Postcard from Malaga, Spain: The Alcazaba and Castillo protected Malaga for centuries

The Teatro Romano at the base of the Alcazaba

Built in the 1st century BC during the reign of Emperor Augustus (63 BC-19 AD), the ruins of the Teatro Romano served as a convenient quarry for the Moorish fortress being constructed above in the 700s. Some of the amphitheatre’s columns and capitals were recycled and can be picked out in the Alcazaba.

As for the Teatro Romano, through the centuries it was filled with rubble and forgotten until “rediscovered” during a construction project in 1951. Excavation and restoration did not begin until 1995, and it reopened for outdoor performances in 2011.

Entrances to the Alcazaba were angled advantageously on the hillside to protect the Moorish fortress. Most of the Alcazaba’s remaining palatial structures were erected between the 11th and 14th centuries.

The security of the Alcazaba was eroded with the advent of artillery usage in warfare. So in the 14th century, Yusuf I (1318-1354) built a hilltop castle, Castillo de Gibralfaro, to protect Alcazaba down below.

The ascent to the castle was a climb. Upon arrival at the top, of course, we observed a shuttle bus that approached it from the other side. The climb did, however, make one appreciate its topographic advantage with commanding view on all sides, particularly of the harbor.

The descent was somewhat challenging as the soles of my shoes bore a seemingly impenetrable layer of wax from weeks of wandering around Andalusian streets coated in wax from candlelit Holy Week processions. It has taken several hundred more miles of walking to finally render the rubber soles safe again.

Following the expulsion of Moorish rulers in 1487, the Castillo remained a military garrison until 1925.

Postcard from Turin, Italy: Museum housed in palace transformed by extravagant tastes of royal widows

When the House of Savoy chose a site for a new castle in Turin in the early 14th century, the rulers took advantage of the original protective Palatine gate and towers constructed under the rule of Emperor Augustus (63 BC-14 AD).

In 1637, Regent Maria Christina (1606-1663) chose the castle as her personal residence and remodeled the palace to suit her tastes. Six decades later, the Parisian-born widow of her son, Charles Emanuele II (1634-1675), made the palace her own.

Marie Jeanne Baptiste (1644-1724) ruled as regent for her son, Victor Amadeus II (1666-1732). The young king encountered some difficulties ending his mother’s interference in the kingdom’s affairs, finally wrenching full control from her in 1684).

Like her mother-in-law, Marie Jeanne was known as Madama Reale, and their sumptuous residence was referred to as Palazzo Madama. Among the extensive changes she commissioned were a southern veranda and chinoiserie embellishments fashionable at the time. Architect Filippo Juvarra (1678-1736) began to transform the palace for her by designing an elegant white stone Baroque façade, but construction was halted in 1710 before she could alter more than one side of the palace lording over Piazzo Castello. At the time of her death, Madama Reale was not only the mother of the King of Sardinia but also grandmother of two other royal monarchs – King Louis I (1707-1724) of Spain and King Louis XV (1710-1774) of France.

Later, the palace served as the Royal Art Gallery, as the first home of the Senate of the Kingdom of Italy and, since 1934, as the home of as Turin’s Museum of Ancient Art, Museo Civico d’Arte Antica.