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Seville - Off the beaten track

The dancers of Seville


In the rolling hills 38km (23.6mi) east of Seville in the fertile La Campiña region, Carmona has a long, well-fortified history. As early as the 8th century BC, the gravity of its strategic position was understood all too well by both the irrepressible Romans and those cagey Carthaginians. The Muslims further fortified the town in the first half of the 13th century, but ultimately fell to a fellow named Fernando, who in turn turned Carmona's main alcázar (fortress) into his personal pad. The remaining mudéjar and Christian places of worship were added frosting on the cake, well after the fighting had simmered down.

The typical tour of old Carmona takes in the eerie Necrópolis Romana (Roman Cemetery); the impressive old town gate, the Puerta de Sevilla, and the adjacent Alcázar with impressive upstairs views; a quick look-see of the ancient Muslim walls; and a roundabout wander up Calle Prim toward the colorful 16th-century Plaza de San Francisco (aka Plaza Mayor).


Itálica, about 8km (5mi) northwest of Seville, on the northwest edge of the small town of Santiponce, was the first Roman town in Spain. Most of the Roman vetus urbs (old town) is now buried beneath Santiponce, but visitors can wander partly reconstructed ruins in the nova urbs (new town), which was added by emperor Hadrian, successor to Trajan. The ruins include one of the biggest Roman amphitheaters, the Termas Mayores public bathhouse and some excellent mosaics. To the west, in the vetus urbs, you might also check out a restored Roman theater.

Monasterio de San Isidoro del Campo

At the south end of Santiponce, on Avenida de San Isidoro, this monastery was once one of the most cosmopolitan centers of learning during Spain's golden era. Monks here finished the first translation of the Bible into Spanish, but the community was dissolved by the Inquisition after the cunning linguists developed Lutheran ideas while reading too many dangerous foreign books. The Claustro de los Muertos (Cloister of the Dead), in Renaissance style, is one of the finest repositories in all of Andalucía, and the chruch's main retablo (altarpiece) is one of the masterpieces of Juan Martínez Montañés, who also carved the effigies on the tomb of the founder, Guzmán El Bueno, and his wife.

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