or enjoying dramatized visits that reveal secrets and curiosities. The rondeña essence remains alive in the white and cobbled streets of the old town, where it is still common to see carriages pulled by horses. Their devotion is collected in churches, convents and hermitages excavated in the rock. The elegance is provided by the facades of palaces that keep patios refreshed by singing fountains. All surrounded by stunning views and a gastronomy of Arabic aromas and Andalusian recipes, which complement the charms of the Malaga Ronda.
From the New Bridge to the Arab Baths and the bullring, all there is to see in Ronda to fall in love with this city as did romantic travellers and writers like Hemingway.
ARAB BATHS OF RONDA AND ITS MUSLIM LEGACY
The Moorish origin of the magical Ronda is still breathed in the walled core that the Arabs built in the eighth century. Although the town of Malaga has the natural defense of the Tagus, a gorge of more than a hundred vertical meters, the Berbers reinforced it with robust walls. Some sections and several doors are preserved: the Puerta de Almocábar, old access to the medina, originally from the thirteenth century but remodelled in the period of Carlos V; the Pool, which entered cattle and food; the Puerta de la Cijara, near the Arab Baths, this thermal enclosure of Arab origin (rebuilt in the thirteenth century), considered the best preserved example of the country, which are located near the stream of the Culebras; and the Gate of the Bridge, in which visitors of old were to be purified before entering the city. Finally there is the Puerta de la Fuente, enlarged in 1742 with the Arch of Felipe V and located next to the legendary Sillón del Moro.
THE NEW BRIDGE AND OTHER ROUND BRIDGES
The New Bridge is the icon of Ronda. It began to be built in 1735 with an arch of 35 meters in diameter, but six years later it collapsed. The work that is contemplated today was resumed in 1751 and was completed 40 years later, in 1793, on this occasion with several arches and more than a hundred meters high over the gorge of the Tagus, by whose bed runs the river Guadalevín. This stony walkway gives stunning views of the surroundings, being the main viewpoint of Ronda.
The colossal work of engineering keeps inside a museum where the story of its construction is told. Just nearby and overlooking the Puente Nuevo and the Tagus are the Parador de Ronda, which occupies the old town hall of 1761, the Alameda del Tajo, a wooded promenade created in 1806, and the Jardines de Cuenca, with terraces overlooking the emblematic canyon.
MEDIEVAL WALL OF RONDA
The Arab walls of Ronda were reinforced in Christian times, encompassing in the western sector the wall of the Albacara, where the Gate of the Mills or of the Christ was opened. The Puerta de Almocabar was in the walled southern sector of the medina and was restructured in the period of Charles V: it takes its name from the word Al-maqabir (cemetery) and was one of the main accesses in the time of Arab rule. More remains of the walled canvas can be admired in the east of the city where is the wall of the Cijara and its door: this section in the old suburbs of the medina had a double defensive line. Finally, in the western sector extends the wall of the Albacara, whose function was to protect the agricultural areas and its mills, and shelter the cattle in case of risk; it has near the Puerta del Cristo or the Mills and the Puerta del Viento.
CHURCHES AND HERMITAGES
Another of the most abundant patrimonies in Ronda are its churches, convents and hermitages. There is a route that runs through the main ones, such as Santa María la Mayor, which began to be built in the thirteenth century on the foundations of a Paleochristian basilica of the fifth century, on which the Great Mosque of the Muslim medina was also erected. The Alminar of San Sebastián, declared a Site of Cultural Interest, was part of the belt of mosques in the city; for years it was the bell tower of the disappeared temple of the same name. The church of the Holy Spirit is another of the oldest: it began in 1485, the year of the Christian conquest of the Catholic Monarchs. Other examples are the church of Father Jesus, which contains Mudejar and Baroque decorations; that of the Virgin of Peace, of the sixteenth century and where the image of the patron saint of the city is kept; or the baroque church of the Descalzos.
From the eighteenth century, and thanks to a thriving nobility, the monuments that most identify Ronda were built: the New Bridge and the Bullring of the Real Maestranza de Caballería, declared a Cultural Interest for its history, architecture and beauty, recognized as one of the oldest in Spain (1780). Later, at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, it was when the most romantic and literary facet of Ronda was forged, extended to its mountains in which many legends of bandits developed that in their day attracted travelers and writers. The city had a Bandolero Museum that has been moved to the town of El Borge, a center dedicated to this theme, which exhibits objects, lithographs, clothing, weapons and books of romantic writers who helped to raise awareness of this social phenomenon that emerged in 18th century Andalusia.
MONDRAGÓN PALACE AND OTHER NOBLE HOUSES
The Casa del Gigante, from the Nasrid period (14th-15th centuries), considered a miniature palace, is named after two reliefs that decorated the corners of the building, of which one remains. It retains its Arabic design, around a courtyard with pool and arcades with plasterwork, coffers and cursive inscriptions. Almost opposite stands the Palace of Moctezuma, of great artistic value, whose heraldic ornaments testify to the stay in the city of the heirs of the last Aztec emperor; today it houses the museum of the cubist painter Joaquín Peinado. Mondragón Palace is the most significant civil building of Ronda, which over the centuries has been the residence of Arab princes and then Christian governors; today it is the headquarters of the Archaeological Museum of Ronda, where the history of the city is compiled, and has a beautiful courtyard with triple arches on marble columns. On the other hand, the Palace of the Marquis of Salvatierra has a baroque facade by a sculpted lintel where you can look for some mocking male figures that take out the tongue and others of modest females that hide their intimate parts. Also noteworthy is the Town Hall, erected as a barracks in 1734, which holds a magnificent hall of plenary and coffered mudéjars.
PREHISTORIC CAVES AND IBERIAN RUINS NEAR RONDA
Ronda also has heritage attractions in the surrounding area. In the municipality of Ronda you can visit the megalithic necropolis of La Planilla, a funerary area of the Bronze Age, located on a hill between the Guadalevín river and the Culebras stream. Another excursion leads to the Iberian-Roman site of Acinipo (1st century B.C.-VI d.C:), 12 km in the mountains. In a fertile and strategic enclave, it preserves thermal baths and a theatre, considered one of the best preserved in the Peninsula of that period. In its location occupied since the Neolithic, traces have also been found from the Copper Age to the Bronze Age. Another proof of the antiquity of the territory is the Cueva de la Pileta, one of the best exponents of cave art of the Andalusian Paleolithic. Habitat of prehistoric man, is located in the municipality of Benaojan, 22 km from Ronda. Discovered in 1905 and declared a National Monument in 1924, it contains an extraordinary set of cave paintings in which the pregnant mare stands out.