Salamanca & Ávila‎, Spain

Jason R. Matheson
5 min readJan 24


The final leg of my month on the Iberian Peninsula took me across the border from Portugal back into Spain. I’d saved a couple days at the end of the trip to explore the towns of Salamanca and Ávila in the rolling hill country northwest of Madrid before my flight back to the States.

The old university town of Salamanca was a visual delight. Its historic center presented a harmonious blend of timeless sandstone architecture paired with a youthful vibe, thanks to all the students.

After consulting reviews on Google Maps, I sought out a recommended family restaurant eager to serve up my last selection of Spanish meats, cheeses, beer and tasty olives. They didn’t disappoint.

As December’s sky darkened, a light mist began to fill the air on my meandering stroll back to the hotel. Salamanca’s wet cobblestone paths and stone walls took on golden hues as amber street lights flickered to life.

The rain had cleared by the next morning. I took advantage of my late check-out time and climbed La Clerecía, a historic baroque Catholic church featuring multiple bell towers and sweeping views of Salamanca.

From the top I admired a sweeping view of Salamanca. I was impressed with the architectural cohesiveness of this important learning center in the former Kingdom of Castile.

Inside the bell towers, I leaned in to examine 125-year-old graffiti scratched into the soft sandstone. A nearby sign politely reminded visitors in Spanish and English not to touch the old bells.

After one long, last gaze over the rooftops I descended from the tower and made my way to the car. After tossing my backpack in the trusty little white Fiat, I drove southeast to the town of Ávila.

From the highway it was impossible to miss my next stop. Surrounded by remarkably-intact medieval walls and crenelated towers, Ávila beckoned this passing traveler just as it had travelers in past centuries.

The old town was much more compact than Salamanca, constrained over time by its protective walls. Surprisingly, long stretches of the walls were walkable and, needing no prodding, I clambered up steep stone steps to the top.

I soon spotted an interesting old church just outside the walls and mapped out my walking route. The Basílica de San Vicente, built in Romanesque style with Gothic features, dated to the 11th century.

According to legend, Christian martyrs St. Vincent and his sisters, Sabina and Christeta, were persecuted during the rule of Roman Emperor Diocletian (284–305). Their corpses were buried in the rock here and later a basilica was built over their tombs.

A prominent shrine, situated at the front of the basilica, was created in the second half of the 12th century. Its carvings graphically depicted the martyrdom of the three siblings complete with torture on pivoted wooden crosses and head crushing (not nice).

Back outside in the warm sunshine, I was grateful my visit to Spain came in the 21st century.


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Jason R. Matheson

I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, cars, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.