The earliest human settlements in Alcoy date back some 40,000 years. Since then, Alcoy has been the economic and cultural centre of L’Alcoià, one of the most emblematic inland regions in the province of Alicante.
From remains found in the area known as El Salt, we know that people have been living in Alcoy ever since the Neanderthal era. Early settlers would have found a landscape criss-crossed by rivers and with a plentiful supply of game to hunt for food. The World Heritage Site cave paintings at La Sarga provide further proof that humans lived here as far back as the 5th millennium BC.
The Iberian settlement of La Serreta reached its height between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. The settlement included a religious site where a large number of terracotta offerings have been unearthed. It is thought that the inhabitants of La Serreta were responsible for the famous Alcoy Tablets, a series of lead tablets with Iberian inscriptions that remain undeciphered to this day. When the Romans occupied Spain in the 2nd century BC, the settlement was moved, probably to La Hoya.
The Moorish occupation between the 10th and 13th centuries opened a period of progress for agriculture with the development of farming estates. The Battle of Alcoy in 1276 marked the end of that era and the start of Christian rule, symbolised by the Castle of Barxell, a fortress that dominated a large area where the fields were still being worked by the Muslim population.
In the 15th century, the militia of Alcoy played a crucial role in defending the coast in places like Denia and Villajoyosa, which were under constant attack from pirates from North Africa. In that same century the citizens of Alcoy paid a fee so the town would cease to be the property of the nobility and it passed into the hands of the Crown of Aragón.
The town grew substantially in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. During this period, Alcoy was at its most successful, both in economic and social terms. The prosperous paper and textile industries placed the town at the head of the national economy and gave rise to a wealthy middle class, whose impact on the town can still be seen in its architecture and layout.
Its contribution to Spanish history is so great that it can be regarded as one of the precursors of the country’s industrial revolution.
Other influential factors were the workers’ movements in favour of better working conditions and the country’s first Luddite revolts. Economic prosperity gave rise to a wealthy industrial middle class, as can be seen from the Modernist
buildings still standing in the area around the traditional town centre.
Nowadays, Alcoy is keen to revive its industrial activity but mindful of the need to maintain harmony with its privileged location and respect the town’s highly prized natural surroundings
Font Roja – Torretes Natural Park
Carrascal de la Font Roja Nature Park is in the north of the Province of Alicante, between the municipal areas of Alcoy and Ibi, in the Region of L’Alcoià.
The landscape is a prime example of Mediterranean mixed forest, with a mountain ridge running from southwest to northeast. Its location means there is a clear distinction between the types of vegetation growing on the two sides – one shady, one sunny – resulting in an area of outstanding natural beauty and ecological value. The highest points are the summit of El Menejador (1,356 m) and the top of La Teixereta (1,339 m).
The reserve covers 2,298 hectares and was declared a Nature Park on 13 April 1987 by the Consell of the Generalitat Valenciana, the regional government. Together with the Sierra de Mariola mountain range, the park is also an Area of Special Protection for Birdlife (ZEPA) and a Place of Community Interest (LIC).
In some parts of the park you can still find old Lime Kilns, cylindrical structures in which limestone was heated to make quicklime. This substance was used in the building industry and as a disinfectant. The farmland belongs to estates dotted around the valley. Crops are mostly grown where the soil is fertile on the gentler lower mountain slopes.
The estates are usually run by one family, with the masía, or farmhouse at the centre. The house served as family home, stables and farmyard and was the most widespread way of life and land management method along Spain’s Mediterranean coastline.
The park has six Ice Houses or Caves, large deep holes sunk into in the ground, reinforced with stone blocks and covered over with strong roofs. From the 17th to the 20th century, they provided the surrounding towns and villages with compacted snow for dietary and medical use. The snow trade played a major role in mountain regions and prompted the emergence of the ice-cream industry in nearby towns such as Ibi and Jijona.
What else to see in Alcoy
A tour of Alcoy‘s rich cultural heritage should really start at La Serreta Archaeological Site, dating from the ancient Iberian and Roman periods. Most of the artefacts from the dig are displayed in the Camilo Vicedo Archaeological Museum.
Another essential stop on a tour of Alcoy is the Castle of Barchell, built in the 12th century by the Muslim inhabitants. The chapel of Ermita de San Antonio Abad was built between the 14th and 18th centuries and is part of a set of buildings also open to visitors.
Major archaeological remains have also been unearthed in the nearby sites of Mola de Serelles, El Castellar and El Salt.
It is impossible to walk around this town of bridges and not go and see a few of them. You could join a trip out to Puente de las siete Lunas (bridge of seven moons), built to take a tram line that was never operated.
San Jorge bridge is one of the town’s most impressive sights and played a decisive role in Alcoy’s urban development.
Taking a walk around Alcoy enables visitors to follow the trail left by its history. You can trace the town’s Medieval past through its mansions or admire the grand Modernist style houses and factories and imagine what life was like when the textile industry was in its heyday.