Today we slept in, Denise had churros and we caught the bus to Italica. It was also very, very hot. We also visited a rather grand house in order for Denise to see how people lived in Seville once upon a time.
I also saw my favourite fast food sign:
But to begin with, we had a long sleep in. Mirinda is a bit upset with getting up before the sun so we didn’t leave the hotel until after 9am. Mirinda didn’t leave till a bit later as Denise and I had a coffee across the road first thing.
Eventually, Mirinda joined us for the short walk to the cafe next to the Alcazar for churros and chocolate. Denise wasn’t that keen but she almost ate them all. I, of course, had a second coffee while Mirinda had her first.
There was then a rather long but interesting walk to the bus station. I was in charge today and Mirinda was ready for any slip ups of which I made absolutely none. I was well pleased.
The bus station was the usual Spanish affair with lots of bays and just as many buses arriving and leaving for all parts of the country. I do love the bus network here. It feels so efficient and easy. Getting a bus to Italica was even easier because it was a normal local bus.
The bus ride to Italica was through some pretty grim looking areas of Seville made mostly so by the amount of roads. There seemed to be more roads than cars until we returned when there was clearly not enough road for the amount of traffic. Still, the roads weren’t too bad on the way out.
There was a moment of panic on the bus when a chap up the back was suddenly concerned that the bus wasn’t going to Italica and he and his family would have to walk from Santiponce. All was well and he settled down when he discovered the bus actually terminated at Italica.
Which it did. Of course having endured the long and dusty road in, we had to stop for some life giving refreshment at the very handy tavern across from the entrance. Besides it was just gone beer o’clock and we all know what that means.
Eventually we crossed the road and entered the site.
Let me say right from the off that I was a bit disappointed with the lack of a shop. I was not, however, disappointed with the entrance fee seeing as it was completely free. Mind you, this is no excuse for a lack of toilet paper in the toilets, a fact reported to us by Denise. (She also told us that the toilets had a bin next to them for the placing of paper after use. This seems altogether completely and unnecessarily gross to me.)
Toilet aside, the first thing the visitor to the site comes to is the amphitheatre. And while the amphitheatre is brilliantly amazing, we had the added advantage of a whole load of gladiators practising their skills as we wandered around. You don’t get that very often.
I should give a bit of background about Italica. It was a Roman town built just outside Seville (though Seville wasn’t there then) in around 206 BC. It was founded by Scipio primarily as a retirement home for his faithful and victorious army veterans following the Second Punic Wars against Hannibal and the Cathaginians.
Naturally there was an original town there to start with. It was called Turdetani where the local Iberians lived. Of course Scipio had them turfed out and built a much nicer place. (I don’t think Turdetani means shithole in some ancient dialect.)
From luxury retirement resort to bustling town, Italica became the birthplace of a few great Romans, most notably Trajan and Hadrian.
Of course as the Roman Empire crumbled so did Italica, eventually having the Spanish town of Santiponce built on top of it. In fact a fair bit of Roman masonry was used in the initial construction of the present town.
The bit of Italica we see today is merely the rich bit over the hill and the amphitheatre because the normal town is underneath existing buildings possibly never to see the light of day…again. Still, what we do see is pretty amazing.
The amphitheatre is pretty brilliant on its own but when you climb further up the hill the magnificence of the villas becomes apparent with the multitude of mosaic floors spread out before your eyes.
Of course, given there was no signage to speak off (well, in English anyway) Mirinda and Denise had to make do with me so I made up a lot of stuff and we moved on.
We ran into Polly and Dennis at Italica and, for a change, they weren’t queuing. In fact Polly was having a rather heated phone conversation with someone, insisting that she’d been told not to email something which she’d accidentally done to two people anyway. Meanwhile Dennis was wandering around the Roman ruins waving a pink bag around, waiting for her to finish.
She did eventually end her call but it had embittered her mood I’m afraid. Poor Dennis was not happy. I didn’t have that much sympathy for him given the amount of queuing he’s put Polly through.
We spent a long time wandering around Italica and I enjoyed every bit of it except, perhaps for the fact that the House of the Planets was inexplicably roped off, barring any viewing of the mosaics for which perfectly placed gangways had been constructed. This was very annoying.
Another rather odd thing but in equal parts very entertaining was the young woman taking selfies. She had her phone on a tripod, leaning up against a pole and would then strike poses. She wore more than enough make and a rather dressy dress accompanied by one of those flamenco type scarves. I’d like to think she is one of the super-selfie #Me brigade. She certainly worked very hard. While being clearly self obsessed she wasn’t all self conscious.
Having walked the length and breadth we decided to have a late lunch at the lovely little place across the road, thinking (incorrectly) that it was the only place to eat. We had a selection of tapas which included a super refreshing gazpacho, something highly recommended as a cure for hot days spent wandering around Roman ruins.
Eventually we caught the bus back to the bus station and then started heading back to the hotel by a route planned by Mirinda. This was, I thought, as a reward for my expert handling of the day so far but, it turned out, she had another motive.
Yesterday Denise had said she’d like to see how people lived in days gone by rather than just empty rooms like the Alcazar. Too many places are completely devoid of furniture that it does make a pleasant change when it does remain. And so, enter the Countess of Lebrija.
She managed to steal a whole load of stuff from Italica and put it in her house in Seville. Understandable I guess given Lebrija wasn’t the loveliest of places. It was best known for its swamp more than anything else.
So the countess, or Regla Manjón Mergelina to her intimates, managed to secret away a bunch of mosaics and put them in her house. If they didn’t fit she just moved the walls to accommodate them. She was extremely versatile when it came to her household boundaries. What her husband thought is anyone’s guess because he doesn’t seem to figure in anything.
The house (palace really) is a delight from top to bottom. For an extra few sheckles the casual tourist gets to go upstairs with a lovely Spanish tour guide and peek into the countess’ upper regions. I’m very glad we did for several reasons not least because up there is a triptych featuring a very big St Roche and two St Sebastiens (before and after). Sadly no photography is allowed so I have to remain disappointed on the reproduction front.
Still, it was marvellous. She was quite an amazing woman and I guess it’s good that she preserved so much stuff while another part of me thinks it would be better to have a context for where it came from as far as historic records go.
Actually, I reckon we get a bit hung up on that sort of stuff. If I consider that an awful lot of Italica went into making the modern day town then why not save a bit of it the way it was meant to be in some rich person’s house? At least we get to see it. All power to the countess, I say.
Saying bye bye to Regla (I wonder if the count called her ‘Reggie’?) we headed back towards the hotel under Mirinda’s self assured and deadly accurate guidance. We managed to go up the Calle de los Vestidos, which featured confirmation frocks for little girls, wedding dresses for bigger girls and all manner of flamenco dresses for girls no matter what age or colour preference.
It’s quite the fascinating street if you think about how women are packaged through their lifetime.
Anyway, we stopped at a cafe where I ordered a beer, Denise ordered a tea and Mirinda ordered a gin and tonic. I was given a lovely cold beer, Denise was given a perfect cup of tea with milk and Mirinda was given a gallon of gin with a capful of tonic. To say the trip back to the hotel was hysterical would be putting far too fine a point on it.
Still, we managed it and had a short (two hour) siesta before heading out for dinner.
We spotted Corral del Agua the other night. It has an outside eating area inside a garden wall just off an alley. It looked most enticing. And tonight we ate there.
The food was lovely (particularly the refreshing gazpacho) and the wine excellent. I could have done without the two desserts but what can you do? I couldn’t let it go to waste when Denise declared she didn’t like hers.
We then had a final walk around the ever bustling late night streets of Seville before one final walk back to the hotel.
Tomorrow we hit Jerez de la Frontera and adventures anew. But before that…here’s a short video I took in Italica at one of the mosaics.