Ronda, one of the oldest cities in Spain, is also one of the most dramatic mountain towns. Nestled deep into the mountains, it has this crazy gorge – a dizzying 380 feet deep – that separates the old Moorish city of La Ciudad (dating from the 8th century) from the new city of El Mercadillo (15th century). [Interesting to think that “new” for Spain is before Cristóbol Colón set sail from Spain to discover the Americas.] The gorge features so prominently in the topography of the city that they gave it a name: El Tajo, or The Pit. Uh-huh….
Ronda was a headquarters for bandeleros from the 18th to early 20th centuries, bandits who would prey upon travelers passing through Andalucía. I remember Washington Irving mentioning the notorious bandeleros as he traveled to Granada in his Tales of the Alhambra. I wonder if he was passing through the mountains of Ronda.
We loved the views of this verdant valley from our vantage point in the new city, but crossing the narrow gorge into the old city was spectacular. We crossed on the Puente Nuevo, the New Bridge, built in the 18th century. Its design really accentuates the depth of the gorge as the supports extend to the bottom. Prior to its completion, the citizens of Ronda had a choice of the older Puente Viejo (not surprisingly, the Old Bridge) or the even older Puente Árabe (Arabic Bridge). After viewing El Tajo from the Puente Nuevo, I can’t imagine crossing it from an older bridge. My knees were weak enough as I looked through an opening in the wall to the Guadalevín River below!
Ronda has one of the oldest and most prominent bullrings in Spain, thanks to the Romero family, local matadors who were instrumental in defining the modern style of bullfighting. Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles, both bullfighting aficionados, spent quite a bit of time in Ronda. In fact, Orson Welles’s remains were buried on bullfighter Antonio Ordóñez’s property in Ronda.
The city was a haven for other artists as well, and not just for the bullring. Many poets and writers, or viajeros románticos (romantic travelers) as they were known to the locals, spent time in Ronda inspired by the beauty around them. I am in complete agreement, as long as I have firm ground underneath my feet.