Las Vistillas, Viaduct & Calle de Segovia
Lonely Planet review for Las Vistillas, Viaduct & Calle de Segovia
Jardines de las Vistillas, the leafy area around and beneath the southern end of the viaduct that crosses Calle de Segovia, is an ideal spot to pause and ponder the curious history of one of Madrid’s oldest barrios. Probably the best place to do this is just across Calle de Bailén where the terrazas (oper-air cafés) of Las Vistillas offer one of the best vantage points in Madrid for a drink, with views towards the Sierra de Guadarrama. During the civil war, Las Vistillas was heavily bombarded by Nationalist troops from the Casa de Campo, and they in turn were shelled from a republican bunker here. The adjacent viaduct, which was built in the 19th century and replaced by a newer version in 1942, would also become a place associated with death, albeit of a different kind. It was the suicide launch pad of choice until plastic barriers were erected in the late 1990s. They obscure the views, but one assumes the local death rate has dropped, too. Before the viaduct was built, anyone wanting to cross over was obliged to make their way down to Calle de Segovia and back up the other side. If you feel like re-enacting the journey, head down to Calle de Segovia and cross to the southern side. Just east of the viaduct, on a characterless apartment block (No 21) wall, is one of the city’s oldest coats of arms. The site once belonged to Madrid’s Ayuntamiento. A punt would ferry people across what was then a trickling tributary of the Río Manzanares. Climbing back up the southern side from Calle de Segovia you reach Calle de la Morería. The area south to the Basílica de San Francisco El Grande and southeast to the Iglesia de San Andrés was the heart of the morería (Moorish quarter). The Muslim population of Mayrit was concentrated here following the 11th-century Christian takeover. Strain the imagination a little and the maze of winding and hilly lanes even now retains a whiff of a North African medina. Another option is to follow Calle de Segovia west, down to the banks of the Manzanares and a nine-arched bridge, the Puente de Segovia, which Juan de Herrera built in 1584. The walk is more pleasant than the river, a view shared by the writer Lope de Vega who thought the bridge a little too grand for the ‘apprentice river’. He suggested the city buy a bigger river or sell the bridge!