Just one hour away from Madrid, (and very well connected to it), is Ávila, a beautiful city with one of the best-preserved city walls of Spain. Ávila is well known also for being the place of birth of Saint Theresa, a controversial nun that used to levitate during mass hours. Last but not least, the delicious beef steak and the popular dessert known as “yemas” (yolks) will make your visit to this city unforgettable!
Ávila is not as touristic as Segovia or Toledo, which are both also one hour away from Madrid - this is very unfair. Keep in mind that it has been in the Unesco Heritage list for over 30 years. Also, Ávila happens to be the highest province capital of Spain. If you go there in winter, you will probably see it snowy. It looks like a beautiful postcard! People have been seen on these occasions skiing through the city…
The best spot to appreciate the beauty of Ávila is from “Los cuatro postes,” a mirador on the other side of the river Adaja. From there, you can admire the city walls. Built in the XI or XIIth century, its 87 towers are in perfect shape. If you do not mind walking, go around them: the hike is absolutely worth it! If you look closer, you will notice that a bell tower and the cathedral’s apse are built into the wall, the latter being one of the strongest defenses of the city. Another fact about this cathedral: it is said to be the first church that was built in the Gothic style in Spain. Not to miss either is, of course, the San Vicente Basilica, also dating back to the XIIth century. Nearby, the square of the “Mercado chico” (small market in Spanish) hosts all the important celebrations of Ávila. Inside, you can admire the city hall.
Ávila was founded by the Romans or perhaps earlier, by the Vettones. You can visit a Roman necropolis (dismantled hundreds of years ago to build the city walls) and many “verracos”- boars made of stone, very typical of the Vettones tribes. The most famous one is next to the gate of the ancient Alcázar (castle), which is also worth a visit.
Two famous saints were born in Ávila: Saint Juan de la Cruz and Saint Theresa de Jesús. They lived at the same time and founded together a new religious Order. Both were mystics: they saw (and experienced) Hell, angels, and other stuff that made the Church feel very uncomfortable. The latter was known for levitating at the most inconvenient moments (she would have to hold to the church’s grid to stay on the ground)… and for her miraculous corpse. Three years after her death, her body was still “smelling well,” even though it had not received any special treatment. After she was named “saint”, her body became very popular, and everybody wanted a piece of it. Literally! You cannot really track down every body part of the famous saint, but let us just say that the Spanish dictator Franco, slept with her hand in his room. A church in Rome has her right foot, another church near Salamanca has her heart, another in Andalusia her left eye… and so on.
Of course, you can never leave Ávila without tasting its famous beef steaks. The cows are raised in freedom, and their meat is simply and amazingly tender. The steak's size is a real challenge, though. But if you are strong enough to eat it all, I dare you also to give a go to the local dessert: the “yemas of Santa Teresa,” which is made mainly of yolk and sugar. It should definitely be avoided if you have any dental caries problem!
Discover Ávila, a city in the Castilian plain that should not be missed, and enjoy its fortified beauty and incredible food!
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