Viana is the last Navarrese town on the Pilgrim's Way, on the border with La Rioja just 3.5 kilometres from Logroño. Fields of cereals, vines, almond and olive trees surround this small town of 4,000 inhabitants, distinguished by the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela
and the economic and cultural boom it experienced between the 16th and 18th centuries. This era has left us some fascinating examples of civil and religious architecture. A brief history
King Sancho VII 'the Strong' officially founded Viana in 1219 with a clearly defensive objective against the Kingdom of Castile. Perched up on a hill, the urban layout is that of a fortified square, with narrow streets surrounded by part of its thick medieval wall. It was a frequent command post for monarchs. In 1423, King Carlos III 'the Noble' created the title of Prince of Viana; today, Prince Felipe of Spain and his wife Princess Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano hold the title of Princes of Viana, and turned the town into the head of a Principality made up of 14 villages.
Viana experienced its greatest development between the 16th and 18th centuries. After obtaining the status of city in 1630, the nobles who settled there gave orders for numerous civil and religious buildings to be constructed.Religious architecture
In Viana you will find two major examples of religious art: the churches of Santa María
and San Pedro. The majestic church of Santa María is one of the most striking monuments in the town
. It was built between 1250 and 1312 in Gothic style. The tower and the southern doorway were added, in Renaissance style, in the 16th century. At the foot of the church, under the slabs of the atrium, lie the remains of the soldier, prince and cardinal Cesare Borgia, who died close to Viana in 1507.
Although the 13th-century church of San Pedro is in ruins its Baroque façade dating from the 18th century is still in good condition, with a niche that houses the image of St. Peter, and the old cemetery, which has now been turned into a park. From here you can enjoy a wonderful view of the medieval walls and the nearby lands of La Rioja and Álava.
Other interesting religious buildings in the town and its surroundings include the convent of San Francisco and the chapels of Our Lady of Cuevas, Trinidad de Cuevas, Las Cruces, Calvario and San Martín de Tidón.Civil architecture
Viana also boasts numerous palace-houses with noble coats of arms, such as those of the Añoa and Busto families on Calle Santa María; the stately façade of Tuscan pilasters of the Ripa family home; the eaves and large interior dome of the Ichaso mansion; the wrought-iron balconies of the Múzquiz-Aldunate family house; the palaces of the Dicastillo, Urra and Cereceda families and the former hospital of Our Lady of Grace, now a Cultural Centre and Public Library.
The two baroque buildings, both dating from the 17th century, are also very interesting: one in the Plaza del Coso, with an encircling balcony that served as the box of honour during bullfighting festivals, and the one in the Plaza de los Fueros, with a colonnade, Tuscan pilasters and a coat of arms is the actual town hall.Gastronomy
If you are a lover of good food, the town's Gastronomic Weekend is held in the middle of October. The bars of the town offer a varied assortment of pinchos (tapas) which you can wash down with the excellent wines made in the bodegas of Viana and Aras, which fall within the Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin.
In addition, on 11th November the festival of St. Martin is celebrated by cooking cabbage with snails and frittata, and on 16th January the townsfolk roast potatoes with meat, chorizo and garlic. Other notable gastronomic specialities in Viana are the home-made sausages, kidney beans, españoletas and mantecadas (cookies and lardy cakes) and Pacharán (sloe anise) made at one of the oldest distilleries in Navarre. Other sights of interest
Between Viana and Logroño, do not miss the opportunity to visit the nearby reservoir of Las Cañas. It was declared a Nature Reserve in 1987 and an Area of Special Protection for Birds in 1990, and is home to numerous species and an observatory.
Along the road to Aras you will come to the Hipogeo de Longar, a funerary chamber of around 4,500 years old. Close to Viana there are also hunting areas and unrestricted fishing zones.