If you want to delve deeper into the Spanish ceramic tradition, consider a trip to Talavera la Reina, 76km (47 miles) west of Toledo, where most of the best pottery is made. Since Talavera is the province’s largest city, it is hardly a picture-postcard little potter’s village. Most shops lie along the town’s main street, where store after store sells distinctive pieces in the characteristic multicolored designs. Make a point of visiting the “ceramic Sistine Chapel,” as the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Prado ★, Los Jardines del Prado 6, is known. The stunning Museo Ruiz de Luna, Plaza de San Agustin 13 ([tel] 925-800-149; www.patrimoniohistoricoclm.es; free; Tues–Sat 10am–2pm and 4–6:30pm, Sun 10am–2pm), is built on the site of a 10th-century convent and traces the design evolution of Talavera wares from the 16th through the 20th centuries. From February (when they arrive from Africa) until August (when the chicks fledge), you’ll also see storks nesting on Talavera buildings.

While wandering through the heart of Toledo is a delight, it’s almost as memorable to view Toledo from afar. In many respects, it still looks as it did when El Greco painted it. For the best perspective, you will need a car. Take the Carretera de Circunvalación, the road that runs 3km (1 3/4 miles) on the far bank of the Río Tajo. This road makes a circular loop of the river from the Alcántara to the San Martín Bridge. Clinging to the hillsides are farmsteads (cigarrales) with rustic dwellings and extensive olive groves. The cigarrales of the Imperial City were immortalized by Tirso de Molina, the 17th-century dramatist, in his trilogy Los Cigarrales de Toledo.

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