Located in the province of Segovia, just 15 minutes drive from the city of Segovia (a Unesco heritage site) La Granja de San Ildefonso is one of the royal palaces in Spain near Madrid. Its gardens and fountains make it look like the Spanish version of Versailles.
A favorite weekend destination for Madrileños, and segovianos alike, many restaurants serve the famous cochinillo (suckling pig) and La Granja beans.
The origin of La Granja de San Ildefonso dates back to King Henry IV. In 1450, as be was hunting in the woods of Balsain, it occurred to him to build a hunting-lodge
on a beautiful spot known at the time as Casar del Pollo. In 1447 Ferdinand and Isabella gave the site to the monks of the El Parral in Segovia, and they built a Granja and a rest-house for guests. The Granja was near the village of San Ildefonso. When Philip V was hunting around Balsain castle and came upon the spot with its chapel and houses he was so impressed by its picturesque setting that he decided to buy it from the monks and build his own ‘mini-Versailles’ to serve as his summer residence and, later, as a place of retirement after his abdication. He entrusted the work to the court architect, Teodoro Ardemáns, giving. instructions that the monks’ buildings should stand unaltered.
The work began in 1721 and was completed in 1723, although the façade took until 1739. Responsibility for the gardens was given to Carlier and Boutelou. Near the castle is the collegiate church, where the king and his bride were married.
A few km. away from San Ildefonso is Balsaín, a picturesque village with the remnants of a royal palace-a half-
collapsed tower and some remains of walls. Riofrío (c. 12 km. SW): Isabel Farnese,
Philip V’s widow, used the famous hunting enclosure to build a huge palace; work
began on it in 1754 to the plans of Virgilio Ravaglio. It was continued by Carlos Fraschina and José Diaz Gamona and was eventually completed during the reign of
Charles III. It is set in a chestnut oak wood of over 1,700 acres and is constructed in
Italian baroque style. It has a square ground plan and four equal sides, each 275
ft. long. The most impressive parts are the inner courtyard, the huge staircase and the
Chapel, which has a fine coloured marble ement and an elliptical ground plan.
many rooms contain paintings and nescos by Jordán, Canducci, Bayeu, Hou-
asse, Maella, Ribera and the oil-painting La Caza (The Hunt) by Velázquez. La
Losa (c. 15 km. S.): The 15C church of San Juan Evangelista has a single aisle, a pentagonal apse, an interesting Gothic altar piece depicting St. Gregory and a Renaissance high altarpiece.