Villafranca del Bierzo

 This is the historic and cultural centre of El Bierzo. It has been famous since the 10th century. In the 12th century half people in the town were foreigners from all over Europe. This explains the talent for moderation and sensitivity which has always been evident in the townspeople. The monks of Cluny III, who really promoted the way to Santiago in France, founded the priory of Santa María de Cluniaco and took over vineyards. Six years before to discovery of America, King Fernando and Queen Iasbel established the Marquisihip of Villafranca. The second marquis (1494-1553) was viceroy of Naples and since then the town has been linked with State politics. It has now been named a “Town of National Historic and Artistic Interest”.
   There are numerous interesting examples of religious, civil and military architecture. The urban layout, based on the 15th to 18th century buildings, is almost complete. The narrow streets, some of which are cobbled and walled, and most of which are steep, house , house, magnificent churches, palaces with coats of arms and simple yet beautiful houses. In autumn, the patina of ochre and gold which envelops the town as the sun sets is of the same colour as surrounding rolling hills covered with vineyards.

   Villafranca del Bierzo is in "El Bierzo" region. A beutiful district of 2,900 km2 situated in the west of the beautyful province of León. It borders on the north with Asturias, and on the west with Galicia. It is a transition district, but is of great personality.
   The name BIERZO comes from Berg-idum, meaning mountainous land. The district is fact surrounded by a cirque of mountains with heights of between 1.200 and 2.000 metres above sea level. There are also numerous elevations of between 600 and 1.000 metres with such unusual valleys and dells between them that they are genuine natural mini-districts. Throught them run rivers and streams of crystal clear water, which join up with the River Sil to run down to the Atlantic Ocean. Until quite recently panners flocked to the Sil to extract its nuggets of gold. .