An easy hour-long bus trip from the main terminal in Sevilla, Carmona is an ancient city that dates from Neolithic times and contains important Roman ruins. Thirty-four kilometers (21 miles) east of Sevilla, it grew in power and prestige under the Moors, establishing ties with Castilla in 1252.
Surrounded by fortified walls, Carmona has three Moorish fortresses—one a parador, and the other two the Alcázar de la Puerta de Córdoba and the Alcázar de la Puerta de Sevilla. The most impressive attraction is Puerta de Sevilla, with its double Moorish arch opposite Iglesia de San Pedro. Note, too, Puerta de Córdoba, on Calle Santa María de Gracia, which was attached to the ancient Roman walls in the 17th century.
The town itself is a national landmark, filled with narrow streets, whitewashed walls, and Renaissance mansions. The most important square, Plaza San Fernando, is lined with elegant 17th-century houses. The most important church is dedicated to Santa María and stands on Calle Martín López. You enter a Moorish patio before exploring the interior and its 15th-century white vaulting.
In the area known as Jorge Bonsor (named for the original discoverer of the ruins) is a Roman amphitheater as well as a Roman necropolis containing the remains of 1,000 families who lived in and around Carmona 2,000 years ago. Of the two important tombs, the Elephant Vault consists of three dining rooms and a kitchen. The other, the Servilia Tomb, is the size of a nobleman’s villa. The Museo de la Ciudad (tel. 95-423-24-01; www.museociudad.carmona.org; 3€ adults, free for students and children) displays artifacts discovered at the site. At press time it was closed for renovations (check website for info).
If you’re driving to Carmona, exit from Sevilla’s eastern periphery onto the N-V superhighway, follow the signs to the airport, and then proceed to Carmona on the road to Madrid. The Carmona turnoff is clearly marked.
To stay overnight, try the elegant Casa de Carmona ★★, Plaza de Lasso 1, (tel. 95-419-10-00; www.casadecarmona.com). This 16th-century private home turned luxury hotel retains the marble columns, imposing masonry, and graceful proportions of the original structure. Each of the 33 units is opulently furnished in a Roman, Moorish, or Renaissance theme. Rates are 68€ to 158€ double, 148€ to 218€ junior suite.
Lovers of Roman history shouldn't miss Itálica (tel. 95-562-22-66), the ruins of an ancient city northwest of Sevilla on the major road to Lisbon.
After the battle of Ilipa, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus founded Itálica in 206 b.c. Two of the most famous Roman emperors, Trajan and Hadrian, were born here. Indeed, master builder Hadrian was to have a major influence on his hometown. During his reign, the amphitheater, the ruins of which can be seen today, was among the largest in the Roman Empire. Lead pipes that carried water from the Río Guadalquivír still remain. A small museum displays some of the Roman statuary found here, although the finest pieces have been shipped to Sevilla. Many mosaics, depicting beasts, gods, and birds, are on exhibit, and others are constantly being discovered. The ruins, including a Roman theater, can be explored for 1.50€ (free to E.U. residents). The site is open April to May and the second half of September Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 8pm and Sunday 9am to 3pm. From June to mid-September, it’s open Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 3:30pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm. From mid-September to March, it’s open Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 6:30pm and Sunday 10am to 4pm.
If you’re driving, exit from the northwest periphery of Sevilla, and follow the signs for Highway E-803 in the direction of Zafra and Lisbon. A bus marked M-172 goes to Itália, and departures are from Sevilla’s Estación de Autobuses at Plaza de Armas. Buses depart every hour for the 30-minute trip.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.