Mike Zollo’s Story
Sayalonga is a ‘pueblo blanco’ in the eastern part of the Axarquía, the wedge-shaped area between mountains and sea to the east of Málaga. The main part of the village sits along a ridge projecting from the mountainside of La Rábita, between a river and a smaller stream. The ridge was inhabited during prehistoric times, then by Phoenicians and Romans, and was an important morisco village.
The Romans gave the village its name because it resembles a long dress laid out along the ridge to dry. The village is well kept, and although recent refurbishment of the Plaza Rafael Alcoba meant removal of two beautiful jacaranda trees, the overall effect is pleasing. This plaza, the focus for fiestas and related performances, comes alive during the Friday morning market and most evenings except in winter, having two restaurants providing open-air dining. As well as the Museo del Níspero, a series of ceramic plaques around the village recount its history; Sayalonga boasts the narrowest street in the area, the only circular cemetery in Spain, and even la Fuente del Cid, where the great national hero is reputed to have drunk…..
With a population of about 900, Sayalonga is pretty without being twee, and is very much a working village. Many locals are constructores working around the Axarquía, but others work in service industries or professions. Most have a finca of some sort in the valley or on the hillsides. The village claims to be the ‘Paraíso del níspero’; among other agricultural products are olives, mangoes, avocados, citrus fruits and grapes; indeed, the speciality of one of the village restaurants is ‘pollo a las pasas de Sayalonga’. Our aim was to find a house in a village into which we could integrate, and Sayalonga is great in this respect; it helps that we attend the parish church, and that one of us is fluent in Spanish, the other being pretty competent. It also helps living next to the ferretería. Our house was built 10 years ago on the site of a 1920s house owned by a locally well-known lady: we are known in the village as ‘los de la casa de María Villarín’! My wife’s illness has shown how supportive the community has been, indeed they have contributed hugely to her current good state of health.
Sayalonga’s location is ideal for anyone who loves both sea and mountains, being the first village on the mountain road up from the coast. One has the choice of the nearest beach at about 20 minutes’ drive, and several others, each with different characteristics, within 25-40 minutes. In the other direction, as the mountain road curves around the foothills of the Sierras, there are several lovely villages, each with its own offerings in terms of restaurants and bars as well as architecture and scenery. Then close by there is the beautiful Parque Natural de las Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama.
As regards gastronomic delights, in addition to the bars and restaurants in Sayalonga and neighbouring villages, along the coast chiringuitos abound; the fish and seafood is as fresh as possible thanks to the proximity of the fishing port of Caleta de Vélez. As for recreation, one can walk in the hills and mountains, cycle on the mountain roads, or for more leisurely exercise one can walk or cycle along coastal promenades and cycle paths for many miles in either direction from Algarrobo Costa, the nearest seafront.
For those not keen on sea swimming, the village pool is open in July and August, and there are very good indoor pools at Cómpeta and Torre del Mar which are open all year. Near Canillas de Albaida, horse-riding is available along mountain tracks with stunning scenery.
No Spanish community would be complete without its fiestas: Sayalonga is no exception! In addition to the usual religious festivals, early May sees the Fiesta del Níspero, with cultural events and the distribution of free nísperos and drinks in the village square, the fiesta de la Virgen de Sayalonga and the Romería… the list goes on!
All in all, Sayalonga has proved a great place to live, albeit for only part of the year in our case, indeed it has exceeded our expectations!