Gandía was settled by Greeks in the 6th century, Moors in the 8th-13th centuries and the Spanish since 1252.
In early March we travelled south from València by train to visit Gandía. Gandía has two distinct parts: Gandia, the main inland town, which has the historical monuments, commercial activity and shopping, and Playa de Gandía, the beach and port where we spent 10 weeks during the spring 2020 Covid-19 lockdown. Although Playa de Gandía is only 4 miles (7 km) outside of Gandía, during the Covid-19 lockdown it may as well have been 400 miles.
We posted a previous blog about our lockdown life at Playa de Gandía.
Once this region of Spain entered into Phase 2 in late May, we were able to book accomodations and move to the historical town. Museums, castles, monasteries and palaces remained closed during our visit to Gandía, nonetheless it was enjoyable to walk and explore. We were pleased to find plenty of stylish and affordable boutiques reopening and were able to replenish our weary wardrobe. Here is a site we couldn’t have imagined a few short months ago.
Gandía lies at the mouth of the Serpis River, 40 miles (65 km) south of the city of València, on the Costa del Azahar, in the autonomous community of València, in eastern Spain. The population is nearly 82,000.
Long before the first recorded Greek settlement, a Paleolithic site in the form of an important cave with significant paintings has been discovered in the region. Evidence has been found that early Iberians also lived on this site as far back as the 4th century BCE.
Borgia (Borja) Family
We were surprised to learn that the Borgia family were of Aragonese (Spanish) origin and not Italian. They settled in Gandía in the Kingdom of Valencia, after the Aragon king, King James I, conquered the land from the Moors. In most translations, the family name is spelled the Italian way: Borgia. The Valencian and Spanish spelling is: Borja.
The Borja’s first earned the title of Duke of Gandía in 1399 and the Los Borja Ducal Palace still stands, although unfortunately it was still closed during our stay. The header photo at the top shows a wall of the Palace and we have heard the inside is equally beautiful. Pope Callixtus III and Pope Alexander VI, Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia and the 4th Duke of Gandía, Francisco de Borgia, are 5 of the best-known historical figures of this powerful Spanish family. There are five bronze statues honoring each one of the family members, just around the corner from our apartment in the Plaza de las Escuelas Pías.
Gandía’s local library called “Biblioteca Pública Municipal Central Covent de Sant Roc” shares space with a part of the old baroque Sant Roc monastery. The library entrance faces the same pretty square as our Airbnb did and the 16 foot (5 meter) female sculpture out front of the library made an easy landmark for us to find our way home. The monastery too was sadly closed during visit.
The archaeological museum, the Ducal Palace, a convent, a monastery and a handful of churches we would hope to visit if we return to this lively small city. Of course the nearby beaches and many fiestas scattered throughout the year are also a reason to plan a trip here. We think Gandia offers a perfect blend of relaxation and activities for a long weekend of short stay.
Salud from these Gandiense,
Ted and Julia