A True Hidden Gem
The peculiar artist’s studio, the Fundacion Rodrigues Acosta, is often overlooked by visitors to Granada. This unique complex of a house and gardens, with a mixture of architectural styles from past centuries, is a hidden gem that should be on the list of travellers visiting the town. Its proximity to the Alhambra makes it an easy detour before or after exploring the Moorish palace but it warrants some time to explore so could be a destination outright. I had stumbled onto the Fundacion Rodriguez Acosta by accident during my research for our trip to Granada, and after our morning at the magnificent cathedral and botanical gardens, we had planned to venture to the artist’s residence after lunch.
The Corral de Carbon
First we wound our way through the alleys towards the Corral de Carbon. Tucked away in a side street at the bottom of the Realejo hills lies another remnant of the Nasrid era, surrounding a large courtyard, a building that was once used as a warehouse and later on as a storage facility for coal. Besides the elaborate archway and dome which one passes when entering into the complex there are no architectural highlights to be found and the building no mainly serves as a last minute collection point for tickets to the Alhambra. When we arrived in the courtyard with it stone fountain, there was already a long queue outside the still closed ticket office, but I guess that anyone who has arrived in Granada without securing a ticket online beforehand will try everything possible to still be able to visit the incredible Palacios Nazaries.
Strolling Through the Realejo
Soon after we were slowly strolling uphill at Realejo, bound for the Fundacion. This picturesque part of town with the cobbled streets and white, walled houses, reminded us very much of the Albaicin, albeit without the masses of tourists and the permeating stink of pee that pervades that part of town. The view over the rooftops to the snow capped Sierra Nevada Mountains was just as stunning from this side of the hills. Restaurant Carmen de San Miquel proved to be the perfect spot for a lazy lunch, serving delicious Andalusian cuisine with a wine flight for the adults, Jerome stuck to his fresh orange juice. Sitting on the terrace outside in the warm afternoon sun with a panoramic view made it a very memorable meal for the family.
The Fundacion Rodriguez Acosta
Just around the corner from the restaurant is where the Fundacion Rodrigues Acoasta located. Parts of the former studio of the artist has been turned into a museum which can be visited after the guided tour through the gardens, which explains the artist’s vision and ideology. The tours leave every half an hour and the meeting point is the reception of the building, tickets can be booked in advance. The library and studio itself are currently closed, such a shame, as I would have loved to wander through more of the inside of the house. The building itself looks like a modern, Bauhaus inspired structure at first glance but it actually is a mishmash of styles that work surprisingly well together. Jerome was not keen on visiting yet another old building, but his prejudice soon disappeared as we set foot into the gardens and I am sure other kids will enjoy it just as much.
Rodriguez’ Dream House
Our guide led us into the top courtyard, overlooking the lower sections of the garden with its fountains and cypresses. Rodriguez Acosta came to fame and won important prizes with his art works however at a point in his artistic life he found himself lacking inspiration and started to travel the world, thanks to the wealth his father had acquired in the finance sector. When he eventually returned his mind soaked with ideas, instead of returning to his brushes, he started to design his dream house, the “Carmen” as he lovingly named building. At first he received help from well-known architects and even a sculptor, but in the end he decided to go ahead with his own design and layout.
The Garden and its Courtyards
The garden is arranged over five terraced levels, incorporating the difficult terrain of the steep hills side and offers breath-taking views over Granada and the mountains in the distance. Even to a novice it is obvious that the garden consists of elements taken from the Greek, Roman and other past styles, including renaissance portals and fountains and baroque fragments. Our little group followed the guide down steps and along balconies to the lower tier, where we would discover the different courtyards. Hidden away behind cypress we stumbled onto Roman god Baccus, further on, amidst a dark pool stands Venus.
Exploring the Underground Tunnels and Caves
Our guide had mentioned the underground caves and tunnels before and soon we found ourselves in a large maze underneath the house. It was a true warren of passages, nooks and stairways covered with arches following the classicist patterns. Pre-existing, ancient caves had been enlarged and included into the gallery. Rodrigues Acosta must have loved to drift through these hallways at the height of Summer, when the heat in Granada can easily reach 40C, he also must have had parties underground with the hallways lit by candlelight, a true magical experience for all involved. Jerome really enjoyed this part of the house and probably would have loved to explore the tunnels on his own, although I can imagine one could almost get lost in the underground maze.
The Funeral Walk
Back outside in the bright afternoon sunlight and before returning into the museum of the Fundacion Rodriguez Acosta we were guided through the Funeral Walk, a narrow avenue flanked by thick cypress, the darkest courtyard in the garden. At its centre lies the burial ground of a Spanish nun, who died in the 16th century and once rested here before being moved to another cemetery, in an adorned stone coffin.
The museum holds a collection of art and artefacts by Manuel Gómez-Moreno. Manuel Gómez-Moreno, author, keen archaeologist and historian amassed a large collection throughout his lifetime and his heirs donated the artistic and archaeological treasures to the foundation after the author’s death. These relics are displayed in the museum and contain paintings, books, vases and ornaments from all over the globe. Jerome liked the Japanese masks the most, while I enjoyed a selection of tiny Chinese figures and oriental vases. We were not allowed to take photos inside the museum but if you are interested you can find the collection online.
It was fascinating to visit the Fundacion Rodriguez Acosta and we can highly recommend visiting the house and gardens when you are in town. “Carmen” is a true hidden gem and the mixture of architectural styles work surprisingly well together. My only wish is, that we could have wandered the gardens on our own, having more time to indulge in the beautiful courtyards and the views.
Morrocan Tea at Teteria Bañuelo
Winding our way through the alleys of Realejo we then went on to have Moroccan tea at the charming teteria (teashop) Bañuelo. Sitting on the terrace, overlooking the roofs of the ancient hammam and views of the Alhambra complex above, we savoured a hot tea and some sticky, sweet Moroccan treats. Discover both the Hammam and the Alhambra in our following posts.
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