Alcalà, a beautiful Mediterranean city

An original travel story, between science, history and modernity

During my recent trip abroad I had the pleasure of visiting an extraordinary Spanish city. My colleague, Julio Álvarez-Builla Gómez, professor emeritus at the University of Alcalá (HUA), near Madrid, invited me to participate in a Ph.D. commission. I only spent a couple of days, but thanks to him I saw many interesting things in this place. We started the tour by visiting the Campus which, for the only scientific faculties, is located outside the city. UAH has about 25,000 students and is the only university in Spain to be mentioned among the top 47 universities in the world, such as Harvard, Oxford, Princeton and Cambridge, with five-star status (QS International Quality Accreditation System Stars). After a quick visit to the Campus we moved to the centre of Alcalá, where the faculties are placed, mainly in historical buildings. Most of them remember the famous writer Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. His influence in the Spanish idiom was impressive, actually defined as “the language of Cervantes”. Since 1974 this artist has been celebrated with the “Miguel de Cervantes Award”, which is awarded to the best writers, through a special award ceremony held in the Auditorium of the University of Alcalá de Henares. The hotel I stayed in overlooks the central square, where the Rectory and Auditorium are located. After leaving my suitcases at the hotel, Julio showed me some peculiarities of the city, which has Roman origins, enriched by extraordinary buildings dating back to the period of Cervantes. Most of them include an internal courtyard of Roman architecture, which allowed rainwater to be collected for all needs. A wall chain with towers, very well maintained, delimits the town fortification. Around it installations of modern art integrate the landscape. The second day my tour continues in the beautiful Faculty of Pharmacy hosted within the Campus. What you notice when entering the building is the synergy with the numerous external collaborations, very well described by the self-explanatory thematic posters. Lunch at the Hosteria del Estudiante is a must. The name of the restaurant is not absolutely appropriate because it is a real gourmet restaurant, where you can taste the best local food and wines. Among the most typical dishes, “Migasalcalaínas con sus tropezones” and “Crostada de Alcalá with helado de dulce de leche” both very representative of the territory. To conclude the visit, Julio proposes to continue the tour to other buildings in the center including the historic “Cervantina Library” and the Faculty of Architecture. In conclusion, this trip allowed me to discover another diamond in the Mediterranean area. The history of Alcalá and the ability of its citizens and administrators to value the resources available in close connection with the University are the perfect ingredients for a successful place. Even as a simple tourist, I would certainly recommend anyone to visit Alcalá and the extraordinary surroundings that this area offers.