We left Peniscola to travel south towards Valencia and were drawn to the town of Sagunto which is 24 kilometers north of Valencia. We stayed at a small place called Playa de Pucol which has nothing but a beach and a couple of campsites, but is within reach of Sagunto. We had to take a bus into the little town of Pucol then walk to the train station for a train journey of 6 minutes to Sagunto. All quite painless. Once at the station in Sagunto, we had to guess which way to the historic part of the city and in our usual fashion, we took a slightly longer route than was necessary. However, we managed to find the tourist information and were provided with some helpful information, a map and directions.
Sagunto has a long history due to its geographical position. There is evidence of bronze age habitation in the surrounding hills and according to the tourist information sheet, Sagunto was so strategically placed, its conquest by Hannibal led to the starting of the second war between Rome and Carthage. Ultimately, it was reconstructed under the protection of Rome and that led to an artistic and economic development. During the 5th to 7th centuries Sagunto was invaded by the Barbarian peoples and during the 8th century it was devastated by the Arabs. However, the Muslim dominance brought the flourishing of agriculture, pottery and commerce as well as the building of public baths, palaces, mosques and schools. And so it went on, with the Christian conquest in 13th century and rivalry between the Jews, Christians and Muslims.
The 20th century brought an economic boom in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Today, it is considered to constitute a pillar of the economic sector of the Valencian Autonomous Region and has the second largest population after Valencia.
We were most interested in seeing the Jewish Quarter and the castle. We had not realised there would be a Roman Theatre as well. When we were there a lively school party were enjoying the Roman ruins. The theatre seems to have been partially rebuilt and we found it a bit disappointing after Cartagena, Orange and Arles.
The route through the old town up to the castle took us past the entrance to the Jewish Quarter. The streets here were very narrow and we could imagine how it would have been before the Jews were expelled.
We passed the Iglesia Santa Maria but it was closed so not able to have a look inside. It is closely surrounded by narrow streets and the best view was from the road up to the castle. It’s construction commenced in 1334 in the same place as the main mosque of the time, and was completed at the beginning of the 18th century! Apparently its interior consists of 3 naves over 20 meters high with buttresses that form the side chapels. Such a shame we couldn’t go in. It was declared a National Monument in 1982.
The castle is nearly a kilometer long and is built on the last hill of the Caderona range. It has commanding views across to the coast in one direction and to the mountains in the other. It was tremendously windy up there too. There are different areas that had different purposes. Unfortunately the information was a bit sketchy so I am not sure what was which. It was very Roman and ruined!
The castle was declared a National Monument in 1931. It is free to visit and although there was a lady in a hut who issued us with a ticket, you are free to wander. There were signs of work going on so they obviously do their best to retain it for future generations. We were surprised not pay anything as it must take a lot of money to carry out the essential preservation work.
After our descent to sit in the Plaza Mayor with our sandwiches, we followed a more direct route back to the railway station. We were just in time to catch the next train back to Pucol and rest our weary legs for the 6 minute ride. Once back in Pucol we stocked up on essentials and went in search of a bus back to the campsite. No luck as we had just missed one and we had a 2 hour wait. Using the wonders of modern science, I googled up a taxi. Marvellous, if a bit pricey. 😐