To my mind, one of the nicest drives inland from the Costa del Sol and Malaga is out towards Loja and Granada on the A 359, turning off at the A333 to Villanueva de Tapia. This little village of just 2,000 inhabitants is 85 kilometres from Malaga City and at sits at around 660 metres above sea level. It teeters between two worlds, where the province of Granada ends and that of Cordoba begins and is just inside the regional boundary of Antequera. When I have driven either to Cordoba or to Jaen on that road past Villanueva de Tapia, I also sense that this is the borderline into 'real' Andalucia.
The landscape is fairly gentle with some hills breaking it up here and there, especially in the southern side of the municipality, where the Pedroso Mountain rises to a height of 1,205 metres. Undulating olive groves and fields of cereal crops dominate the countryside to the north of this area.
Villanueva de Tapia is typical of the white villages in the rest of the Antequera region. Walking through the little streets, you can still see vestiges of the 18th century architecture in the facades of some of the buildings. There is the old Santa Barbara Inn (now a privately owned property), which adds to the flavour of the past to this Andalucian enclave.
The parish church sticks out amongst the tiled roofs of the Villanueva de Tapia houses, with its factory brick finish and tall thin tower topped with coloured tiles.
The surrounding countryside contrasts between the soft rolling olive groves and cereal crops and the backdrop of hills. Close to the urban centre are the Artillería and Gordo hills and the Cerezo and Aulaguilla streams. With the main crops being olives and cereals, water is of great importance and the main source comes from the 'Nacimiento', 'Borbollón' and 'Matea'. From the north of the village up to Iznájar (which is right on the border of the Cordoba Province) olive groves really take over the landscape. Otherwise, the countryside is mainly covered in old oak and pine forests, in between rocky areas. You can see the remains of Arabic and Roman buildings, which although they only amount to some scattered ruins; they still leave a very interesting historical legacy to the area.
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After the Christian conquest, what is now Villanueva de Tapia, became a serious bone of contention between Iznájar (in the Province of Cordoba) and the municipality of Archidona. Both towns wanted Villanueva de Tapia to be under their domination. For this reason the village was nicknamed "Entredicho", (under interdict) to which it is still sometimes referred. The inhabitants are also sometimes referred to as 'Entricheros' as well as the more usual 'Tapienses'. At the beginning of the 17th century, it was finally decided that this problematic town of 'El Entredicho' should form part of the Royal Patrimony, which it did on the 20th June, 1602. Later on, however, under Felipe III, it was decided that the Crown gained no economic advantage by owning the area and it was therefore sold off to a member of the Supreme Royal Court - to one Pedro de Tapia. From then onwards, the urban heart of the village began to take shape under the patronage of the Count and Countess of Tapia and to this day the village remains in the name of Tapia.
Fiestas & Festivals
Around the 12th to 14th June Villanueva de Tapia celebrates its annual village fair. But without doubt the most important date on the calendar is from the second weekend in August, up to around the 12th of that month. It is in celebration of the patron saint, 'la Virgen del Pilar' and this is when the Cattle Fair is held. It is most traditional of its kind in Andalucia, steeped in the history of over a century and with formal deals still often being sealed with a simple handshake.
Since the year 2000 an extra element of great importance has been added to the fair and now different breeds of cattle from all over Spain are shown and there are organised conferences and seminars on cattle breeding and related subjects. Visitors are offered many local gastronomic delicacies, as they enjoy the seeing all the livestock, horse competitions and the general bustle of Andalucian farming community around them.
'Porqués' Festival - 21st Century love in Villanueva de Tapia
If you visit Villanueva de Tapia between the 28 and 30 of December, you may be forgiven for thinking you have fallen into some weird sort of Chaucer country in the heart of Andalucia! An ancient tradition, called the "porqués" festival has been revived after a lapse of 50 years. The 'porqués' are the 'whys and wherefores' and the theme is a special kind of friendship.
The old custom was to get the single men and women of the village to come along to a fiesta, where previously composed bawdy verses have been collected together. The people of the village write the verses themselves. The unmarried members of the community all gather round and three urns hold the men's name, the women's names and the rhyming verses.
There is great hilarity as the name of a man and then a woman and then a very cheeky verse are read out to say why these two should become special friends. An example of the almost 'Chauceresque' verse is "porque cuando mueves el culo me pongo como un mulo" (because when you wiggle your bottom, I get like a mule). This would be why they should get together! Other verses are full of innuendo and raise the roof with squeals of laughter, proving this age-old tradition has stood the test of time.
Half a century ago, this would often be how couples would meet and some of them carried on together after this rude introduction! With around 40 single women and over 60 single men, over the age of 30 in Villanueva de Tapia, the revival of this ancient tradition looks set to entertain and even build bridgeds well into the 21st century. It may not exactly be as shocking as the Canterbury tales, but it's a very lively way to stir up some passion for life!
If you've managed to work up an appetite while taking in the beautiful countryside and enjoying the clean Andalucian air, stuffed peppers or a rich chick pea hotpot are two specialities well worth trying at one of the little bars or restaurants in Villanueva de Tapia. You can also sample an excellent plate of 'salmorejo' (a very substantial version of gazpacho - full of flavour and vitamins!) Bar Tomás in the Avenida de la Constitution and Bar Miguel a little further on are both modest and typical of the area. Sample a glass of regional wine with the traditional food and the day will be complete.