The Beaches of La Safor
The visitor to the region of La Safor finds himself in an attractive area with a history of its own, nestling in a natural environment whose characteristics are twofold: the high mountains which form the ranges of Mustalla, Safor, Grossa and Aguilles blend into a natural circle of pinnacles and woodland, while the plain is crossed by an accommodating coastal corridor of market gardens and beaches. Gandía, the ducal town and regional capital, grew up between the River Serpís and the Gully of San Nicolás in the space created by an early Iberian settlement. In the fifteenth century, the town found a new role for itself in the form of intense court activities, fanned and supervised by Juan de Borja, Second Duke of Gandía. Alexander VI, the Borja Pope, marked out this destiny for the capital of La Safor when he bought the land from Ferdinand the Catholic to assign it to his son, Pedro Luis. From that time onwards, the fate of this prosperous town, then engaged in the manufacture of silk and sugar, was interwoven with the lust for power and intervention in European affairs which fuelled the saga of the Borjas. Amongst all of the Borjas, it was to St. Francis of Borja, the Jesuit general, born in Gandía, the great-grandson of Alexander VI and Fourth Duke of Gandía, that the ducal town linked its destiny. St. Francis moved away from the moral turmoil of other members of the family to devote his time to the fostering of culture and virtuous coexistence. So as to consolidate the cultural life which had been nurtured years before by the poet Ausias March, the novelist Joanot Martorell and the humanist Joan Rois de Corella, he founded the Gandía University of the sixteenth century.
The present-day town centre has preserved the heritage of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the symbolic buildings of the Ducal Palace, the Collegiate Church, the Convent of Santa Clara, the Hermitage of Santa Ana, the Archaeological Museum and the Town Hall. The Collegiate of Santa Maria was built little by little between 1250 and 1520, with the Gothic style as its constant reference point. Originally, the Door of the Apostles featured sculptures by the master, Damià Forment. The Ducal Palace was built on the foundations of an old rambling Arabian house, close to the left bank of the River Serpis. The Italianising influence is obvious and is accounted for by the close connections which the Borjas maintained with Italy. The archaeological Museum, located in the Hospital of San Marcos, has an elegant Gothic room with pointed arches, known as the Men’s Hall.
The second most important town in the region of La Safor is Oliva, situated a few kilometres to the south on the provincial border with Alicante. Countless visitors are attracted by its welcoming, clean beaches and the number of campsite places available. The ancestral home of the Enlightenment scholar, Gregorio Mayans, stands today in the town centre. The Centelles family, who owned the town in the sixteenth The beach at Gandía The Ducal Palace. Gandía century, also left their mark. The popular quarters are to be found on the side of the Cerro de Santa Ana, while the hustle and bustle converges on the beaches of Daimús, Miramar and Guardamar. The inland valleys of the region of La Safor, protected from the wind and inclement weather by Mount Mondúver (841 metres), along with the northern area, known as La Valldigna, make up another attractive route through the mountains. The trip begins on the outskirts of Gandía, on the byroad leading to the municipal district of Barx. As one leaves Marxuquera, one has a first glimpse of the groves of orange trees which have replaced the leafy pinewoods of former times. The entrance to the Parpalló Cave, on the inner side of the Mondúver, may be seen towards the right from the road. This cave is an archaeological bed which is indispensable for the reconstruction of Upper Palaeolithic life. The route continues up the Drova Valley, where the ascent of the Mondúver commences. The town of Barx used to be the summer resting place of the monks who lived in the Monastery of Valldigna. Encompassed by fountains and engaged in the cultivation of fruit trees, almond trees and citrus fruits, it enjoys mild temperatures on account of its altitude whereas, down on the plain, the climate is hot.
Leaving this scenic view and the surrounding mountains behind, which may be appreciated from a spot with the tuneful name of Visteta, a winding road leads down to La Valldigna. According to local tradition, the monarch, James II, while visiting the place with the Catalonian abbot, Boronat de Vilaseca, exclaimed that this was a vall digna (literally, a worthy valley) for a monastery. As a result, he founded the Monastery of Our Lady of Valldigna towards the end of the thirteenth century. With the help of the Valencian government, it has been possible to recover this valuable part of the heritage which for centuries was administered by the monks of the Cistercian Order. Monastery of Simat de Valldigna.
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