On a recent trip to Spain, sponsored by the Land of Valencia, we visited Morella, in the region of Castellon. We loved this little town that, thankfully, was not over-run with tourists, but offered everything a tourist could hope for.
Located about a hundred miles inland and northwest of Valencia, Morella is a fortified town built on an outcrop at about 1000 meters above sea level. As you approach this ancient city, you will see the ruined castle reaching for the sky at the very center of the town. You will also see the Aqueduct of Santa Llúcia constructed by the Romans centuries ago.
To enter the town, you must pass through one of seven gates; we gained access through the imposing twin towers of the Portal Sant Miquel. Walking along the main street, Blasco de Alagón, which winds its way up through the town, we noticed how the buildings and surrounding trees kept the town cool on an otherwise extremely hot day.
This now peaceful town has a long and contentious history. It has been occupied by the Iberians, Romans, Moors, Greeks, and Cartheginians. It played a part in the Napoleonic wars and was finally captured by forces of Generalisimo Franco in April 1938. Since Spain’s transition to democracy, the town has again flourished.
The charm of Morella lies in its winding streets lined with shops and restaurants and its fantastic architecture as evidenced by the Church of Santa Maria la Major. This architectural beauty reveals itself once inside, where you will be surprised by the rich decor and intricate carvings.
To visit the castle ruins, requires a long and steep walk, which we were not prepared to endeavor on such a hot day. But those in our group who made the trek were glad they did.
In the surrounding areas, agriculture, and cheese production dominate. But Morella is also a good place to purchase craft products and black truffles which are traded at seasonal markets during the winter. We were astounded by the variety of cheese, sausage, honey and other local products available in Morella’s quaint shops. Many of the shops offer a free tasting and we took advantage of the opportunity.
We had a fantastic lunch at the Restaurante Casa Roque, where they serve traditional Morellain cuisine. We had the menu de degustation, which was at least five courses of deliciousness.
Morella is an easy day-trip from Valencia Castellon, or Peniscola, and well worth the drive. A nice stop along the way is in the tiny town of Ares. You can get a nice, cool drink or at snack at the Hotel D’Ares and take a short walk up the hill for a commanding view of the valleys and mountains before you.
Written by Terri Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com