Known as the "Baroque Jewel", Priego de Cordoba is a lovely, convivial little town steeped in old-world charm …
Midway between the two great cities of Córdoba and Granada, Priego de Córdoba is timeless and seductive, Andalucía at its most refined and authentic. A dignified, convivial provincial town, it is suspended between mountains and olive groves, within walking distance of the spectacular countryside of the Subbética Natural Park.
A busy, bustling little market town, there's much to commend it.
Head straight for the old historic quarter, Barrio de la Villa, and amble through its maze of narrow passageways, the houses Moorish in style, their white walls festooned with trailing flowers, flower pots and religious icons.
Doors and windows are neatly painted in blue or green. Some still have ancient tunnels that went from their cellars (bodegas) up to the castle.
This labyrinthine of narrow twisting streets in the old quarter emerge at an elevated promenade, the Balcon del Adarve, which skirts the fortified cliff edge, a natural fortress with wide views of the olive grove speckled mountains beyond. It's breathtakingly beautiful and a favourite subject for paintings.
Priego also has more than its fair share of marvellous baroque churches. Churches such as the Iglesia de la Asunción, a Gothic / Mudejar temple remodelled in the Baroque style in the 18th Century. The main altarpiece is Renaissance, its sacristy chapel considered to be one of the masterpieces of the Spanish baroque.
Other fine examples are Iglesia de San Francisco and Iglesia de la Aurora, from which a cloaked brotherhood sets out on a procession every Saturday night, singing songs and collecting alms.
All this magnificence was made possible by the town's 18th century silk-production boom. The taffeta and velvet the town produced was sold all over the Spanish peninsula, France, and the Americas.
The main monument to the wealth created by the silk industry is the Fuente del Rey, an extraordinary, gargoyle-festooned fountain in a leafy park with numerous large pools and no less than 139 spouts surrounding a statue of Neptune.
There are several other architectural delights, including the impressive Arab castle and the 16th Century market and slaughterhouse, Las Carnicerías Reales.
The religious brotherhoods of Priego de Córdoba have a long history, some dating back to before the 16th century. The traditional displays of these brotherhoods in the religious processions of Holy Week (Semana Santa) are renowned throughout Spain for their grandeur and beauty.
The economy of Priego is based on the agriculture of the surrounding countryside, and especially, its superb olive oil. Within the local denominación de origen of Priego de Córdoba there are 70,000 acres of olive groves, 7,000 farms, nine mills, 14 commercial plants and four co-operatives, producing some of the finest olive oil, not just in Spain, but in the world.
It has recently won many of the most prestigious prizes in international competitions.
Many who know about these things would argue that the prize-winning Serie Oro label, from the nearby Almazaras de la Subbética co-operative, is the finest virgin olive oil in the world.
Quite rightly known as the "Baroque Jewel", Priego is a lovely little town, energetic and flourishing yet steeped in history and old-world charm. A town which just invites you to stroll around.