1. Sickles of the Riaza river (Segovia)
This route to breathe fully (a paradise always, and more so in these times) begins in Montejo de la Vega de la Serrezuela, 150 km from Madrid. This small town, where there is a Park House to collect maps and information, is one of the corners of the Hoces del Río Riaza Natural Park; the other, Maderuelo, next to the Linares reservoir. Our path starts in a parking area on the outskirts of Montejo, and then winds along these slopes, on the right side of the riverbed, overlooking the imposing cliffs where one of the large colonies of griffon vulture in Europe lives, one of the sites that Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente frequented the most. Following the river, you reach a calcareous canyon where the Casuar hermitage is located. The day can be lengthened as long as you like, before heading home the same way.
Plus. A good idea is to return to Madrid through Maderuelo, a beautiful walled town on a hill above the Linares reservoir. And a few kilometers further on, Ayllón, another medieval treasure in Segovia.
2. Monastery of Uclés (Cuenca)
‘El Escorial de La Mancha’ is less than a hundred kilometers from Madrid. The first stone of the current building (previously it was Celtiberian fortress and fortress of the Muslims and of the Order of Santiago, which had its headquarters here) was laid in the 16th century on a hillock that dominates the horizon, to the point that at the At dusk, its shadow covers the entire town of Uclés (Cuenca). Until the 18th century, different buildings were built, an imposing set. The time of the works determined the use of different styles: Plateresque (the old refectory), Herreriano (the church) and Churrigueresque (the main facade). The confiscation of Mendizábal (1836) meant the end of the Santiago community. The Fernando Núñez Foundation is trying to activate the cultural life in the monastery with different activities (exhibitions, concerts, conferences) throughout the year. Visits: [email protected]
Plus. 13 km away, in Saelices, is the archaeological park of Segóbriga, one of the best-preserved Roman cities in Spain. During the visit, you will pass by the amphitheater, the theater, the wall, the forum, the basilica, the temples, the thermal baths, the water supply system, the necropolis and some of the houses.
3. Talavera de la Reina and Puente del Arzobispo (Toledo)
The hallmark of these Toledo towns is ceramics, with a long and successful history, Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It was at first a homemade production with Mudejar influence, but from the reign of Felipe II a Renaissance period began with a color palette made up of cobalt oxide blues, manganese blacks, copper greens, antimony yellow and oranges of iron oxide. Jan Floris, a potter born in Antwerp, worked in Talavera, known for having popularized the technique of polychrome ceramic painting of Italian origin in Castile. The seventeenth century is the time of maximum splendor of this craft, as a result of the ‘Pragmatic against luxury’ (1601) by Felipe III. The nobility swapped precious metal tableware for ceramic ones. A visit to Talavera and Puente del Arzobispo (40 kilometers separate them) is a plunge into that world, in shops and workshops, and on the route of the murals that are scattered around the city.
Plus. The archaeological site (the remains of an ancient Madina from Al-Andalus) of Ciudad de Vascos, in Navalmoralejo.
4. Castañar from El Tiemblo (Ávila)
104 km from Madrid, already in Avila. It is essential in autumn, but its huge centenary trees are worth it at any time of the year. A walk through this forest relieves stress, especially during the week, when it is usually empty. At the entrance we find the recreational area of Regajo, where you have to leave the car and walk along a path to an old refuge. Next to it, in a magical area of the forest, there is an impressive chestnut tree (“the grandfather of the forest”), the largest specimen of this species in Europe, with a perimeter of more than ten meters. Its hollow trunk served as a refuge for shepherds.
Plus. About 9 km away (Carretera de El Tiemblo a Sotillo de la Adrada) is the sculptural group vetón de los toros de Guisando; in Cebreros, 8 km away, the Adolfo Suárez y la Transición museum.
5. Pastrana (Guadalajara)
The town of Pastrana (just over 90 km from Madrid) is a paradise for history buffs. He was part of the Journey to the Alcarria, by Camilo José Cela. And, centuries ago, from the life of Santa Teresa de Jesús, who founded here a convent of Discalced Carmelites: that of San José for women and that of San Pedro (today del Carmen) for men. The stroll can begin in the Plaza de la Hora to see the Ducal Palace, designed by Alonso de Covarrubias in the 16th century and the place where the Princess of Éboli was imprisoned by order of Felipe II. The coffered ceilings are superb and the view of the lattice balcony from where the prisoner could look outside for an hour a day evokes a history and a time, in the 16th century. The town has its Moorish neighborhood (Barrio del Albaicín), occupied by two hundred expatriate families from the Alpujarras; another Jew, and of course, the medieval one, with the wall that the Order of Calatrava began to build in the 14th century. In this town, by the way, the writer Leandro Fernández de Moratín spent time.
Plus. Visit to the Parish Museum of Tapestries of Pastrana, in what was the Main Sacristy of the Collegiate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption.