Morella is a medieval town in the province of Castellón, approximately 180 km north of the city of Valencia in Spain. There are few walled towns around the world (Carcassonne in France, Dubrovnik in Croatia and Diyarbakir in Turkey are classic examples that spring to mind) that can match the magnificence of Morella. As you approach Morella (map), one can’t help but be impressed by the massive walls and imposing towers that protect the town. The Morella castle sits proudly atop the hill. It is an unforgettable sight.
What to see in Morella
We entered the town through the stunning Sant Miquel gate, with its striking twin towers. I didn’t have much knowledge of the history of Morella but walking through this gate, it was clear that this heavily-fortified town was an important centre centuries ago that must’ve seen many a war. Our guide was quick to affirm this. Many of the ancient powers occupied this town at some stage; from the Greeks and the Carthaginians, to the Romans and the Moors. The town played a pivotal role during the Napoleonic Wars and the Spanish Civil War, and helped shape the course of the history of Spain.
Nowadays, the town is a serene place that begs to be explored. There are many things to see and do. Inside the walls are a labyrinth of streets, lined by charming houses with their characteristic hanging balconies and gorgeous buildings in a multitude of styles, ranging from Romanesque to Gothic.
As we walked along the cobblestone streets, the first thing I noticed were the gorgeous shops selling all kinds of local produce. The sight of dozens of sausage varieties, olive oils, honey, cheese, wines and my absolute favourite, black truffles, made my mouth water. I took my time exploring the shops and savouring the scents of cured meats and cheese. Striking up a conversation with the shop owner was easy enough (I don’t speak Spanish but food is a universal language isn’t it? 🙂 ) and I found myself going from one tasting to another: chorizo, honey, jams, cheese, truffles and olive oil. It was absolutely delightful.
We soon discovered that Morella is a true culinary paradise that takes its inspiration from the large variety of local produce. Dishes that Morella is especially famous for include ‘ternasco’ (Morellan leg of lamb), ‘gallina trufada’ (truffled hen!), ‘perdiu en escabetx’ (marinated partridge) and various wild mushrooms. We stopped for lunch at Restaurante Casa Roque, a lunch I won’t easily forget!
I wandered along the main street, Blasco de Alagón, and soaked up the lovely atmosphere. The town elders sat under the arches of ancient arcades chatting boisterously while enjoying a coffee and a cigar; vendors showed off their produce of the day on rickety wooden tables; and day-trippers filled their bags with sausages, cheeses and wines.
The Romanesque-style houses and the Gothic façades of the historic buildings, such as the Ajuntament (Town Hall), were especially striking. Elegant staircases led up and down from the Blasco de Alagón, offering beautiful vistas of the castle atop the hill or the verdant valley below.
We stepped into the Gothic cloister of the Convent of Sant Francesc, a serene oasis with a stunning view of the castle high above.
The main road wound its way gradually to the Archpriest’s Church of Santa Maria la Major. This architectural jewel has two portals and a striking blue dome. Once inside, I was completely bowled over by the impressive spiral staircase, the church organ and the breathtaking gold-gilded alter-piece.
From the Archpriest’s church, several lanes wind their way further up the hill to the castle. It’s a steep climb but the panorama of the surrounding hills and valleys is certainly worth the effort.
Morella is absolutely worth a day-trip, or longer, from the coast or from Valencia. The easiest option is to hire a rental car so you can explore more of the surrounding region as well. If you visit Morella, make sure you plan sufficient time for a meal in one of the many restaurants or mesón to experience authentic Morellan cuisine.