A motorway leads from Salamanca to Zamora but we decided on a quieter road via Ledesma.
A brief history
In Roman times the town was called Bletisa and afterwards it was occupied by the Moors. Under Fernando II the town was repopulated in the 12th century, the city walls were rebuilt, and the town was given a charter for a market. The town was important on the east-west road across Leon and Castile, and because there was a ford across the river for cattle and livestock.
In the 15th century the king gave the town to Don Beltran de la Cueva, Duke of Albuquerque, who became the first Count of Ledesma. The town belonged to his family until the 19th century. The Visitor Information Centre has a useful map and guide to the town.
The walled town stands on a hill high above the River Tormes flowing in the small gorges below. The walls are 2 kms and were built before the Romans. Rebuilt in the 15th century with eight gates most of the walls are still in place but only one of the gates remains, the Puerta de los Mártires, de San Nicolás or Caldereros.
We didn’t have time to walk round the walls but ideally one would spend perhaps two nights here and explore more thoroughly.
Castle of Ledesma
The Castle of Ledesma is on the south west side of the town, the least protected side, and the San Pedro Door opens on to the Plaza Fortaleza with a verraco and a very nice cafe.
The Old Bridge dates from the 15th century and the two central arches date from that time. The New Bridge dates from 1954 and carries the modern road which gives easy access to the town. We had enjoyed the River Tormes in Salamanca and here it was again, but much less accessible.
Church of Santa Maria La Mayor
This enormously tall church stands in the small Plaza Mayor, completely dominating all the other buildings on the square.
The church dates from the 12th century and the arch under the tower dates from that time. In the 15th century Juan Gil de Hontañón el Viejo commissioned a reconstruction of the church consisting of the nave up to the arch of the High Altar. The tower and the High Altar date from the following century.
Don Sancho, grandson of King Alfonso X the Wise, is buried in the church but this is another impressive tomb – I can’t remember whose.
In the town
Like all old Spanish towns there are interesting sights round most corners!
The numerous 15th and 16th century palaces speak of time when the town was very prosperous.
The soil here is apparently the poorest in the province and we noticed outcrops of granite and many holm oaks as well as cork oaks, a landscape just like Portugal which is not very far away. It is used for grazing cattle and pigs and modest crops of rye, but it is also useful for producing cork, honey, and raising fighting bulls.
Paradore of Zamora
We stayed in the Paradore of Zamora last year when the town was jam-packed with visitors and exhibitors at an International Cheese Festival. This year we arrived in an empty square in front of the hotel and a silent town.