La Vila Joiosa
A town bathed by the warm waters of the Mediterranean sea. Located in the heart of the Costa Blanca, the splendid town you see today is founded on history and a deep sense of tradition.
Villajoyosa, more commonly known as La Vila (La Vila Joiosa in Valencian), is in the south of the Marina Baixa region. It is set in a fairly isolated part of the coast, enclosed by high mountains that include the Sierra Aitana range.
It enjoys an exceptionally good climate, with average annual temperatures of over 19ºC, and together with Almería, it has more hours of sunshine than anywhere in Spain.
The town is surrounded by the region’s largest area of farming land, which is crossed by the Amadorio river. It also has a fantastic beach where the water is an ideal depth for dropping anchor.
All this, together with its defensive line of coastal hills, made Villajoyosa the ideal choice for regional capital back in the 6th century BC up to the late Roman era (6th century AD) and then from the Christian occupation in 1300.
The first settlers arrived in the Bronze Age. The hill on which the old part of town stands was once an Iberian town and there is evidence for identifying it as the town of Alonis mentioned in classical literature.
Excavation work carried out on the Poble Nou Iberian necropolis have revealed many military and everyday artefacts that are now displayed in the Municipal Archaeological Museum.
During the Middle Ages people moved away from the coast because of attacks by pirates and in the 8th century the east coast of Spain was under Moorish rule under 1300, when Bernat d’en Sarria, admiral of the fleet of king Jaime II, founded Villajoyosa.
The town was protected by a castle, but the fortress visible from the town today is a more recent construction dating from the 16th century. The castle and the lookout towers in the surrounding fields are examples of Renaissance architecture.
According to tradition, on 29 July the settlers of Villajoyosa asked Santa Marta to intercede to repel a major attack by Berber pirates. From that time, she became the town’s patron saint and the Moors and Christians festival has been held in her honour since 1694.
Museo del Chocolate
This museum tells visitors the story of chocolate through the curiosities and valuable artefacts acquired by the Valor factory over its 125 year history. The museum reveals the best kept secrets of the Valor family’s long chocolate-making history, so intimately linked with the history of Villajoyosa.
The museum has plenty to see both inside and outside. Before going inside, pause for a while and look at the display of huge machines and a chocolate seller’s cart.
Two itineraries are available, one thematic and the other a timeline, making the museum easier to get around. The thematic route takes you round a display about how chocolate is packaged, sold and eaten. It also shows the raw materials, the moulds and the finished product.
The timeline follows the progress of the chocolate industry by looking at the history of three Valor factories where chocolate has been made since the 19th century.
The tour ends in the current factory facilities with a chance to try the product for yourself.
What else to see in La Vila
Visitors will find plenty of attractions in Villajoyosa. Things to do include enjoying the nearby beaches, coves and beautiful coastline, visiting interesting and valuable monuments and walking around the old quarter and Poble Nou neighbourhood, which still preserves the charming atmosphere of a traditional Mediterranean town.
Villajoyosa‘s old quarter is officially a national Asset of Cultural Interest and is beautifully preserved. Its maritime and trading tradition has influenced the very individual style of its architecture, with buildings in the layout and distribution typically seen in the Reconquest era.
One of the town’s most interesting historic and artistic monuments is the church and fortress of La Asunción, built in the Catalan Gothic style. Other places to see are Calle Colón and Calle Canalejas, lined with buildings in different architectural styles ranging from the 19th through to the 20th centuries. Another of the town’s iconic attractions are the multi-coloured houses that teeter precariously above the River Amadorio.
The old walled town was partially destroyed during the Spanish War of Succession. Some parts of the wall still stand and many of the oldest houses are actually built around remains of the old wall. These walls were built in the 16th century and are a unique example of defensive architecture before bastions were introduced.
In the Modern Era new walls were built, with the sections facing west and east fortified in the Vauban style. The east-facing sections have star-shaped straight-sided fortified bastions that are quite different to the ones in Villajoyosa. The towers along the town walls are round and solid, with a chamber on the upper floor from where cannon would have been fired.
The Poble Nou neighbourhood already existed before, but it grew rapidly when the road bridge was built in the mid-20th century. This picturesque part of town is arranged around the small Plaza of La Luz square, the setting for the traditional Pebrereta competition. Every year, on the first Friday in June, local people gather to make this local stew.
The series of nine towers dotted around the town are testament to its strategic importance.
The oldest, like the San José tower, for example, date back to Roman times. This tower is a funerary building and is part of a necropolis. Research suggests that it is the tomb of a major figure in the town’s social life but no-one knows who this person was. The structure would have originally been twelve metres high, although today only eight metres remain.
The Tower of La Cruz (also known as La Torreta) is part of a large Roman villa dating from the 1st to the 6th centuries BC. It is richly decorated with mosaics and plaster wall carvings.
La Torreta is shown in documents dating from the early 15th century, so it must have already been there from the time of the first Christian resettlements. It overlooks the farmland surrounding Villajoyosa and holds the status of Asset of Cultural Interest
The towers that stand on the farmland around the town were built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Built on to country houses, they were part of a system that passed alarm signals received from towers on the coast towards inland areas.
The various chapels – or Ermitas – scattered around the local area are also well worth visiting. Ermita de San Antonio was built in the 18th century but its bell tower was added in 1917. It overlooks the neighbourhood named after it, and is decorated with bright colours inside.
The local Casa de Cultura houses the local library, a sound library and the municipal archive and is also home to the municipal museum. There is a small auditorium in the basement for cultural events.