By Laura Del Rosso
Olive groves stretch as far as the eye can see in the ancient landscape of Andalusia, Spain’s southernmost region. The cultivation of the iconic trees, often used as symbols of peace, and the rich olive oil they produce are part of the heart and soul of Andalusian culture.
Eighty percent of Spain’s olives are grown in Andalusia and the groves are everywhere, encircling the outskirts of its centuries-old towns and cities. In the beautiful capital of Seville, local olive oil is generously drizzled on delectable small bites in tapas bars that line its lively streets, where tablaos performing spaces also invite visitors to Spanish guitar and flamenco shows.
Seville is home to the magnificent royal palaces of the Alcazar, grand squares, the ornate La Giralda bell tower and one of Europe’s largest Gothic cathedrals. The old city center feels like a magical open-air museum.
At the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains lies a central part of Andalusia’s Moorish past, the city of Granada. The breathtaking Alhambra complex of palaces, fountain-filled gardens and palatial houses made Granada an important center for centuries under Islamic and Christian rulers.
Visitors sense Andalusia’s long history strolling the streets of Cordoba, once the capital of Muslim Spain, and soaking up its unique atmosphere, made up of layers of Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Roman cultures. Cordoba’s jewel is the Great Mosque, whose fascinating architectural mix reflecting the city’s complex past dates from 784 A.D.
Outside of its stunning cities, the Andalusian countryside is dotted with scores of delightful white villages, such as Ronda and Casares, that seem to pop up like mirages atop rugged hilltops, their whitewashed houses brightened with colorful pots of flowers. The villages overlook Andalusia’s vast acres upon acres of olive trees, shining in the Spanish sun as they have for centuries.