|Roman archaeological site of Itálica|
Via Verde - Italica
Until the 1960s, the Aznalcóllar mines northwest of Seville - still in operation today - were linked to the Guadalquivir river in the city by a railway, now the 27km-long Vía Verde de Itálica. Between Sevilla and Camas the route is called the Vía Verde of Camas, which turns into the Vía Verde de Itálica between Camas and Santiponce.
The vía verde (greenway) passes close to the Roman archaeological site of Itálica and continues northwest to Gerena. The last 5km stretch of the railway, from Gerena to the Aznalcóllar mines, has not been reconditioned as part of the vía verde.
The entire route can be used by those on foot or horseback, while the Vía Verde de Camas is also suitable for wheelchair users.
The company in charge of the Aznalcóllar mines constructed the railway in the early 1900s to transport pyrite 32km from Aznalcóllar to the port in Seville, where the mineral was loaded onto barges. Until its closure in 1974 the line was also used for passengers and for transporting granite from quarries near Gerena.
Vía Verde of Camas
The greenway starts west of Seville´s city centre on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, near the Expo site at the car park in Puerta de Triana. From here, it crosses the river over a long, narrow bridge. It goes under the SE30 before coming to Camas, 2km into the route, following the N630 road
The construction of the railway transformed Camas from a sleepy rural backwater into a more populous and important town with many factories and the main train depot on the mining railway. Camas's old train station has been renovated and its grounds are now an attractive park with several restored railway carriages. A former engine shed, 500m beyond the station, has also been renovated.
At this point the official Via Verde appears to have been downgraded from a 30km route to a 2km route and so it stops here. You may still continue to walk on the old railway line as far a Aznachollar.
Vía Verde of Itálica
At Km 3 the mining railway that was used to transport minerals from the Cala mines in the Sierra de Aracena to Seville crosses the Vía Verde de Itálica. At Km 3.5 the vía verde passes underneath the viaduct for the Seville-Huelva railway line. If you're cycling you may have to dismount on this stretch, since there are still many railway sleepers and gravel here.
After Santiponce at Km 5 you can see the Roman archaeological site of Itálica to the north. If you want to take a detour to visit the site, which is 4km from Santiponce, take the N630 from Santiponce north towards Guillena.
The vía verde veers to the west and crosses gently rolling countryside. Just past a farm called the Cortijo de Villadiego at Km 9.5 is a ruined building that used to be the halt for Villadiego. The route carries on through cuttings and along embankments. At Km 20 is a level crossing, where a road to the left leads, 1km further on, to the remains of a Moorish fortification, the Torreón de San Antonio.
About 1km further along the vía verde from the level crossing, the route heads north through an avenue of eucalyptus to the Gerena-Empalme station at Km 22. From here the track divides: to the left was the last 10km stretch of the railway to Aznalcóllar and to the right, Gerena. The rest of the former train route to Gerena, 4½km away, no longer exists; instead, take the dirt track to the right from the station.
This track is a drovers' route and passes the Cortijo La Pizana; opposite is a stand of eucalyptus trees home to nesting storks for much of the year. Around 200m after the track branches off to Aznalcóllar take the right-hand track to Gerena. Just before Gerena are the old granite quarries, now occupied by the town's rubbish dump.
The stretch of track to Aznalcóllar is not easily accessible as it is in a bad state of disrepair. The bridge over the Guadimar river has collapsed, but it's worth reaching this point to see the remains of a Roman aqueduct that used to transport water to Itálica - look to the south for the ruined walls on the left bank of the river.
If you manage to cross the river and head closer to Aznalcóllar the landscape becomes increasingly lunar-like, with huge mounds of slag heaps that have been created by the open-cast mining.