A bike trip from Valencia to Paterna – We’ve mentioned several times how incredible the city of Valencia is for those enjoy biking. The city and its surrounding areas are nearly flat, with over 100 kilometers of dedicated paths, as well as the Turia Riverbed Park which spans Valencia from east to west. Today, we’ll be taking you inland along the Turia, to the small town of Paterna, where you can find cave houses that featured in Pedro Almodóvar’s fantastic 2019 film, Pain and Glory.
Almost any bike trip from Valencia begins in the Turia — the park is like a highway for bikes. You can pedal for kilometers, uninterrupted by traffic or lights, and take whichever “exit” up into the city you like. Today, we would be following the park all the way to the BioParc: Valencia’s amazing zoo, which we highly recommend. The trail continues on through the Cabecera Park, where the scenery changes as the city gives way to agriculture. At this point, biking through shrubs and fields of crops, we found it hard to believe we were still basically in the middle of an urban population center. Far in the distance, we could see the Fira València, a convention center that looks like a UFO, which just added to the bizarre, dissonant vibes.
Upon arriving in Paterna, we parked our bikes and began walking around. At first, it didn’t look any different from other Spanish towns, with its twisting alleyways, ancient churches, and small four-story apartment buildings. But there was something different about Paterna, even if it was difficult to put our finger on just what that was. We made our way to the tower, which is the highest spot in town, and taking in the scene around us, realized what it is that makes this city unique. The plaza surrounding the tower is full of white, mini-towers… and it only took a moment of reflection to realize that these were actually chimneys. Below our very feet were the cave houses of Paternal. We were standing on their roofs.
The cave-houses blend so seamlessly into the panorama of Paterna, that it would be easy to tour the city and not even stumble upon their existence. They started appearing around the 19th century, as enterprising Valencians realized they could save money on materials by making use of the land. At one point up to 40% of the town’s population lived in cave-houses, although they’ve progressively been replaced by more modern accommodations. Paterna has protected the few remaining houses, which surround the tower, as a cultural space.
It’s such a fascinating bit of architectural history, that Pedro Almodóvar decided to bring Penelope Cruz here to film the flashback scenes of Pain and Glory. The movie is worth watching in any case, but especially if you’re planning on visiting Paterna, you’ll want to check it out!