With some light industry in the larger towns, farming and tourism are the main sources of employment in the province. That said, tourism is at a very early stage of development here. Soria is practically unheard of outside Spain, and frankly is very little known even to Spaniards.
Soria Province (Castile, Spain). A gem waiting to be discovered.
Poor planning and low awareness of the great potential of this province means that visitors usually get no further than a couple of popular sites. It is also highly seasonal tourism, being concentrated mostly at Easter, a couple of weeks in August, and various bank holiday weekends. The vast majority of visitors are Spanish, and so far we see few intrepid foreign tourists.
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Not only will your holiday experience in Soria be untroubled by hordes of tourists, you will also find it harder to bump into foreign residents here than elsewhere in Spain. In Soria province, for instance, there are just 37 registered UK nationals, whereas in Alicante there are over , That means there is one Briton per m2 in Alicante, but just one per km2 in Soria. Where would you start looking for "the real Spain"?
To say that Soria has a lot of magnificent scenery and a thriving and diverse wildlife hardly puts it in a class of its own, as many other places also do. But what really sets this province apart, and is particularly striking to visitors from Northern Europe and even from Spain's own cities and coastal areas, is quite how wild and natural or "man-free" Soria really is.
The very low population density, endemic lack of investment and development, and many centuries of a hand-to-mouth peasant economy have meant that nature has largely been left to its own devices. Soria is a natural paradise, clean and unpolluted, starting with its air, its forests and its rivers. The province's natural setting comprises a surprising variety of landscapes with many different types of woodland, mountain, moorland and river-valley ecosystems.
There are a number of protected natural sites within easy reach of our village, including habitats of EC interest and special bird areas, though the entire province is a beautiful backdrop to any day out. Soria's natural heritage undoubtedly has great potential for sustainable eco-tourism. Wild mushroom collecting is currently vogue, and has spawned a number of activity-related enterprises which in time will hopefully come to offer a fuller range of organised activities for nature lovers including wild flowers especially orchids and birdwatching.
In the meantime, however, shooting continues to be the architypical country pursuit. Deer and wild boar are the main 'big game' trophies, while hare, partridge, quail and thrush are among the popular small game species. Fishing is also popular, and many of the rivers in our vicinity are highly rated trout and crayfish waters. Miles of unspoilt, unfenced countryside makes for excellent walking. There are many well signposted short- and long-distance walks, which are generally easy-going for all types of walkers, and for the more adventurous there are plenty of mountain walks that provide more of a challenge.
On- or off-road cycling is another possibility with many options available. Rural roads are well maintained and traffic-free, and the fields and forests are criss-crossed by a comprehensive network of unpaved tracks. Soria's countryside is steeped in history, and especially in the area around the river Douro it is hard to go far without coming across a historic site or building. Soria was almost certainly more prosperous, industrious and well populated over years ago when the territory was ruled by city states belonging to Celtiberian tribes such as the Arevacos, and when the Romans took over its prosperity soared, thanks in part to commerce along the road linking Caesar Augusta Zaragoza with Asturica Augusta Astorga and the gold mines of north-western Iberia.
Numancia, Tiermes and Uxama are examples of Romanised Celtiberian towns which today make for interesting archaeological visits, and the Museo Numantino in Soria is one the best archaeological museums in the country. The Romans also built many luxurious villas in Soria, and the mosaics of La Dehesa villa at Las Cuevas de Soria have recently been reopened to the public, along with a very interesting museum. In the early middle ages Soria was as far north as the Arab kingdoms of Al Andalus reached. For centuries this was frontier land, strongly militarised with a dense network of castles and watchtowers, with numerous skirmishes between the Christian and Muslim armies.
The remains of these medieval strongholds still stand on hilltops all along the Douro in western Soria. The castle at Ucero, with its elegant gargoyle-decorated keep and a secret passage that runs down to the river, also stands on an impressive site with magnificent views of the high rock walls of the river Lobos canyon. Following the final reconquest of Soria in the early 12th century, large numbers of settlers moved down from Cantabria and the Basque Country to colonise the land that had been practically abandoned for hundreds of years.
The setting up of new towns and villages coincided with the emergence of the new "romanesque" style of architecture, and many village churches and chapels built in that style still stand to this day. In a country like Spain, where the Catholic church has played such a predominant role throughout history, religious monuments are obviously a major part of the urban landscape.
The city of Soria boasts a number of interesting church visits, such as the early Romanesque church and cloisters of San Juan de Duero, the intricately carved west front of the church of Santo Domingo, often referred to as "the bible in stone", and the elegant cloisters and gothic church of San Pedro. There is a charming walk along the banks of the Douro to the hermitage of San Saturio. The cathedral of El Burgo de Osma is basically gothic, with some remains of the early romanesque church such as the beautiful and highly original painted stone sarcophagus of the cathedral's founder San Pedro de Osma.
It has an outstanding baroque bell tower and a number of notable neo-classical chapels. Mention should also be made of the beautiful renaissance collegiate church at Berlanga de Duero. For centuries, Soria has been a quiet agricultural province, and the fields and villages of western Soria bear constant witness to its rural heritage. The city preserves an important architectural heritage extensive medieval walls, Renaissance palaces and architecturally distinctive Romanesque churches and is home to the Numantine Museum with pieces from the nearby Celtiberian city of Numantia. Particularly important in its economy is the agri-food industry, while an increasing number of tourists are attracted by its cultural heritage.
It is claimed that in Roman times there was a castle called Oria, purportedly named after a Greek knight called Doricus. Based on this folk etymology, some historians guessed that the first inhabitants of this city might have been the Dorians. Archaeology has not confirmed that story.
Instead it has suggested that the first inhabitants were the Suebi , whose kings as reported by Tutor and Malo in their Compedio historial de las dos Numancias established one of their courts there. These two hypotheses have been abandoned because of lack of evidence. It seems more likely that the name Soria may have its origin in the word dauria from the river Durius Douro. The shield of Soria has the following heraldic description: In a field of gules red , a castle , of argent , crenellated with three battlements, lined up and marbled with sabre, rinsed with azure blue and a king's bust crowned with gold and with its attributes coming out of his homage, in its colour; silver embroidery loaded with the following legend: The area of Soria was inhabited by the Iberians , who merged with the Celts to form the Celtiberians around the 4th century BC.
During the Roman conquest of Iberia , Soria was besieged and its population committed a collective suicide in order to escape slavery.
At the heart of Spain's forgotten interior
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire , the rebuilt city was occupied by the Suebi. Later, after the Arab conquest of Spain, it grew in importance due to its proximity to the border of the Christian lands, which in the 8th century had settled along the Duero river. Alfonso VIII of Castile , in reward for its support, gave the city several privileges which it maintained until modern times.
In the town was stormed by Sancho VII of Navarre , but later recovered and continued to develop its splendour and trades, mostly held by a community of Jews. In it was captured and set on fire by the French troops. The economical and social crisis of Spain in the early 20th century, and the Spanish Civil War with Francisco Franco 's dictatorship which followed, had negative effects on Soria and its neighborhood, which became depopulated due to strong emigration. The policy of the current authorities aims to strengthen the local economy pivoting on Soria's tourism potential, and has also launched a programme of reconstruction for the neighbouring villages.
The poet Antonio Machado spent five years in Soria teaching French in a secondary school, before moving to the neighbouring town of Segovia. These years proved significant in his literary development. He married and lost his wife there and discovered much about the nature of the Castilian people — a subject the Generation of '98 authors were very interested in.
They formed part of a major collection Campos de Castilla.
The firewalking rituals performed at the Sorian village of San Pedro Manrique every June as part of the festival of San Juan have been declared as a tradition of National Tourist Interest and have attracted global attention through ethnographic and scientific studies and media coverage. Although Soria never was a bishopric, its St. A few kilometres north of the town are the ruins of Numantia , a Celtiberian town whose inhabitants destroyed it rather than let it fall to Scipio.
In Soria is the Museo Numantino , devoted to the archaeological remains of this site. There are also many bus lines to neighbouring cities.
A new highway has reduced the trip to Madrid by car down to 2 hours. Soria sits on the banks of Douro river, in its upper course.