Bare Bones - Romans, Visigoths & Viziers
Southern Spain, rich in precious metals, wine and olive oil, has attracted the attention of many would-be conquerors over the centuries. From North Africa came the Carthaginians, superseded by the Romans who (true to form) built cities and criss-crossed the plains with 1000s of miles of roads. Then the Visigoths, fresh from sacking the city of Rome, built churches until they too were vanquished by the Moors. As Europe entered ‘the Dark Ages’ Al-Andalus flourished under its Moorish rulers who fashioned marvellous palaces, with arches, artwork and gardens that still grace Córdoba and Granada.
From prehistory to the Renaissance, our tour progresses through the many ages of this vibrant, beautiful and fascinating region.
- Explore the Golden Triangle of southern Spain – vibrant Seville, Moorish Cordoba and Granada, home of the Alhambra
- Follow the scenic route of the Via Augusta over the Viadela Plata, discovering little-known remote sites along the way
- Historic Churches
- Cultural Excursion
- Special Access
Upon arrival in sunny Seville we waste no time in taking a short drive north to Itálica, birthplace of Roman Emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Founded by General Scipio in the 3rd century BC, Itálica is home to many Roman remains, including the Colossus of Trajan, ancient cobbled streets, and one of the largest amphitheatres in the Empire. An excellent introduction to the region.
This morning we enjoy a special access visit to the Centro de Interpretación del Patrimonio Arqueológico, a park containing excavated remains from a multitude of periods including Roman, Medieval and Moorish – a chance to get close to ruins seldom viewed by the visiting public.
We have the afternoon to explore Seville, stopping at the elaborate Alcázar Royal Palace, a renowned World Heritage complex built by Moorish craftsmen in the mid-14th century. It is still used by the Spanish royal family to this day – the pride of all Seville.
Our tour also includes a private visit to El Palacio de Lebrija, a 16th-century palace known for its stunning collection of Roman mosaics, which cover the entire ground floor.
We remain in Seville for a morning of further exploration. Our day’s itinerary begins at the city’s celebrated Archaeological Museum, where we find exhibits of gold jewellery dating back as far as the Iron Age – the entirety of the famous Carambolo hoard – as well as later treasures from the Roman, Greek and Carthaginian eras.
Later we travel to Roman Carmona, an ancient city and fortress famed for its extensive rock-cut tombs, in which bodies were discovered both bent and facing westwards. The city was later possessed by the Visigoths, though little evidence remains of their rule.
Our next stop is the Greco-Roman village of Écija, where we view the splendid mosaics unearthed in local excavations. Don’t miss the Mosaic of the Kidnapping, a rare depiction of the abduction of Europa and Ganymede.
Our day draws to a close in Córdoba, the exquisite former capital of Islamic Spain on the banks of the Guadalquivir River.
After filling up with a generous breakfast we venture out of the city to explore the ruined Moorish palace of Medina Azahara, the “Shining City”. This Medieval complex was once the centre of government for most of the country, though its powers lasted only 80 years. Frequently compared to Versailles for its scale and opulence, only 10% of the original palace remains, the rest having been eradicated during a civil war in around 1010 AD.
We return to Córdoba, discovering a city controlled by the Visigoths until the 8th century, when it was conquered by the Moors. Here we find the Mezquita, a peerless mosque decorated with stunning striped arches, which was transformed into an elaborate gilt cathedral in the 16th century.
Later we visit the city’s expansive and atmospheric Jewish Quarter, inhabited from the 2nd century AD, until the expulsion of the Jews in the 1400s. Our day ends at the Archaeological Museum, a former Renaissance palace in which locally excavated artefacts fill the floors. Extraordinarily, the basement of the museum is taken up with the remains of a Roman theatre, now restored and open to explore.
We journey to the archaeological park of Torreparedones this morning, one of the most important active sites in Andalusia. Torreparedones was occupied over many eras, and reached a zenith during its Roman occupation. We view the Eastern Door, former gateway to the city, and the remains of a market, forum and thermal baths.
Next we have special access to Baena Archaeological Museum, all ours to discover in a private after-hours visit. Our guided tour takes us straight to the highlights of the museum’s vast collections, which include an intriguing exhibition on the history of olive oil production in the region.
Our sixth day starts at the typically Andalucian city of Jaén, a settlement considered to be the world capital of olive oil thanks to its prodigious production of the so-called “liquid gold”. This morning we visit the City Museum, home to wonderful Iberian sculptures as well as some enlightening displays on the influence of the Visigoths.
Later today we enjoy privileged access to Castulo, a ruined Iberian city inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC. Castulo was the scene of a major Carthaginian victory against the Romans in 213 BC, when 40,000 North African troops joined local mercenaries to defeat the Roman army. Here we see fragments of the ancient walls and sewer system, as well as recovered tombs and an imperial temple.
In this fitting beginning to the last full day of our tour, we are treated to a visit to the magnificent Alhambra, an enchanting blend of Arabic and Renaissance architecture, set against the backdrop of the Sierra Morena. Within this unsurpassable complex we find a veritable treasure trove of shimmering gold ceilings, luscious water fountains, striking Moorish tiling, and heavenly fretwork. A palatial masterpiece that drips with sheer opulence.
We devote our final afternoon to Granada, seat of the last Moorish kingdom in Spain, which was conquered in 1492 by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Use free time to lose yourself in winding Medieval streets, relax in the shade of one of the city’s lush parks, or gaze at the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, with a refreshing Moscatel in hand.
We drive to Málaga on Spain’s southern coast, and take our return flights home.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
- Hotels - Bed & Breakfast
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