Sixty six square metres of dust surrounded by a ring of stonework – of pillars, arched roofs and curved seats that have witnessed the countless spilling of blood. Men in ornate jackets, winged hats and tights, carrying capes and swords – parading, then lunging, spinning, then stabbing. Wearing down an animal until its last breath to tumultuous applause. Bullfighting is something I’ve never really understood, yet as I stood in Ronda’s famed Plaza de Toros, I was fascinated.
Ronda is one of my favourite cities in Spain, as it’s a pretty place with plenty to do. As I was in town for a few days, just metres from Spain’s oldest (hotly contested by Seville) and most historically significant bullfighting ring, I felt compelled to take a look.
I walked into Plaza de Toros and had the place virtually to myself. It was hot, quiet and stark shadows cast across the cantaloupe-coloured dirt. I could barely imagine the mayhem that occurred here in the late 1700s, when Spain’s legendary bullfighter Pedro Romero commanded the arena. Romero is credited as the first matador to display bullfighting as an art form, and by his retirement he had allegedly slain over 5,600 bulls.
Plaza de Toros is also home to the Real Maestranza De Caballería De Ronda (the Royal Cavalry of Ronda), which is one of Europe’s oldest and Spain’s most prestigious riding schools, dating back to 1573. I wandered behind the ring to the stables before returning to explore the bullpens – the bull’s final stop before confronting the iron-fisted matador.
Also worth a look is the museum, which lies beneath the bullring and houses historic bullfighting paraphernalia and weapons used by the cavalry during Spain’s wars. It’s all pretty macho stuff, the type of place you could imagine Hemingway sitting and smoking a cigar while he polished his shotgun (he frequented Ronda and wrote about the bullring, so he might have).
Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth a visit for the insight into Spanish culture. Entry into the bullring – which includes the museum – is seven Euros.
What’s your take on bullfighting? Have you visited Ronda’s Plaza de Toros? Would you?