To be honest, I had heard of Ronda, but I never really thought about it. Ernest Hemingway had summered there, wrote some chapters of For Whom The Bell Tolls there. Bullfights. Some vagaries about Orson Wells…
Then — on the random photos screensaver of a smart TV — I saw this bridge between two towns above a massive gorge with a river running through it.
“Where is THAT?” I wondered aloud, heading to Google for answers.
That, it appeared, was Ronda.
It had a long history, caves favored by Neolithic sorts who left behind drawings on the walls, Celts in the sixth century BCE, followed by Phoenicians. The origins of the current city are Roman from the third century BCE. And so it went, changing hands for a millennium until it came under control of the Berbers for some 700 years.
Anything with that much history always catches my attention…I live in a place where a 150 year old edifice is pretty rare and is often described as “ancient”.
A bus ride of a little less than two hours gets you from Malaga to Ronda. A short jaunt through the quiet town lands you at a park overlooking the valley below and then that famous gorge and bridge.
The city has a population of 30,000 or so. It probably grows by several thousand every day with tourists gathering around the gorge to stare down 400 feet to the Rio Guadalevin or over at the bridge. Those unafraid of heights, stairs, and potential falls from such places can ramble down stairs and ancient walkways to the river itself for a completely different perspective.
Despite the no cost access, I chose to view it all from sturdy cobblestone streets, holding on to iron bars to steady myself.
The bridge itself — aptly named Puente Nuevo (new bridge)—is only about 300 years old. It was the second attempt at spanning the gorge between the two sides of town. The first, a single arch, collapsed in 1741 just six years after it opened. Fifty people plunged to their deaths that day.
It took 20 years for another attempt to be made. The three arch design includes all manner of passages and rooms, including a large area above the middle of the three arches that has been used as a prison. It is rumored to have been used as a torture chamber by both sides during the Spanish Civil War.
It’s not just the bridge and the gorge that brings the hoards to Ronda. It’s the history of bullfighting. The ring in Ronda is one of the oldest in Spain, completed in 1785. It is in this huge ring that, they say, modern bull fighting was born. It was here that odd macho tradition of taunting a bull being brought to slaughter was transformed into an elegant art form complete with bright costumes and musical accompaniment.
A self guided tour of the bullring and accompanying royal cavalry stables is €8, and informative audio tour can be had for an additional euro.
Bullfighting season begins in summer so we missed the fights which are said to bring out fans with the combined passion of a football match and the opera.
Organized tours from Malaga to Ronda can run upwards of €150. Guides aren’t needed if you’ve done the slightest bit of research (or, even, read this post). Regular buses on the Danza line (average of €21 for a round trip ticket) go to and from Ronda several times a day during the week (a bit fewer on the weekends).