Valladolid is the capital of a province in the middle of the Central Plateau. The land is flat and the scenery sober, while the basin of the River Duero divides it into two parts as it crosses the province from end to end. Towards the north lies the region known as Tierra de Campos, a huge plain which corn fields paint green in the spring and cover with golden stalks in the summer. Towards the south, the scenery changes as large, though not very dense pine forests appear around Olmedo, wheat fields in the lands of Medina del Campo with the far-away Guadarrama mountains in the background und extensive vineyards around Nava del Rey and Castronuńo, in what is known as Tierra del Vino, the land of wine. The valleys of the Duero, the Eresma and the Pisuerga are like the ribs of the province and along their banks the original inhabitants settled and left traces, as for example, of the neolithic period, but Celtic and Celtic-Iberian tools were found, too. Romans and Visigoths left their mark and even Arab rule is remembered in many place names. But it took the Middle Ages to chisel Castilian features when fortresses and bulwarks were raised to protect every piece of land won in the course of the Christian reconquest. Thus, there are many beautiful castles, lovely churches and large monasteries.
Valladolid, the capital, stands on the banks of the Pisuerga. It is a very lively city as the capital of the Autonomous Community of Castile and León and it is economically the driving force behind the agricultural and industrial development of Castile. Its University contributes with an atmosphere of culture and youth. Valladolid has always been the capital of the meseta, the plateau, since the times of Count Ansúrez, its 11C founder. Its origins, however, go back much further to the early settlers of the Duero Basin. In this city, Doña Berenguela and Fernando Ill were proclaimed queen and king; it witnessed the wedding of the Catholic Monarchs and saw Christopher Columbus die. It was the Court of Castile during the regency of María de Molina and the capital of the empire in the reigns of Felipe II and Felipe Ill. It was the birthplace of Enrique IV, Felipe II, Felipe IV and Ana of Austria, the mother of Louis XIV of France. There Napoleon established his headquarter in 1809. In the course of history, it has been endowed with a rich, varied collection of historic and artistic sights which deserve a leisurely visit.
Juan de Herrera, who built the Monastery of El Escorial, was put in charge of building the cathedral by Felipe II in the 16th c. His magnificent project was not carried out for lack of funds and was continued in the Baroque style of Churriguera a long time later. Of the original Herrera project are the two sections in the Doric order of the main façade, although the top part shows Churrigueresque traces, and the façade of the crossing, which was built recently in accordance with the original plans. The stone statues of San Pedro and San Pablo in the main portal date from 1729. In the centre is the main door inside a large arch and above it, in white stone, the mystery of the Assumption of Our Lady, to which the church is consecrated. The statues of the four doctors stand in the second section, and there is a skylight which illuminates the nave of the church. Between both sections, there is a frontispiece with five pedestals. So far only one of the two towers planned for either side has been built. It is octagonal and dates from 1841. The inside is large and austere as is usual in Herrera's buildings. The ornamentation is of the Corinthian order. It is interesting to visit the chapels where special attention should be given to the retable in the Main Chapel. It was carved by the sculptor Juan de Juni in 1572 and its forceful realism is surprising. In the former Gothic-Mudéjar Collegiate Church (12C) there is the Diocesan Museum with an exhibition of very valuable sculptures and gold as well as silver objects: a retable of San Juan Bautista of polychromatic wood, the processional silver monstrance by Juan de Arfe, works of art by Juan de Juni and Gregorio Fernández as well as paintings.
In the north lies the Church of Santa Maria la Antigua, which was founded by Count Ansúrez and still preserves a beautiful tower and portico (13C) in the Romanesque style. It was built in the Gothic style in the 14C. The nearby Church of Las Angustias (16C) has an Herrera-type façade by Juan de Nates and statues by Francisco del Rincón, who also made the retable. It houses the famous Virgen de las Angustias, formerly known as de los Cuchillos, by Juan de Juni, sculptures by Gregorio Fernández and paintings by Petti.
Among the sights of Valladolid, San Pablo's and San Gregorio College are the best examples of the original, truly Spanish style known as Isabelline: flamboyant Gothic with Mudéjar elements, which is characteristic for the reign of the Catholic Monarchs. San Pablo's belongs to the 13C convent of the Dominicans, which was destroyed during Napoleon's invasion. It was built in the Gothic style in the 15c, has a ground plan in the form of a Latin cross, a lovely vault and a St. Dominic by Gregorio Fernández, a reclining figure of Christ of the same school and a 17C marble retable inside. But the masterpiece of the church is its retable-like façade, where two sections can be observed. The lower one and the portals of the crossing are by Simon of Cologne. They are in the purest Isabelline style and their decoration of statues and reliefs (the coronation of the Virgin) is accompanied by arches and spires. The top section was added in the 17C and has Plateresque decorations.
San Gregorio College was built as an extension of San Pablo Convent at the end of the 15C for the study of theology. Among the famous professors who were educated there are Francisco de Vitoria and Fray Luis de Granada. This lovely Isabelline building even surpasses the older Church of San Pablo, not only as regards the retable-like façade -ascribed to Gil de Siloé-, where the coat of arms of the Catholic Monarchs stands out in the exuberant, balanced-out composition, but also inside. There it has a large inner court which consists of two marvellous storeys, especially the upper, Plateresque one. The chapel by Juan Guas is also beautifully designed. It houses the National Museum of Sculptures, which has the most important collection of polychrome Castilian imagery from the 13C to the 18C. Especially outstanding, among others, are the great retable of San Benito el Real and the carvings of San Jerónimo and San Sebastián by Alonso Berruguete, the most brilliant Spanish sculptor of the 16C, a reclining figure of Christ, Santa Teresa de Jesús, Christ's Baptism and the Pietà by Gregorio Fernández, another famous image-maker of the 16C, and other masterly works by Pompeyi Leoni, Pedro de Mena, Felipe Vigarny and others.
In the same street there are the palace of the Marquis of Villena and -at the end- that of the Count of Gondomar, which is called Casa del Sol, ie, House of the Sun. Both are remarkable Renaissance buildings. San Pablo Square is bounded by the palace of the Pimentel family, where Felipe II was born in 1527 and which has a Plateresque corner window in the style of Siloé, and by the Royal Palace, where Felipe III stayed when he moved the Court to Valladolid between 1601 and 1606. It is a Renaissance building which has been the regional Military Headquarters since 1876. In Fray Luis de Granada Street a visit should include the house where José Zorrilla was born in 1817. It has been turned into a small museum with manuscripts and memorabilia of the poet. The nearby Church of San Martín has a Romanesque tower, a large Baroque retable and a Pietà by Gregorio Fernández.
Between Santa Brigida Square and the main square or Plaza Mayor lies Fabio Nelli Square, which has four remarkable buildings: Fabio Nelli's palace and that of the Marquises of Valverde (16C), San Miguel's and the Convent of La Concepción. Fabio Nelli's palace houses the Provincial Archaeological Museum, with important prehistorical collections (of the pre-Roman vacceos, of the Iberians), of the Romans (mosaics of the El Prado Villa and statues), frescoes and paintings from the 13C through the 15C, Spanish furniture and other objects. The 16C Renaissance Church of San Miguel, ascribed to Juan Nates, has many treasures: a beautiful neo-Classical retable by Adrián Alvarez, with carvings by Gregorio Fernández who is also responsible for the figures of San Rafael and San Gabriel in the presbytery, for those of San Ignacio and San Francisco Javier in the lateral retables and for a Holy Family. Especially outstanding is the sepulchre of the Pérez Vivero family by Francisco de Prades, with its excellent praying statues cleary influenced by Pompeyo Leoni, a valuable collection of paintings and a lovely Baroque sacristy. The nearby Berruguete House leads to the Church and Monastery of San Benito, the most important Benedictine Monastery in Spain, which greatly influenced the city. Its golden age was the 16C, but it was founded by Juan I in the 14C. The portico of the church, designed by Gil de Hontañón, is impressive and reminiscent of a fortress. Its Gothic interior housed Berruguete's masterpiece, the main retable and what is considered to be the best Plateresque choir stalls, ascribed to Andrés de Nájera, which were moved to the National Museum of Sculptures. It still preserves the large Renaissance screen. The Monastery was enlarged and the façade built by Juan del Ribero Rada in the purest Herrera style, after whom the skillfully built processional court is named. Next to the palace of the Counts of Benavente, Santa Catalina Convent is the introduction to the area full of convents, such as San Agustín, Santa Isabel, La Trinidad and San Quirce as well as the Convent of Santa Teresa (with the manuscript Path to Perfection). All of them have countless works of art.
The Main Square, La Plaza Mayor, with the Town Hall - today's building dating from 1908- and the statue of Count Ansúrez, was designed by Francisco de Salamanca, a design corrected by Juan Bautista de Toledo, when Felipe II ordered the Valladolid market area rebuilt after a fire in 1561. This is the first urban development not only because of the regular layout of the square -design and height of the façades, aligned arcades-, but the whole commercial area as far as La Fuente Dorada, the arcades of Cebadería and Especería, El Ochave Square, Corrillo and Platerías Street. At the end of this street, the Church of La Vera Cruz appears as if it were the boundary of the whole complex. Its Herrera-style façade by Diego de Prades shelters processional platforms by Gregorio Fernández. Another former church of the penitential type is La Pasión, which has been turned into a museum with paintings from the 15C through the 18C and a section with collections from the National Museum of Sculpture. The nearby 15C Gothic Church of Santiago also deserves a visit because of the excellent retable of the Epiphany by Alonso Berruguete, which includes the portraits of its donor, Diego de la Haya, and his wife, a rare event. The Baroque main retable is by Alonso Manzano and has sculptures by Juan de Ávila. The Chapel of Las Siete Palabras has a figure of Christ ascribed to Francisco de la Maza. In the same street stands the Convent of Las Comendadoras de Santa Cruz with an interesting Gothic-Mudéjar cloister, a building known today as Las Francesas.
The 16C Monastery and Museum of Santa Ana was rebuilt by Sabatini with a church and neo-Classical façade. The church has three of Goya's paintings: San Bernardo, Santa Ludgarda and the death of San José (St. Joseph), and three by Bayeu. In the museum there are a reclining figure of Christ and other carvings by Gregorio Fernández, a Madonna by Pedro de Mena and other images from the 13C through the 18C, paintings from the 16C and 17C and sacred ornaments from between the 16C and 18C. Next to the Church of San Lorenzo, only the tower and Mudéjar portal remain today.
In the Paseo de Zorrilla, outstanding are the Academy of the Cavalry and the sculpted complex by Mariano Benlliure: Monumento a los Cazadores de Alcántara at the entrance of Campo Grande, romantic gardens of the Anglo-Chinese type dating form 1877. After a pleasant walk through them, the Oriental Museum is reached, a museum housed in the College of the Augustines, designed by Ventura Rodriguez and the best example in Spain of Chinese and Philippine art. Another very interesting museum is Cervantes House in the style of the period and turned into a library. It preserves the author's manuscripts of El Licenciado Vidriera and El Coloquio de los Perros, which he wrote there.
On España Square stands the Museum of Natural Sciences and in its vicinity the 16C Church of San Salvador, the façade of which -by Escalante- has Plateresque ornaments in a sober frame in the style of Herrera. It has an extraordinary Flamish triptych by one of Quentin Metsys' disciples. Nearby there are the Church of San Felipe Neri and the Convent of Porta-Coeli, and a little further the Sanctuary of La Gran Promesa, which also preserve valuable works of art.
The University is another area full of sights in the town. It was built in the 15C and its Baroque façade was built by Antonio Tomé and his sons Narciso and Diego. Its statues represent the branches of learning and the kings who protected the institution. The College of Santa Cruz, founded by Cardinal Mendoza in 1479, is nearby. It has Late-Gothic traces, especially in the cloister, while the Renaissance becomes apparent in the College in the form of semicircular arches, Corinthian columns and pilasters, ashlar with bosses and other decorative elements. It was a cultural centre of the greatest importance, of which an extremely valuable library is preserved with Baroque shelving by Alonso Manzano and 520 manuscripts, 355 incunabula and around 13,000 volumes from between the 16C and 18C. Especially outstanding are the Comentarios al Apocalipsis de San Juan by the Blessed Abbot of Santo Toribio de Liébana.
Colón Street leads to the Church of La Magdalena which is Renaissance and was built by Gil de Hontañón for the Viceroy of Perú -whose coat of arms embellishes the façade- in the 16C. The sepulchre and the main retable are by Esteban Jordán. Wooden filigree is the retable by Francisco Giralte in the Chapel of the Corral family. The Convent of Las Huelgas Reales, founded by Queen María de Molina in 1282, has an especially interesting Mudéjar portal because it is one of the very few that exist in Valladolid. The impressive, 16C interior of the church includes rnagnificent reliefs by Gregorio Fernández in the main retable, the paintings of which are by Tomás de Prado, a Pietà and a Calvary by Pedro de la Cuadra as well as works of art by Juan de Juni. In the centre of the nave there is a reclining figure of the foundress. La Casa de Colón or Columbus House is a reproduction of his palace in Santo Domingo. It houses the Columbus Museum and is the beginning of an itinerary along houses and palaces on Juan Mambrilla Street as far as the Gothic-Mudéjar building of the Vivero family, where the Catholic Monarchs were married and the Royal Chancellery was installed afterwards. In the nearby 17C Convent of Las Descalzas Reales, there is a good collection of paintings including the only Greco in Valladolid.
But despite its wealth of sights, these are not the only attractions of Valladolid. Its commercial traditions and its large-town status make it possible to find everything. The best approach is a visit of Santiago St, María de Molina St, which has a shopping area called Multicentro in the cloister of the College of the French Dominicans, of the Paseo Zorrilla, the Plaza Mayor itself and its surroundings, or a visit of the rastrillo -a kind of flea market- on Portugalete Square (on Sundays and holidays) or the mercadillo (open-air market) in the Hospedería de San Benito, by way of pointing out a few of the many possibilities found all over the town. With a view to recovering from the bustling activity or for a change of scenery, there are the surroundings of Padre Francisco Suárez St, Santa María la Antigua St, Platerías St and Cantarranillas Sq, which are full of bars, coffee-shops, pubs and discotheques, always crowded and brimming over with high spirits.
The important role of Valladolid in the history of Spain during the reconquest of the land from the Muslims was the reason for all the castles that were built everywhere around it to ensure its defense. Many of them tower over the tourist routes in the province.
The Itinerary of Don Juan de Austria
Fuensaldaña Castle, 6km from the capital, is one of the most beautiful. The original building dating from the 13C and 15C has been rebuilt completely today. Also of interest is the 16C church. On the way north, Medina de Rioseco has an especially large number of attractive sights: the 15C Church-cum-Museum of Santa María de Mediavilla, with a main retable by Esteban Jordán and Juan de Juni, who also built the chapel of the Benavente family, a monstrance by Arfe and other items, which are of the finest quality; Santiago's (with an exceptional Churrigueresque retable and domes), the Church of La Santa Cruz, San Francisco's, the Plaza Mayor and La Rúa St. with its arcades are proof of its medieval splendour. The nearby Early-Gothic Castle of Montealegre -austere- and solid looking- stands on a hill towering over a hamlet. Its strategic position and defenses made it impregnable. Villalón is an important place for Mudéjar architecture. It has a Gothic-Plateresque hospital and a famous Rollo de Justicia in the square, a stone column used to indicate jurisdiction in other times. Santa María's in Wamba and the Church in San Cebrián de Mazote are of great interest because they belong to the rare Mozarab examples still preserved in Spain. Urueña, a walled village with a castle, lies one kilometre from the Hermitage of La Anunciada, the only example of Catalan Romanesque in Castile. The Museum-cum-Collegiate Church of San Luis and the castle in Villagarcía de Campos are the end of this itinerary, which may be extended to include the nearby castles at Torrelobatón, Mota del Marqués, Tiedra, Villavelid or so many others found in the lands of Valladolid.
The Itinerary of Isabel, the Catholic Monarch
Simancas, an episcopal seat since 927, lies 11 km from Valladolid. In its vicinity a famous and at the same time decisive battle of the Reconquest took place. Its castle, rebuilt by Alfonso III in the 13C and by Juan de Herera in 1676, still preserves strong walls with round projections. Since the times of Carlos V, it has been used as the General Archive of the Kingdom with a collection of over 30 million documents about the Spanish monarchy dating from between the 15C and 19C, distributed over 52 rooms. There are also reminders of Roman Septimanca, which it used to be. The next stop on this itinerary through the main towns and villages of Valladolid is Tordesillas, a beautiful place, where the Mudéjar Royal Monastery of Santa Clara is of special interest. It was built by Alfonso XI in the 14C, was used as a residence by Pedro I and as a refuge by Juana la Loca. Among its works of art are a lovely inner court and the 16C Gothic Church of San Antolín with a proud tower which accommodates two Museums of Religious Art. Also interesting are other churches, such as Santa María's and San Pedro's, as well as the Plaza Mayor. This town witnessed the historical Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal, which established the meridian by which the land, already discovered and yet to be discovered, was to be divided up. A Parador surrounded by pine forests lies at a distance of one kilometre. Rueda, which is also the name of the excellent white wines produced in this region, has a sacristy designed by Churriguera in the Baroque Church of La Asunción as well as a series of brick houses dating from the 17C and 18C. Medina del Campo is the next stop, the same as it was for the numerous merchants, cattle breeders and financiers who made its fairs famous, which became the most important ones in the 16C. This is where the Catholic Monarchs established their official residence and this is where Queen Isabel died. Over the town towers the Mudéjar structure of the restored 15C Castle of La Mota with the eye-catching Mudéjar ornaments of the Mirador de la Reina as an observation platform. On the Plaza Mayor, there are the Town Hall, the Royal Palace and the Collegiate Church of San Antolín. Further sights are Dueñas Palace with its lovely Renaissance inner court, the Herrera-style Simón Ruiz Hospital as well as several churches and convents. Olmedo, which was immortalized by Lope de Vega in his play El caballero de Olmedo, is a typical Mudéjar town where the curtain walls, their seven gates dating from the 12C and 13C as well as the arcaded Plaza Mayor are still preserved. It also has seven churches, outstanding among which are the 13C Mudéjar Churches of San Miguel and San Andrés and the 15C Gothic Church of Santa María.
The Itinerary of the Infante Don Juan Manuel
Peñafiel is the destination of another itinerary which passes through Sardón de Duero (Santa María de Retuerta Abbey) and Valbuena de Duero (the Cistercian Monastery and winery of the Vega Sicilia wines). The 10C Castle of Peñafiel on a hill where the Duero and the Duratón converge is reminiscent of a ship at anchor with its width of 23 metres and its length of 211. El Coso Square is a good point of departure to visit the Monastery of San Pablo and its churches.
Valladolid cooking has a wide range of roasts, stews and sauces, always served with the excellent bread called lechuguino. Typical dishes, among others, are bacalao al ajoarriero (a cod dish), manitas de cerdo rebozadas (breaded pig's trotters), roasted quail, marinaded partridge and gallina en pepitoria (chicken in a typical sauce). But lechazo asado (baby lamb) is the most famous dish and has a special flavour when it comes out of the oven in Peñafiel, Medina del Campo, Tordesillas and Fuensaldaña. Villalón contributes with its cheese, known as pata de mulo or mule's leg. Sweet dishes include yemas (egg yolk with sugar), rosquillas de trancalapuerta, mantecados from Portillo, ciegas from Iscar, almendras garrapiñadas (roasted, sugar-coated almonds) from Villafrechós and Peñaflor, pasteles de marina from Medina de Rioseco and the bizcochos from Santa Clara and Tordesillas. Among the wines there are the reds from La Ribera del Duero, the banks of the Duero: the internationally famous Vega Sicilia wines; from Tudela de Duero, Valbuena de Duero and Peñafiel. Also famous are the whites from Rueda: Nava del Rey, Serrada, La Seca and Pozáldez, as well as the light reds from Cabezón, Cigales, Renedo, Mucientes and Fuensaldaña.
Villalar celebrates the 23rd April, the date on which the uprising of the comuneros, the symbol of Castilian nationalism, was crushed. Especially outstanding among the typical celebrations of interest to tourists are the Celebration of the Angel of Peñafiel on Easter Sunday; the fairs and celebrations in Medina de Rioseco in June; those in Peñafiel, Tudela de Duero and Rueda in August; and those in San Mateo, Valladolid, Medina del Campo, Simancas, Nava del Rey and Tordesillas in September. In the last-mentioned town the traditional Toro de la Vega celebration is officially classified as of interest to tourists.