The sun is setting in Navalcarnero. The sky is stained with the scarlet shades of ripe grapes, forecasting the somber cover of night. The moon will be out soon, casting her beams of silver over an old town which has gazed at the stars for more than 500 years. The stones of its streets and buildings have been silent witnesses of a long, captivating history. Getting lost in those streets means walking towards the past, although we shall not lose sight of the present moment, raising a glass to the taste of Madrid’s wine.
Only about 18 miles to the south of the capital city we can find an urban landscape where tradition and modernity meet. The Villa of Navalcarnero hosts a series of squares that are drenched in history. The streets here seem to breathe, cheered up by the presence of neighbors and tourists enjoying the welcoming atmosphere. It’s certainly a special habitat, as well as the stage in a five-century old play.
Navalcarnero has belonged to the Spanish Crown since the 17th century, when it was finally unattached from Segovia. This royal past can be perceived all over the Villa. No matter where our eyes go, every corner has a story to tell. We could even walk blindfolded through the cobbled streets, choosing the most interesting spots at random. It would be nice to just admire the beautiful façades, trace the silhouettes that rise pointing at the sky, count the chapels, the sculptures…
The main square of Navalcarnero is called Plaza de Segovia. There, history is written over the façades, whose inscriptions give us meaningful information regarding the past of the buildings, and it’s nice to imagine what they used to look like. Some of them date back to the 16th century; others were built before. However, all of them have been restored at some point. It should be noted that there are written references to Casa Consistorial that go way back to the birth of the Villa. Likewise, the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción was the result of two different 16th-century churches merging. There are traces of the oldest building in the bell tower and the Gothic arcades. The interior holds a series of baroque altarpieces and the echoes of the royal “I do” shared by Philip IV and Mariana of Austria. The chapel and the façade looking out at the crowded square were built later.
We leave behind Casa de la Cadena, the same building where Philip and Mariana received their marriage blessing. A little farther, we will find other squares, such as the square of San José, which is usually pretty crowded. The noise dies out when we cross the door of the church standing over the old chapel. The square of Alonso y Arreo is full of conversations, little moments of everyday life and leisurely walks. Here lies the Wine Museum, the place where village and wine blend and become one. This bond manifests itself in many different ways, and some of them even remain undiscovered. The caves in Navalcarnero make up an architectural reflection of the importance of wine in the Villa. At first, they were designed to just preserve the beverage in good condition, but later on they were also used as food deposits. Nowadays, everyone can visit these peculiar spaces, although not many people have heard of them.
Further on, the wanderer might find peace in the chapel of Vera Cruz, which rests in the square of the same name. The quietness inside can be compared to the calm atmosphere of the other chapels in the Villa, including the chapel of San Roque —which belongs to the family of Juan Antonio de Ribera, a court painter under the reign of Ferdinand VII and Charles IV— and the chapel of San Cosme and San Damián.
Casa de la Lonja in the market square clearly shows the gastronomical and wine tradition in the area. It’s a Castilian manor house where the family Fernández de Velasco used to live. In Casa de la Lonja, the region’s typical products take center stage.
Our legs probably need some rest, hence it’s the perfect time for sitting down at a table. We could enjoy a dish of roast lamb or Madrid’s traditional stew called “olla del segador”. We might as well order a glass of wine to celebrate this lovely trip before it comes to an end. Red garnacha and malvar make up some of the favorite colors and tastes of the Denominación de Origen (DO) of Vinos de Madrid, a regulatory system which controls and labels the quality of Madrid’s wines.
Now, all that’s left is to raise a glass to coming back.
You can also read this article in the Feeling Madrid page of the Community of Madrid.
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