In Cáceres, I’m greeted by José Polo and Toño Pérez, the owners of Atrio, one of 13 restaurants in Spain (and the only one in Extremadura) with three Michelin stars. Ask locals about the couple, both in their early 60s, and you’ll hear about the attention that their establishment has drawn to the city since it opened in 1986.
Lively little areas, such as around the Plaza San Juan, are filled with foodie spots and small shops selling handicrafts and other local goods. Outside the walled town, the leafy Paseo de Cánovas makes for a charming walk, where food markets sometimes pop up; Calle Pintores is a busy commercial street, while Calle San Pedro is good for souvenirs and admiring the attractive façades of the buildings, before enjoying al fresco drinks at the bars on the Plaza Mayor.
Here I meet Marco Mangut, a tour guide, who explains that the Plaza Mayor is among the 10 largest squares in Spain. He goes on to tell me about the Roman, Visigothic, Moorish and Catholic occupations, whose traces can be found in the defensive fortress of Cáceres’s Old Town.
Mangut has been showing tourists around his home town for 24 years and takes me to the late-gothic Co-Cathedral of Santa Maria. Among the engravings on its cedarwood altar is St George, patron saint of England and also Cáceres. From the bell tower, our view extends over the city’s monk-and-nun tiled roofs, out to the hilltop sanctuary of the Virgen de la Montaña.
Built during times of civil conflict, the homes of the nobility in the old town resemble forts, many with towers – but their turrets have been cut off. Queen Isabella I of Castile ordered this in the 1400s, a symbolic castration to ease tensions between feuding families.