In this town you can enjoy a pleasant walk through history, heritage and nature.
Jijona, or Xixona as it is known in Valencian, is a town in the interior of the Province of Alicante. The town is world famous for being where the popular Christmas sweet of turrón is produced.
Jijona is 25 kilometres north of the capital city of Alicante, on the slopes of the Peña Roja mountain. The highest mountain in the municipality is Carrasqueta at 1,300 metres; its pass forms a natural gateway between Alicante and Alcoy.
The River Monnegre flows through the south-western part of the local area from the reservoir at Tibi on its way to the fields around Alicante. The river is named after the tiny village through which it flows.
The municipal area is covered with extensive pine and holm-oak forests growing on the high mountainsides, from which there are spectacular views over valleys and ravines, as well as over the Mediterranean sea.
Jijona‘s main source of income was always farming, until 19th century industrialisation enabled the town to branch out into producing ice-cream in summer and turrón in winter.
Agriculture continues to be a major activity and almonds are the main crop grown on non-irrigated land in the surrounding countryside, providing the raw materials for turrón.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, most of the town’s inhabitants would travel around Spain, as well as to Cuba and other Latin American countries to sell their ice-creams and turrón.
Even though Jijona’s wealth still comes from its world famous brands of traditionally produced turrón and ice-cream, the town is also the base of choice for multinational companies whose factories have boosted and diversified the local economy.
Jijona turrón has been made since the time of the Moorish occupation more than eight centuries ago. Its characteristic golden colour and soft texture makes it one of the most popular Christmas desserts. Turrón is made by heating honey, then adding toasted and crushed almonds, which have normally been shelled and peeled, and mixing with egg white. The turrón is produced as a rectangular or round tablet.
The Turrón Museum is a private institution that works to recover the technological heritage connected with producing turrón and marzipan. Visitors can follow the manufacturing process on each of its three floors.
The second floor houses all the tools and machines used in the past, such as roller mills, utensils for measuring out the turrón, moulding presses and other equipment used to make all the different varieties.
Visitors can also see how the modern turrón factory works today from a walkway and watch videos explaining the whole process from start to finish. The museum has a shop selling all sorts of products connected with turrón.
What else see in Xixona
Every single culture that has passed through Jijona has left its mark in the shape of a series of artistic monuments, some of which can still be seen today.
The Castle of Jijona, a wonderful example of Arab architecture, was destroyed in the Spanish War of Succession. The square 16 metre-high Torre Grossa from the same period, is still standing.
The town’s Medieval past can clearly be seen in its old quarter, where narrow winding streets whisk you back to the 14th century. The church of Iglesia Vieja was built in honour of Saint Mary, possibly in the 13th century, in a style that reflected the transition from Medieval to Valencian Gothic. Of the original building, only the façade remains, with its remarkable relief on the tympanum, showing the Virgin flanked by Santa Bárbara and San Bartolomé.
The Modern Era is also represented in buildings such as the Renaissance-style parish church, built between the late 16th and early 17th centuries and dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. The Convent of the Franciscan Fathers order is also interesting. The church is in the Baroque style and the chapel is Neoclassic.
During these two periods the town was completely walled. Entry was via one of its gateways: Vila, Valencia, Raval, Tibi, Castillo, Caloquia and Font.
The Avenue of La Constitución has some fascinating examples of early 20th century art.
The Church of La Asunción was built between the late 16th and early 17th century, and is Renaissance in style. A fire in 1971 destroyed the Baroque decorations inside. The high altar was remade by the artist Octavio Vicent, who rebuilt it following 20th century trends. It has an impressive square stone bell tower, topped by a curious capital of green and white flat glazed tiles making diamond-shaped patterns.
The chapel of Ermita de San Sebastián, known locally as “del Raval” is on the street of the same name. It nestles between two other buildings and has a narrow façade and a belfry. Once a house, it is built in the local style and is small and simply decorated inside.
In 1600 Jijona was under threat from the plague and, according to local tradition, there was an image of San Sebastián in this house. As the owner was doing her cleaning, she noticed that the image was weeping. This prompted the local community to take the saint’s image out in a procession. The miracle prevented Jijona from falling victim to the plague.
The Convent was founded by the Franciscan order in 1590 and is decorated in the Baroque style. The chapel was built in 1768 and there was a cinematograph inside the church. It is currently used for cultural events.
The Town Hall is also worth a visit. The Council bought the building from the Sociedad Nuevo Casino de Jijona so it could move its offices there. The first floor was destroyed by fire in 1930.
The Casa de Cultura occupies a building dating from the 1920s that was used as the Civil Guard headquarters. Nowadays it is home to the Centro de Información Juvenil (youth information centre) and has several classrooms for running courses and cultural events.
You could also take a look at the Municipal Library, based in the old country house of El Cuarnero on the east side of town and very close to the River Coscón.
The Monerris Planelles house is a fine example of the building style favoured by the middle class turrón-making families and is the work of the architect Francisco Mora.
Another interesting building is Casa Primitivo Rovira, which has a turrón factory on the ground floor. It was built in the early 20th century. Casa Rovira, which possibly dates from the 18th century, and Casa Aracil are both palatial homes that are well worth including on your tour of the town.