I have always loved the earthy colours of terracotta, so when the chance came to squeeze in a visit to the university town of Salamanca I took it. Here I found every tone on the spectrum. Arriving on a blue sky September afternoon you could see why the historic centre of this ancient city was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Like many old towns in Europe the narrow streets are pedestrianized or reserved for local traffic only.
First stop was The Clerecía Church, for a panoramic view of terracotta roof tops and the Spanish plains beyond. A steep & narrow ancient wooden staircase that groaned and creaked led us to the top. Interior details of the The Clerecía Church, beware there are 199 steps to the top 🙂
Below and directly across the street is the Casa de las Conchas, the House of Shells built in the 15thC, a mere five hundred years old. The facade has been decorated with 300 hundred sculpted shells and inside (free entry) there is a stunning two story internal courtyard and stone staircase. This beautiful building now houses the public library and comes under the hybrid style of architecture known as Isabelline, it reminded me of some of the ornate building elements I had seen in India.
Walking further into the historic quarter, street after little street is filled with students and artsy cafes – and every wall seems to have another hue of dusty pink and faded ochres along with layers of hand written fonts. Patina perfection.
Established in 13thC the University of Salamanca is the third oldest in the world, there is a lot to see here but you do need to book a tour to visit the grounds…
The heat was coming off the day and a chilled glass of Sangria was on every other table. Taking a seat at one of the many side walk cafe’s we were just in time to enjoy the weekend ritual of la passeggiata . A constant stream of families, children and couples, both young and old strolled past us on their gentle evening walk, all dressed in their Sunday best. This is my favourite time of day to be out and about when we are travelling – watching the locals socialize and seeing the streets come alive with laughter and chatter. A fabulous tradition, I wish we did this at home, its so great for people watching !
We were staying a stone’s throw from the famous Plaza Mayor, and I think most of the people walking past us were heading there, to one of most beautiful squares in Europe. Originally used for bull fights and ceremonial occasions, today it is filled with cafes and restaurants…by night fall the square was standing room only.
The next morning we are up early to capture the morning light, both at Plaza Mayor and the beautiful Plaza de Anaya and surrounding gardens. Here you will find the New Cathedral (15th-17thC ), which happens to be joined to the Old Cathedral (around 12thC) – read more about those churches here.
It was a fleeting visit to what is known as ‘the golden city’ and I can see why. We loved every minute, we found local tapas bars & plenty of cured meat, we enjoyed a spectacular Spanish free-poured gin & tonic in the Plaza Mayor… But most of all we loved seeing the changing colours of the sandstone and terracotta that makes this ancient place glow.
On a local note – if you are inspired by the colours of terracotta Jatana Interiors...has a beautiful collection to choose from, I am trying to find somewhere to use them !