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Carcaixent: stately homes and spectacular countryside
Contrary to what coastal dwellers often believe, there is indeed civilisation between the Valldigna and Valencia. Yet, as much of it is overlooked by European tourists and day-trippers from elsewhere in the region, it is easy to forget.
Next time you are on your way to Valencia airport, set off a few hours early and head inland to uncover some of the buried treasures off the beaten track in the province.
In the heart of the Júcar valley and at the end of a disused railtrack that used to run to Dénia in the times of the raisin trade, back in the 19th century, Carcagente – or Carcaixent in Valenciano, its official title – is a picturesque hideaway whose traces of Roman and Mediaeval Islamic civilisation remain intact.
Despite being surrounded by rice-fields, orange groves and mulberry trees and accessible only by a CV-road, Carcaixent is close to the dynamic, modern city of Alzira and has an increasingly cosmopolitan population, as evidenced by the British school on the outskirts, which in fact has pupils of numerous nationalities, given that six per cent of the town’s headcount comprises foreigners.
In fact, Carcaixent has always attracted visitors from afar, as it sits on the pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostela, known as the Vía Augusta.
A glance at the town itself reveals Moorish houses with blue-tiled domes, typical of the Valencian region, contrasting sharply with the chimneys of silk and linen factories which were set up decades ago but still provide employment for many local people.
Although, like most towns in the province of Valencia, Carcaixent started out life as a Moorish farmstead, Roman remains have been dug up in the area, revealing that its history goes back more than a millennia before the Islamic invaders set up camp.
Nowadays, with two monasteries, a palace, four impressive churches and numerous stately homes dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries, not to mention miles of peaceful, green countryside, Carcaixent – despite being just 30 minutes north of Gandia – is a fascinating hidden corner of the region with more than enough attractions to keep the curious visitor entertained for several days.
As there is no shortage of casas rurales in and around Carcaixent, should you live just a little too far away to get the best out of it in a day, there is no excuse not to escape the crowds of the coast and make a weekend getaway out of it.
WHAT TO SEE
Monasterio de Aigües Vives
Nestling in the centre of the Valle de Aigües Vives, which lies on the edge of the CV-50 (Tavernes- Alzira road), the monastery of the same name (main photo) is a spectacular work of art.
Its magnificence seems incongruous with its location, on the edge of a town of just 21,000 inhabitants. Although the first stone was laid in 13th century, work did not really begin on the monastery for another 300 years and took a further two centuries to complete.
The stunning Baroque complex, with its numerous chapels and adjoining church, was abandoned in 1835 during the period known as the desamortización (during which all land and property considered ‘non-productive’ in an economic sense was auctioned off, amongst other reasons, to settle public debts).
Recently, however, the building has been carefully restored and is now open to the public as a restaurant and hotel.
Carcaixent’s other monastery, the Corpus Christi, was not so fortunate. Of the splendid Baroque-Neoclassic complex, which dates back to the mid-17th century, only the church remains.
Once a playground for the rich and famous, it is no surprise that Carcaixent has plenty of impressive houses that once belonged to members of the aristocracy.
The palace of the Marqués de Montortal, often known as the Palacio de
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