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Valencia Travel Guide

The Monumental Route

This route begins in Xátiva, the capital of the region of La Costera. The town´s history commenced on the peak of Mount Vernissa. After the successful implantation of the Saetabis Augusta, the Visigoths created their bishopric whose see was located in the hermitage of Sant Feliu. At the time of the Arab domination, Europe´s first paper mill was founded in Xátiva, using rice straw as the raw material. The paper is still known in Morocco by the name of xativi. This historic event culminated during the long period of statutory development in the Kingdom of Valencia. At that time, it was looked on as the area´s second most important town in view of both its population and its political influence. It produced two popes connected with the Borja saga, Calixtus 3 and Alexander 6, not forgetting the painter, José Ribera, Españoleto. But a change in history, brought about the arrival of the Bourbons on the Spanish throne after the defeat of the supporters of Archduke Charles 3 of Austria at Almansa, doomed the town of Xátiva (formerly Setabis) to a state of hopeless decadence. It is from this period that its name of burn city comes: Philip V, the victor, banished all the inhabitants and burnt the town down. The locals have never forgiven him for this act of aggression and, by way of a punishment, his portrait is hung upside down in the museum.

The highest point in the town is the castle, born of joining together of two fortresses, one Iberian and the other, Roman, making a huge enclosure protected by 30 towers and four fortified gates. Its walls are in a good state of preservation, as are its outbuildings and its single-nave chapel, which features a ribbed vault and large Gothic windows. It was built on the instructions of Maria of Castile, the wife of Alfonso the Magnanimous. The way along streets of San Pedro and Moncada brings to mind the busy court life which used to go within the walls of the palaces and their wide inner courtyards. Gothic fountains serving water to small squares and ancestral homes decorated with aristocratic coats of arms form part of a townscape created by an educated, well-to-do society. The basilica collegiate church, dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady, was begun in 1596 and received all kinds of privileges and donations from the Valencian curia, which had connections with the Borjas. The Gothic Church of Sant Pere is also worth seeing. In the centre of the sightseeing area is the Municipal Museum, called L´Almodi, which is housed in the building of the same name, and the Peso Real.

Between the Grassa and Creu mountain ranges to the north and the Mariola and Benicadell ranges to the south, the valley through which the Rivers Albaida and Clariano flow forms another region of contrasting countryside. Albaida, Ontinyent, Bocairent and L´Olleria, with their handmade glassware, constitute the backbone of communicationsof Vall d´Albaida. At the end of the plain, near the foothills of the Benicadell mountain range, lies the town Albaida, “white town” for the Arabs, which has kept its traditional aspect in the midst of an industrialised environment.The artistic legacy of the painter, José Segrelles (1885-1969), a pupil of Sorolla, is the inhabitants´ pride and joy. In the town´s main square stands another old palace, that of the Marquis of Albaida, along with the interesting Church of the Virgen de la Asunción, decorated, as is only natural, with 10 paintings by Segrelles.

About eight kilometres to the southwest, the town of Otinyent is divided between the protection it is afforded by the Grossa mountain range and its dependence on the River Clariano. Next to its waters, there are still traces of the pioneering textile industries which took advantage of the cascade to drive the waterwheel. The visit begins in the part of the town where the Town Hall Square is situated. Housed in a historical building belonging to the period of Charles 3, the Town hall stands next to the arches of the Jordá chemist´s shop and the colonnade. Further along, the visitor will see the Gothic Church of Santa Maria, with a single nave and lacking both dome and transept because the space was limited by the unven lie of the land. Its tall belfry, measuring 68 metres, the Plateresque front and the Purísima Chapel are characteristics. Throughout the old quarter, palaces and rambling houses still remain for all to see. Along the Bocairent Road, the source of the River Clariano makes for an attractive piece of natural landscape known as Pou Clar, whose spring waters provide pleasant refreshment in the summer. Moving on from here, the walls with dugout caves going back to the prehistoric times are an ideal preamble to the traveller´s arrival in Bocairent, a town in turn built in the rock. This monumental town is practically surrounded by gullies and precipices. As the land is so rugged, some houses have to be entered from the second or third floors. The Town Hall Square is overlooked by these higgledy-piggledy houses, by the Arc de l´Aigua arcade and, above all, by the huge Asunción Church topped with a characteristic belfry in the Gothic style. The medieval quarter is a superb ensemble of history and art. Hermitages, fountains and springs await the visitor as he strolls round the town centre and outskirts.

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