Beyond the bullfights in Ronda, Spain
“Papa” is still popular in Ronda, and Orson’s ashes found their lasting peace outside of this Andalusian town in Spain’s most southern province.
“Papa,” Ernest Hemingway, the famous American writer and Nobel Prize winner, and Orson Welles, recognized American film director, both loved Ronda, Spain, and visited it often. Local souvenir shops still offer photographs of the Americans with their favorite torreros. Both were bullfight aficionados and close friends of Antonia Ordónez, the Spanish matador legend. Welles’ final resting place features a fountain on his estate near Ronda.
The Plaza de Toros of Ronda, the oldest bullring in Spain, opened in 1765 and remains home to two of the major dynasties of Spanish bullfighters, the Romeros and the Ordónezes.
Juan Romero, who reached the biblical age of 102 years, invented the use of picadors and banderilleros in bullfighting. His son, Pedro, is known for killing 6,000 bulls in his life and performing his last bullfight at age 72. Many examples of bullfighting memorabilia can be seen in the local bullfight museum inside the Plaza de Toros.
But Ronda has much more to offer than bullfighting and bullfighting history.
When Rainer Maria Rilke, one of Germany’s most famous poets, visited Ronda in 1913, he was thrilled by the location of this Andalusian town and the spectacular panoramas he found there. Located on a rock plateau that is split in half by a deep gorge called the Tajo, Ronda’s main attraction is its breathtaking location. The Guadalevin River flows through the Tajo and three bridges span the river, connecting the old town, called Ciudad, and the new quarters, called Mercadillo.
The Puente Nuevo (new bridge), which is the main bridge between the two parts of Ronda, dominates the scene. An architectural masterpiece, the 600-foot-high bridge was finished in the 18th century and took 42 years to build. It is the work of the Andalusian architect Antonio Martin Alduhuela, who fell to his death while adding finishing touches to his creation.
Although not as dramatic as the Ponte Nuevo, the other two bridges are worth a visit. Located in a lower part of the canyon, the Puente Viejo, the old bridge, was built in 1616. The Puente Romano, the Roman bridge, was erected in the 14th century.
There are Arabian baths to visit nearby. Built in the 13th century, they display a perfect sample of Arabian culture in Andalusia. The baths are considered the best preserved in Spain. A video show explains their function and historical background.
Ronda, a small town of 36,000, is at an altitude of about 2,400 feet and is surrounded by mountains. It is only one hour north of the busy, hectic Costa del Sol and about two hours from Naval Station Rota. It is the perfect destination for a day trip. It has a relaxed southern atmosphere with outdoor cafés, reasonable hotels and a variety of souvenir shops in the new town. La Ciudad offers many antique shops, medieval palaces, a bandolero museum, old churches and narrow cobblestone lanes.
The Museo Lara offers traditional flamenco evenings with food and wine. The old art of Spanish gypsy dancing is definitely a highlight of a stay in Ronda.
More on Ronda
For information on Ronda, Spain, call the tourist office at (+34) (0) 952 87 12 72 or go to the Web at www.ronda.net.
For more on the tradition of flamenco dancing in the city, visit the Web at www.flamencoronda.com.
There are many Web sites on the Plaza de Toros, bullfighting and its role in Ronda’s history, but one good one is: www.andalucia.com/flamenco/home.htm.
— Peter Jaeger