Pizarra is a tiny town lying 30 kilometres upriver in the Guadalhorce valley at the foot of the 350 metre high Sierra del Hacho. Still a largely farming community, it has so far managed to avoid the threat of absorption by the spreading metropolis of Málaga in spite of the recent appearance of the two commuter settlements of Zalea and Cerralba on its western face.
Neither the Romans nor the Moors made very much of Pizarra and it had to wait for the coming of the Christian era to get its real start. In 1483 a hundred settlers arrived, led by the indefatigable Don Pedro Romero de Figueroa, and determined to build a town. The reason for the reluctance of earlier people to put down roots in the spot was an eminently practical one. High above it was a huge, unstable rock, forever threatening to crash down upon them. The rock, known as the peñasco, was more than 5000 cubic metres in volume and weighed almost 3000 tons. It continued to threaten those brave, crazy or fatalistic enough to live beneath it until 1988 when, after it showed definite signs of cracking, the authorities finally blew it up.
It was still there in 1922 when the palace of the Conde de Puerto Hermos was used for the Conference of Pizarra, when leading politicians and soldiers gathered in an attempt to find a solution to the war then raging in Spanish Morocco. The count had built his palace in the 19th Century, after buying the land cheaply. The palace still stands in the centre of town, but is in private hands and not open to the public.
One place that is most definitely open to the public is Pizarra's Municipal Museum. The village owes this jewel in its crown to the American painter Gino Hollander, who spent many years in the town. Beginning in the 1960s he amassed an impressive array of archæological artefacts from many eras, including the Roman and the Moorish. When he eventually left Spain to return to America, his collection came into the hands of the local authorities, who took over a disused farm complex and turned it into the museum.
Although the museum no longer bears Hollander's name, as it once did, it still denotes one of its two rooms as "Gino Hollander's Room", and includes numerous examples of his painting. The items on view are eclectic, ranging from Iberian brooches and Roman and Moorish pottery to almost contemporary rural furniture and farm implements. Attached to the museum is a bar restaurant serving a variety of food, which makes a trip to the site extremely rewarding.
Pizarra should be congratulated on making the most of its unexpected legacy. Now that the war in Spanish Morocco is long ended, the palace of Conde de Puerto Hermos is no longer required by the politicians in far off Madrid, and Pizarra lives its quiet life unhurriedly in the sunshine. Málaga, meanwhile, prowls around it like a hungry lion walking the horizon and wondering whether to pounce.
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There is a hourly local train service from Alhora to centre of Malaga.