The 18th century arch bridge is Ronda’s most famous landmark. It is a marvelous piece of architecture and engineering which took 42 years to build and claimed the lives of 50 construction workers. This 3-arch stone bridge built over the chasm which divides the lovely and historic city of Ronda is more than just a sight to behold. It is packed with history and tales. And more morbid stories 😱
What tales? What historical trivia? The difference between them may have been blurred but it is claimed that Puente Nuevo may have been the site of more deaths via executions. Housed above the central arch is a prison used as a torture chamber during the 1936-39 civil war. Allegedly, the prisoners were thrown off the prison windows, to meet instant death down the rocks of the Tajo Gorge. These executions inspired some pages from Hemingway’s “For Whom The Bells Toll”. Just to give you an idea…. there is a viewpoint here which locals love to call the “Coño Balconaje“. The driver who took us here made sure we remember why the balcony is called that obscene Spanish expletive referring to a feminine anatomy. Pepe, our Sevillano driver said that all who passed that viewpoint cussed “coño” out of fear. I believe him, although I took care not to cuss as I passed 😰
Puente Nuevo , which translates to new bridge, is a misnomer for obvious reasons. But it must be mentioned that it is only one of Ronda’s 3 bridges over the breathtaking canyon. The tallest of the 3, the hotels, restaurants and shops with a view of this bridge and the gorge is doing brisk business. One such hotel used to be the city hall. Now a charming parador, it is strategically located right at the end of the bridge. Nearby are restaurants offering the best of Ronda’s produce from wines to its famous Payoyo cheese from goat’s milk.
Weaving around a small section of Ronda, we passed what is claimed to be the oldest bullring in Spain. The 18th century-Plaza de Toros — built by the same fellow who designed the Puente Nuevo — in Ronda has staged many bullfights. The story goes that author Ernest Hemingway, an avid fan of corridas, went to the annual Goyesque bullfight since he got hooked on what is claimed to be a noble sport. Another fascinating claim is that Hemingway’s ashes were scattered here. Well…. not exactly in Ronda’s Plaza de Toros, some claim, but in the finca or estate of Hemingway’s matador-friend by the name of Antonio Ordoñez. Btw, the same claims are made of actor-director Orson Welles’ ashes. Ho-Hum.
Along the same road as the Plaza de Toros is the Church of La Merced. I bet many toreros and matadors visit this Catholic Church to this day before their encounter with the poor bull. Poor because the odds are stacked against him. Not that I wish for him to win 😱 but until the new modern bullfighting “protocols” were put into practice, the bullfighters actually slayed the bulls while on horseback. Ronda changed all that, and then was born modern bullfighting on foot.
What makes Ronda even more a must-go place is that its natural beauty and historical monuments are complemented by gastronomic adventures. We didn’t have the time to visit a vineyard but dined in Taberna Don Javier where we indulged once more in Spanish delicacies. After lunch, we parted with some Euros to shop for the famous artisanal Payoyo cheese from the Payoya goats. The local wine we drank. The quezo de cabra we brought home. And soon, we were on our way home for a last glimpse of the Pueblos Blancos and lake scenes in Zahara de la Sierra which we passed on our way here. Such beauty! We were even lucky to see a rainbow while our bus passed the zigzag towards Ronda.
We ended this daytrip from Sevilla with an unexpected bonus from our bus driver. Pepe made a detour to Alcala de Guadauirra to see this modern bridge adorned by mosaics in dragon form. Ahead of it are palatial buildings atop cliffs where Pepe narrated the story of this loving husband who gifted his wife with a car. Teaching his wife how to drive the new car, the lady mistakenly shifted the car in reverse and backed the car beyond and off the cliff plunging into their death. What a sad story. Too many lives lost in this area off those dramatic cliffs!
Before long, we were back in Sevilla with many happy and morbid memories of quaint, lovely, even romantic Ronda. We may have missed a few landmarks but it’s not bad practice to leave a few sites for a repeat visit. And yes, I’d likely stay a night or two here.