The land of Extremadura is home to a living Roman legacy, thanks to projects that add value to the varied archeological remains and bring them closer to the public interest. Extremadura, a region in Spain that is west to Madrid and borders with Portugal, is an essential destination to get to know this ancient civilization, most important to the Western World and play a leading role at the different scenarios.
The curtain rises in Mérida
The finest example of the Roman legacy in Extremadura is formed by the Mérida Archeological Ensemble, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. The city of Mérida is an authentic open-air museum. For any visitor to the region, the spectacular Roman Theater (Teatro Romano) is a must see.
In addition to being the most important monument of the Roman period for the region, it is a good example of how this legacy constitutes an up-to-date touristic site by hosting, every year the Mérida International Festival of Classical Theater. Many hundred of aficionados fill its grandstand every night. The roman Theater of Merida is the main site of the cultural Festival, that now extends to other places in the region: the archeological site of Regina in “Casas de Reina” and Medellin, in the province of Badajoz and Cáparra at “Tierras de Granadilla” in the province of Cáceres.
Another way to enjoy Mérida is by participating in “Merida Lúdica”, which is a historical recreation of the footprints of the Roman Empire and bringing its treasure to the public. Every June coinciding with the summer solstice, the city recovers the life of 2000 years ago, with everyday scenes, like the training of the legionaries or the ambient in taverns and markets.
Cáparra is the host to special summer nights and a spring party
For the first time in 2017 the Cáparra amphitheater has been incorporated to the summer Mérida International Festival of Classical Theater, opening a very special site in the Province of Cáceres. This is an additional attraction to its famous quadrilateral arch, a unique monument, under which every year hundreds of hikers pass following the Roman road called “Via de la Plata”.
In addition, Cáparra welcomes spring with a festival called Floralia, a celebration in honor of the roman goddess Flora.
Termairum and the Way of Trajan at Baños de Montemayor
Another festival that rescues the Roman past of Extremadura is “Termarium”, with parades of the Roman Legion, with the presence of Senators and other dignitaries, the recreation of Roman military camps and multiple activities for all ages and all interest. This is an event that is organized in April at this thermal village of the province of Cáceres, where its beautiful spa invites visitors to dive into history.
Also, in “Baños de Montemayor” during the month of October we celebrate the birth of Trajan, with a hike on the called “Way of Trajan” (Ruta de Trajano), which is a walk through part of the “Ruta de la Plata”. This Roman Emperor was responsible for the present layout of the “Ruta de la Plata”.
Roman baths of Alange a UNESCO Word Heritage Site
Alange is a place that should be included in the agenda of any one wishing to discover the Roman heritage of Extremadura. It displays the original Roman Thermal Bath, which is operational in excellent conditions. Alange is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, of interest for those exploring the World Heritage Sites in Extremadura.
From bridge to bridge
The Roman route in Extremadura would not be complete with out a visit to the Bridge of Alcántara. This is engineering workmanship of the Second Century, essential for those looking for Rome in Extremadura. Of interest is the “Garrovillas de Alconétar”, a structure that is considered the oldest segmental arch bridge in the world. The bridges at the Guadiana and Albarregas rivers in Mérida should not be missed.
Remnant of roman footprints in natural spaces
There are natural spaces such as the park of Cornalvo (Parque de Cornalvo) and its reservoir “Proserpina”, the largest in the Mediterranean, which every summer converts into a natural swimming pool for Extremadura. This is another way to maintain the Roman legacy in the 21st Century.
Interpretation centers and villas
A number of interpretation centers are available for visitors, where you can discover the Roman footprints in Extremadura with an entertaining and didactic style. Some are: “Cáceres el Viejo”, Hornachuelos at “Ribera del Fresno”, “Via de la Plata” at Monesterio in Badajoz or the “Templo de Cancho Roano” in “Salamea de la Serena”. These are especially interesting for children.
Zalamea has another historic landmark, the sepulchral Distylo, which are two enormous Roman columns, over a pedestal that probably marked a funeral monument. This has been a historical monument since 1931, when it was uncovered. It is one of the few remaining in the world.
Other alternatives to discover the Roman past of Extremadura is to visit the villages of Torreáguila, Barbaño, “Majona de Don Benito”, Quintana de la Serena or the remains of the extinct village of Monroy in Cáceres. One cannot miss the portico of a temple that was in the Roman settlement of Augustóbriga, later called Talavera la Vieja. It is located on the road that leads to “Bohonal de Ibor”, as a witness to the city that was submerged under the marsh of Valedecañas.
Original article by Pilar Armero
Translated by Susana Windt
Published on September 2017