Travelling through truffle country, winding our way up the mountain road to Morella, I feel overcome by the lush, emerald green scenery, but nervous about the road as it rises up and becomes more precarious. Will the trip be worth it? Can Morella live up to its reputation? Will the vision of this medieval town match the stunning photos I’ve seen? Or have they been shot by talented photographers, who capture beauty almost anywhere? Then as we come to the stretch of road where we can see Morella in the distance, my questions are suddenly answered.
Morella is majestic and magnificent. I have never seen anything like it before, and the reality is that no photos you might see beforehand can prepare you for the impact of the spectacular sprawl of ancient stone, whitewashed houses, with rustic terracotta coloured roofs. As we drive further into the mouth of Morella, it seems to start to devour us – it’s really only nibbling us gently, but all the same, it’s like entering the mouth of some marvellous stone deity. Don’t worry, it’s a kind, bountiful deity that will seduce you with sweetness.
One Of The Prettiest Villages In Spain
That’s exactly what Morella does, it seduces you. Morella has been voted one of the prettiest villages in Spain. The province of Castellon can claim three of Spain’s prettiest villages, the second one being Peñiscola, the third is Vilafamés. Morella is also featured as one of Condé Nast Traveller’s top towns in community of Valencia.
Morella’s seduction starts visually, just as often happens when we fall for another person. To say it has the wow factor, could be an understatement. But once we were inside Morella’s mouth, the seduction goes so much deeper – the walls, the castle, the regal environment, the artisan feeling that lingers in the air and the shopfronts. Each shop façade is an artistic creation of temptations. The town is pulsating with tradition, history, folklore and absolutely drenched in gastronomy.
Welcome To Morella’s Aladdin’s Cave
The heart of Morella is an Aladdin’s Cave, filled with precious artisan and gastronomic treats. We are seduced to the stage of no return, and before I know it we are the proud owners of some Morella bread, which is like the town – impressive and grand. Of course the bread wouldn’t be complete without some local goats’ cheese, which has been delicately made with truffles.
Lucky for me, my other half is too hungry to do much more shopping before our lunch, because the mesmerising meringues are obviously calling him, as are the meats, the artisan jars of various treats, the speciality pastries and temptation is everywhere.
My eyes are also drawn to the House of Honey and Cheese (La Casa de la Miel y del Queso), with the cheeky bee outside, to invite you into this cheesy, honey trap. Artisan love is everywhere, in the local foods, the crafts and the famous, colourful Morella blankets. A photography exhibition also catches my eye – how could a visual of a donkey, close to a black, smoking elder not?
Morella – A Picturesque Walled City
Morella is one of the top towns that the natives of the Valencian Community are very proud of – and rightly so! This picturesque, ancient walled city is just so impressive as you approach it, standing proudly on the horizon. The towns opens its walls to you, its mouth gently swallows you up and then you can feel your heart opening.
Morella is drenched in history, but is also alive and proud of its traditions and crafts passed down from generation to generation. Strolling down its historical cobblestone streets, you can feel yourself drift back to other times.
Morella Spain – A Striking, Historical Town Which Has Been Lovingly Kept
Morella has been lovingly treated over the years by its residents and this shows. Night time sees it beautifully lit up and really you don’t need to do anything but stroll along the streets of Morella, taking your time to choose a bar or restaurant. Enjoy the architecture, atmosphere and views – and make sure you imprint all of it in your mind’s eye, as it is one of those really special memories.
Does Morella Have Any Downside?
As uniquely spectacular as Morella is, it has a bit of steep walking and many steps throughout the heart of the town. This means that it may be a challenge for people with mobility issues.
Being an interior, mountain top town of 984 metres above sea level, during the cooler months the temperatures are quite a few degrees lower in Morella, than in the coastal towns. If you do decide to go during the winter months, you could always consider buying a Morella blanket to keep the memory wrapped around you.
Textile making in Morella can be traced back to the 13th century, when the wool of the sheep was sheared and taken to the hundreds of looms that were dotted around the town, to make fabrics, cloths, blankets, carpets and other products. This tradition of handcrafted textiles has been passed down through the generations and you can buy a colourful Morella blanket when you visit, to take back home with you.
Morella Brief History
Earlier I referred to Morella as a medieval town, as this is what you can see and feel from its structure and heritage today. However as a crossroads that links Valencia, Aragon and Catalonia, the Mediterranean and the Ebro Valley, Morella has been seen as a perfect fortress by many, throughout different civilisations. This has been the case since prehistoric times, but it was during the medieval period that Morella really became a privileged town. At Morella la Vella you can see cave paintings, from 4000 years BC, and at Hostal Nou there are Bronze Age graves. But even before human occupation, the land had been inhabited by dinosaurs, going back some 60 million years. (You can get in touch with this in the Morella Dinosaur Museum.)
At one stage the Greeks has a treasury in the town, but then there was conflict in the area during the Punic Wars, and after time Morella became part of the Roman Tarragona. In 714 it was taken by the Moors, who called it Maurela. In 1084 El Cid, who may have rebuilt the town’s castle, fought in the Battle of Morella, defeating Sancho Ramírez of Aragon.
It was conquered by the Christians in 1231, and later in 1270 became part of Valencia’s kingdom; in fact today it is considered by the Valencian Parliament to be the First Villa of the Kingdom. During medieval times, merchants travelled to Italy, Greece and North Africa, from the town that was rich in weavers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, blacksmiths and sculptors.
During the War of Succession, Morella remained on the Borbon side, but the San Miguel neighbourhood was destroyed during two Austrian occupations. There were only 1800 inhabitants left in Morella at that time, but the amazing thing is that they re-built their town.
Later during the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s forces captured Morella in April 1938, but until 1956, Republican guerillas held their own in the surrounding mountains. During the 1960s and 1970s many inhabitants left the town, to find opportunities in cities. At this time the local small industries died a death, but this wasn’t for long as they slowly came to life again after Spain’s transition to democracy.
A Not So Funny Legend From 15th Century Morella…
Legend has it that there was a house in 15th century Morella, where the family didn’t have food to give to the local saint. So rather than leave the saint go hungry, the wife and husband killed their son, and made a paella with the meat of their son. Saint Vicent later learnt about what the food had been, so he performed a miracle, bringing the dead son back to life. The only problem was that he was missing one of his fingers, and this was because his mother had eaten it while she was checking the the paella was perfectly cooked for the saint.
Things To Do in Morella
Casa de la Vila del Consell Morella – Morella Town Hall
Another beautiful building is the town hall of Morella, which dates to the 14th century. It has been awarded the Europa Nostra Award for the recovery of architectural heritage. There are attractive rooms inside the impressive exterior, and these days it is used for cultural events, exhibitions and conferences.
El Acueducto de Morella – Morella Aqueduct
The views from Morella to the aqueduct and over the Els Ports Natural Park are breathtaking. The construction dates from 1318, and the pieces that are preserved are simple Gothic style, which tell us of how water was supplied to the town in medieval times.
Castillo de Morella – Morella Castle
On 3rd June 1931, Morella Castle was declared a monument of artistic and historical importance. The stones of this castle have witnessed an incredible number of events and passed through so many periods of our civilisation. Originally it was a 13th century fortress of Islamic architecture, but was modified through the ages. It was also subjected to its fair share of damage, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries.
A polygonal shape, the fortress is divided into three different levels – the first being the entrance in the lower part of the fort. The artillery batteries were on the second level and the castle itself on the third level. There are six gates and fourteen towers, however the main tower is not in great condition.
When you see the town from a distance, you can see the impressive and imposing walls that surround this ancient fortress, located high upon a rocky hill around 1000 metres high. Once you arrive, there are superb views of Morella and the region of Els Ports from the castle.
The walls of the old town and fortress measure around 2500 metres, and were of course, used to defend the inhabitants. Roman, Arabic and Iberian civilisations have all left their mark on the town and the fortress.
La Iglesia de Santa María Morella – Saint Mary’s Church
Plaza de Benedicto XV
The church was predominantly built between 1265 and 1343, but wasn’t entirely finished until 1593. Considered to be one of the most beautiful churches of the region, it is a combination of Gothic and Renaissance styles. That said the historian, Marqués de Lozoya, said that is is one of the most beautiful Gothic churches of the Valencian region.
It has two fabulous doors, one of which is dedicated to the Virgin and the other to the Disciples. Crowned with a blue dome, inside you can see some lovely ornate pieces, the main altar which is Baroque and the impressive pipe organ, built in 1719, by Turull. Other must-sees are the Final Judgement and the Choir’s Staircase.
Convento de San Francesc Morella – St. Francis’ Convent
Plaza de San Francisco, Phone: 964 173 032
Its foundation can be traced back originally to 17th May, 1272 and by 1300 the construction of the church commenced. It is of Gothic style and one of the main highlights are the frescoes of the Dance of Death, which is one of the oldest representations of macabre Spanish art, from the 15th century. This can be found in the Capitular Room. The convent lies at the entrance that leads to the castle.
Morella Museo Temps de Dinosaures – Time of Dinosaurs Museum Morella
Torres de Sant Miquel, Morella 12300
Immerse yourself in the world of dinosaurs, see fossils, learn how they walked the lands of Els Ports and see a full sized reproduction.
Tuesday to Sunday – 11.300 to 14.00 and 16.00 to 18.00
For more information – http://www.morella.net/morella/conocenos/museus/dinosaures/
Where to Sleep in Morella
Where to Eat in Morella
Morella Traditional Shops
Temptation surrounds you in Morella. The shops are incredibly inviting, with specialities such as exquisite baked products – flaon, pastries, almond cakes, liquor cakes, honey pie, donuts and just all sorts of delicacies. The Flao is Morella’s king of the pastries – it’s very old in origin, and it’s a sweet pie that is stuffed wtih almonds and curd cheese.
The staples of cheese, wine and bread are part and parcel of the lifestyle in Morella. You’ll see a good few shops selling wonderful cheeses that are handmade locally. Many of these are made from local goats or sheeps milk, and combined with all sorts flavours. The cheese from Morella wins awards further afield, both in Spain and abroad.
Honey is the flower of life and is made in the traditional way in Morella. Packed with medicinal and nutritional properties, this honey retains the most pure essence and comes from the surrounded lands which are rich in wild herbs, such as thyme, rosemary and lavender. So the bees are happy, and the beekeeping tradition has been carried out there for centuries with great care and wisdom.
Truffle season is from November until February, and the picking of the truffles is supervised by the owners who look for the fruit with the help of their dogs. People come from many different places to buy truffles from Morella. It is said that French hunters travelled to the area seeking out something that smelt strong in the mountains. Just in case you didn’t realise, truffles are also aphrodisiacs.
Also the area is well known for great cattle, and meats that are well preserved. The local wild herbs are used in various ways in the foodstuffs that you could buy or eat in Morella. Additionally the town is full of artisan products, but its best known is the Morella blanket as previously mentioned. However there a many other textile products made in Morella, as well as wicker, carved wood and pottery products.