10,30: Bus arrives at Villena, time for coffee
11,00: Visits to the castle and museum (treasure)
14,15: Restaurant meal and return
Castillo de la Atalaya - Villena
The castle is a landmark on the Villena skyline for its size and excellent state of preservation. It dates back to the 12th century, during Spain’s Islamic period, and was owned by the Arabs until they surrendered it to Christian forces in 1240.
That moment marked the start of the Lordship and later the Marquisate of Villena under Royal Charter to reward services rendered to the Crown by various noblemen.
Nobles included the illustrious writer Don Juan Manuel, who wrote parts of his book on hunting, Libro de la Caza, here in the castle.
The main structure is the four-storey keep tower, the first two floors of which date back to the Arab era and have lovely vaulted ceilings featuring interlaced arches, widely held as valuable examples of Islamic art in Spain. The two upper floors were added later, in the Christian era, specifically by the second Marquis, Don Juan Pacheco. The castle underwent a series of sieges and attacks during the Wars of Succession and Independence, and you can still see traces of the damage inflicted on the building. The castle was awarded the status of Historic-Artistic Monument in 1931.
The Villena Treasure
The Treasure of Villena (Spanish: Tesoro de Villena) is one of the greatest hoard finds of gold of the European Bronze Age. It comprises 59 objects made of gold, silver, iron and amber with a total weight of almost 10 kilos, 9 of them of 23.5 karat gold. This makes it the most important find of prehistoric gold in the Iberian Peninsula and second in Europe, just behind that from the Royal Graves in Mycenae, Greece.
The gold pieces include eleven bowls, three bottles and 28 bracelets.
The iron pieces are the oldest found in the Iberian Peninsula and correspond to a stage in which iron was considered to be a precious metal, and so was hoarded. The archaeologists estimate the date of this trove at c. 1000 BC.
The hoard was found in December 1963 by archaeologist José María Soler 5 km from Villena, and since then has been the main attraction of Villena's Archaeological Museum. Its discovery was published in most of the Spanish media and also some abroad, mainly in France, Germany and the United States of America. It has been exhibited in Madrid, Alicante, Tokyo and Kyoto, and now there are two sets of copies of the whole treasure to be shown in exhibitions while the originals are permanently conserved in an armoured showcase at Villena's Archaeological Museum.