The "campiña" countryside is perhaps what best defines
the province of Cordoba: farmlands where the olive groves, vineyards and
small orchads excel, and softly rolling hills are capped with white villages,
slender towers and golden castles.
There are many beautiful towns here. Baena, for example, has, along with
some of the best olive oil in Andalusia and a spectacular Semana Santa
(Easter Week), a harmonious range of monuments where the Gothic church
of Santa María la Mayor stands out as does the church of Nuestra
Señora de Guadalupe which combines, as so frequently occurs in
the Guadalquivir valley, a Mudéjar stuccoed ceiling with a splendid
Baroque altar-piece. There are also a great number of remains of the primitive
city walls. Espejo and Castro del Río, which are also set along
the Cordoba-Granada road, are peaceful villages. In the first, the towered
castle is a point of interest as well as the church of San Bartolomé.
What stands out in the latter is the old Medinaceli house which today
is the town hall and in days gone by was a prision in which Miguel de
Cervantes spent some time. Castro, wher the parish church of the Asunción
with its beautiful Plateresque doorway looms over the houses, is a village
famous for its young troubadours. Further to the north we come across
Bujalance which has a large parish church and castle.
The villages are usually situated high up and dominate the surrounding
areas. The names themselves demonstrate this: Monturque, Montemayor, Montalbán
and so on. In Montemayor we can admire the Castle of the Duque de Frías
which has a curious Múdejar distribution. The capital of this area
and the capital of wine production is Montilla, which was also home to
the Gran Capitán and San Francisco Solano. There are many loverly
parish churches in this extensive town, and nearly all offer excellents
works of art, such as the church of Santa Clara which boasts paintings
by Alonso Cano as well as a delightful late-Gothic façade.
Very nearby is Aguilar, one of the most beautiful towns in the "campiña".
Its octagonal Square of San José is harmonious and lively, despite
its Neo-Classical style, and the town does not lack gems of the Baroque
era such as the Carmelitas Descalzas. We must not forget the church of
Nuestra Señora del Soterraño which is situated at the top
of a pleasent tree-lined hill, or the elegant clockless tower. Each village
has its own special attractions. In La Rambla there are many lovely churches
and good restaurants. Here we find the church of the Asunción,
remains of the old fortress and many potters' workshops which convert
this village into a paradise for handicrafts lovers.