The little town of Novelda has been an unexpected surprise in our trip in Spain last year. We went there for two weeks volunteering with a work-exchange project (have a look at workaway platform), having no idea of what to expect from the place, but we ended up loving the town!
Hidden in the municipality of Alicante (Valencian Community), far away from the touristic circuit, Novelda has still a lot to offer to the intrepid visitors exploring unknown lands: Art Nouveau masterpieces, a triangular tower, salty lakes and a beautiful park.
Modernist Route in Novelda
One of the main attraction in Novelda is the Modernist Architecture, a branch of Art Nouveau developed in Spain, that makes big use of organic forms, floral painting, stuccoes and painted ceramic tiles called Azulejos. Also the mosaic technique of "trencadis" introduced by Antoni Gaudi, is quite popular.
The Modernist route (Ruta del modernisme) in Novelda is first stopping at the Modernist House-Museum designed by Pedro Cerdan Martinez and built between 1900 and 1904. It's an impressive and very well preserved residence, that is possible to visit for free during opening time. It's built over 3 floors, that are giving shelter to the original furniture, stuccoes, paintings and an exhibition of Modernist memorabilia. The organic stairs at the ground floor is what I most enjoyed of the house.
Sanctuary of Santa Maria Magdalena
There are other secondary modernist buildings to visit in the town, but if you are in a hurry you can skip them and go straight to the other masterpiece we found in Novelda: the Sanctuary dedicated to Santa Maria Magdalena, patroness of the town. It is a little bit out of downtown on top of a hill, but easily reachable by bicycle. It was designed by the local engineer Jos? Sala, with a clear inspiration from the Sagrada Familia of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona.
It's a really beautiful example of Spanish Art Nouveau, made out of stones arranged to make it looks natural, with curved windows, statues and azulejos all perfectly integrated to create a masterpiece.
Three stone vaults, made of beautifully carved pieces, are framing paintings in the facade and two 25 meters high (100 feet) towers are completing it. It's worth to have a look at every single detail, and the different use of materials: stones, pebbles, bricks. If I can't stop praising the exterior of Santa Maria Magdalena, the same is not true for the interior, that looks banal and uninspired. It's hard to believe that it was the same mind to design the two parts. The only thing of interest inside the church, is an organ completely made out of marble. It's the only one of this kind in the world, work of the artist Ivan Larrea, still to be finished. The entrance to the sanctuary is free also in this case.
El Castillo de la Mola
Just a few steps on the back of the Sanctuary, is staying the castle with the triangular tower of Novelda, "El Castillo de la Mola" built during the 12th century over a previous Roman fortress. Locally known in Novelda because of the unusual shape of its tower, it's worth a visit for the view over the valley that it's possible to have from the top.
Salty lakes of Novelda
On the valley facing the castle there are several natural lakes, known only by locals, where it's possible to go to chill out and take a refreshment from the torrid sun of the summer. They are all quite small, pond-sized, but very interesting: in fact the water is salty, and it's forming all around nice shapes of salt crystals, and one of the lakes is having a reddish color because of the iron reach water.
If you are impressed so far with what the unknown spanish town of Novelda has to offer, you have to know that it's still not finished!
El Parque del Oeste
Going back into town, at the beginning of the urban area, there is an ancient necropolis, that despite its historical and archeological importance looks completely abandoned.
Remaining at the edge of the town, there is a nice park, called Parque del Oeste (West Park) or Parc Dels Dolors. Even here the influence of Antoni Gaudi with his Park G?ell is easily recognizable, from the wide usage of the mosaic tequnique called "trencadis". In the park it's possible to take a nice walk among palms, stone sculptures and fountains. There is even an open air theatre that seats up to 2000 people immersed in the vegetation.
Casa l'Art: ending the day with cup of tea
And to complete the day, is not to be missed a visit to a local "teteria" to relax and taste a cup of tea. Our suggestion is to visit the tea-house of Casa l'Art, where we volunteered these two weeks, set in a traditional building with a nice garden. Here you'll find the former international dancer Joan to welcome you in his nicely arranged house with a nice view over the town. And if you see a big lizard made out of pebbles at the entrance, it's the piece of art me and Oti made during our volunteering period!