Ronda's most popular attraction, outdone only by the surrounding spectacular views, is its historic Plaza de Toros Bullring. As the popularity of the Corrida grew in the 18th century into more of an urban spectacle, a large number of Plaza de Toros bullrings were constructed. (The Corrida is complex and there are different types but its usual form is a highly structured and controlled series of stages between 6 bulls usually between 4 and 6 years old from the same ranch, played and killed by usually 3 matadores de toros). The Ronda ring hosts one of Spain's most important bullfighting events annually - the Corrida Goyesca (in the Goyaesque style) in early September annually.
Ronda's Plaza de Toros bullring arena is one of the oldest in Andalucia and Spain, opening in 1785. Its age shows in comparison to the huge stone bullrings built later in the 19th century in Valencia and Cadiz in 1802. For an understanding of the importance of bullfighting within Andalucia and for a comprehensive history of bullfighting in Spain a visit to the Ronda Bullfighting Museum is a must. Dynasties of famous bullfighters have heralded from Ronda, including the famous Ordonez family. Both Orson Wells and Ernest Hemingway spent time here. Ronda's attractions are numerous, including the symbolic and iconic Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). Looking more like a viaduct, the bridge is a spectacular site clinging to cliffs. Ronda has several historic churches, surviving Arab Baths and Arab Bridge and a choice of smaller museums such as the Museum of the City, the Museum of Hunting and the Ronda Wine Museum.
Ronda almost seems slit in two by the Puente Nuevo. Before you cross the bridge you'll push through two gateways - remains of the old wall. You'll also see Puerta de Almocabar to the right dating from the 13th century. Typically Muslim in style, the La Ciudad area of Ronda contains small narrow streets and a number of Moorish buildings including Casa del Rey Moro (Moorish King's House), Palaces, the town hall and adjacent Arab Baths. A street map of Ronda from the TIC will assist in navigating Ronda's old town as there is much to see here. Most of Ronda's historic buildings are situated in the old town area. Once you've parked further into the town, you can return to this area on-foot to explore Ronda's Moorish links in more depth. Entrance to Ronda's newer second split, and the centre for the town today, is first across the Puente Nuevo which straddles the dramatic Tajo/gorge across the River Guadalevin. The bridge dates from 1751, completed in 1793, and plummets 320feet down. Dramatic cliff plunges are a feature of Ronda, and can be seen most striking to the western edge where the cliffs are a sheer drop down to the Rio Guadalevin valley.
The Plaza de Toros Bullring further along is a bustling centre with adjacent Tourist Information Centre, but the real hub of Ronda is Plaza Espana just across Puente Nuevo. A visitor centre is here beside the bridge, and the views down are spectacular. You might muse on the fact that Picadors' horses killed by bulls were once thrown into the gorge from here. The bridge's architect Martin de Aldehuela fell to his death in the gorge whilst attempting to engrave the bridges date on its side. Folklore states he was lowered down, the wind blew his hat off, he went for it, and plunged to his death.
During the Spanish Civil War, Ronda like most of inland Andalucia sat firmly in the republican zone against the fascist rising. In the early days of the war in 1936 chaos was widespread, and in Ronda as in many Andalucian towns and villages executions were widespread. Fascists from Ronda were clubbed and hurled to their deaths from the Puente Nuevo into the gorge, however the perpetrators were from Malaga, not from Ronda. In Ronda, as was the case in many towns and villages, executions were carried out by others from outside. Ernest Hemingway makes reference to the killings in 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'. As Beevor suggests (see weblink right), the most emotive issue in warfare is that of atrocities, and often as with this event in Ronda, it is the most visually horrific that survive in memory. It is the different patterns of violence perpetrated on both sides, states Beevor, rather than exact numbers, that becomes the most important issue and as became clear both during and for many years after the war, the fascist violence was an orchestrated and on-going cleansing (see chapters 8 and 9, in 'The Battle for Spain', Antony Beevor, 2007, Phoenix Paperback).
For a small town Ronda has a huge number of museums including the museum of Wine, the Hunting Museum, the Municipal Museum of Ronda and the Museo Joaquin Peinado. For complete museum listings see the Ronda tourist guide weblink right.
Plaza de Toros bullring and the town of Ronda have produced some of the most famous bullfighting families in Spain - the Romero family in the 18th century, of whom the most famous was Pedro Romano/1754-1839 (see the statue of Pedro on the edge of Alameda Park), and Ordonez family in the 20th century. Antonio Ordonez/1932-1998 and his unique style attracted the attention of both Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway (photos of Welles with Antonio at the Plaza de Toros can be seen in the museum). The Ordonez family are credited with inaugurating the distinctive goyesca costumes in bullfights from 1954. The costumes are so called because they resemble those worn in bullfights during the time of Francisco Goya, one of Spain's most celebrated artists. In later life, like Picasso, Goya returned to bullring for inspiration depicting bullfighting scenes he had seen in his youth.
The Ronda Bullring, dating from 1785 and one of Spain's oldest bullfighting rings, is a highlight of any visit to Ronda. An insight into understanding the Corrida can be gauged from a visit to the Ronda Bullring Museum. Bullfighting remains particularly popular across Andalucia, although today cities such as Barcelona are bullfighting free. Whatever your stance, there is a point to understanding, and it is interesting to dig deep into the changing appeals of bullfighting in Spain, from aristocratic sport to urban spectacle pulling in huge crowds. Bullfighting links with royalty are explored in-depth in the Ronda Bullfighting museum adjacent to the bullring.
There is no denying the stunning architectural design of the Ronda bullring. The architect was Martin de Aldehuela, who also designed the Puente Nuevo bridge. The Bullring took 6 years to build, with its two galleries adorned with elaborate arches. Sandstone was the primary material used, and the arches, 68 in all on Tuscan columns, give the effect of being in a giant cloister. The tiled roof though leans more towards the Moorish. The ring is a huge 66 metres in diameter, and the Royal box is particularly elaborate. Once you've toured the ring your entrance ticket includes entry into the adjacent bullfighting museum which not only reflects on the history of bullfighting in Ronda, but also in Spain and beyond - the museum moves far back to prehistoric engravings of the bull on cave walls. There is an edition of Francisco de Goya's Tauromachy in here - a fascinating highlight, alongside other depictions of bullfighting by both Spanish and foreign artists. Representations differ from the Romantic depictions on display by William Lake Price (1810-1891), to the lively noise of the crowds depicted by Goya and remembered from his youth, not from the day. Also within the museum are displays of costumes, photography and posters for the Plaza de Toros in Ronda from the 20th century particularly.
Plaza De Toros Ronda, Real Maestranza de Caballera de Ronda, Calle Virgen de la Paz, 15, 29400 Ronda Malaga, Spain. Tel. (00 34) 952 871539 (Main Office), (00 34) 952 874132 (Ticket Office). A superb gift and bookshop is on-site, with books in both Spanish and English available on the history of bullfighting, alongside posters, postcards and more.