There has been a human settlement on the site of this small town (current population just over 3,500) since Neolithic times. Just 15km north-west of Antequera on the A92, on the lower slopes of the Sierra de Mollina, this is set in perfect olive and cereal country. It is also a mere ten km from the Laguna de Fuente de la Piedra lake, famous for its pink flamingos.
The name derives in fact from a milling tower, the Torre Mollina (similar to the Costa's Torremolinos), which vanished some time in the Middle Ages. An alternative theory claims the name originates with its Roman rulers and derives from the Latin 'mollis', suave, or bland.
Little remains of either Neolithic or Roman Mollina, beyond some Neolithic artefacts found in the neighbouring Sierra de la Camorra, and, seven km from Mollina itself, the rectangular shaped Roman mausoleum of La Capuchina. Four km outside town there are the ruins of the fort of Castellum of Santillán, originally a settlement built around a Roman villa and surrounding outbuildings covering an area of 1400 square metres. The Castellum was later reinforced with defensive walls, a sign of the upheavals in this part of Andalucía in Roman times.
The present town, however, dates mainly from a more peaceful time, the 16th century, when the Reconquest was won and the lands parcelled out for farming to the victors. Thus the peacetime Mollina grew up around a convent, the Convent de la Ascension, rather than a fortified encampment like many Andalucían towns. (Don't miss the handsome sundial on the covent façade.) At its agricultural peak, Mollina's olive groves were so productive that the parish church of San Cayetano, built in 1687, was changed to Nuestra Señora de la Oliva.
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Mollina won independence from nearby Antequera at the beginning of the 19th century, although at that time Andalucía's agriculture was in decline. Since the 1960s, the population has dwindled as the young head to the coast to work. Yet Mollina still produces a surprising 80 per cent of the wine made in the province of Málaga.
The main hotel (there are only two), the hotel Molino del Saydo, a few kilometres south, is an example of a typical Spanish roadside hotel that has suffered from the loss of passing traffic, following the construction of the A92 Seville-Granada motorway in the early 1990s. The land at the back of the hotel is now a residential caravan park. The hotel has a large open air swimming pool, popular with villagers and visitors alike in the summer.
Mollina has four major annual festivals. The Candelaria, or candle-lit procession, is celebrated on the first day of February, and in May there is a Romería, or procession into the country, in honour of the Virgen de la Oliva. The town's summer feria is early, in the second week of August, but that is perhaps to make way for possibly the most important festival, the wine harvest festival, or Feria de la Vendimia, in the second week of September.
C/La Villa, 3. 29532.
Tel: 952 740 000.