As May begins, the Cordoba patios of both public and private residences open their doors to visitors. What lies within these courtyards is a riot of colour and beautiful scents, and more often than not local wine and nibbles.
In 2023, the Cordoba Patios Festival runs from 2nd to 14th May. The whitewashed walls of the houses are hidden behind colourful pots overflowing with geraniums, pansies and roses, while bougainvillea and jasmine cascade from balconies and roofs.
A potted history
Since 1921, the Cordoba Town Hall has organised a competition of Courtyards and Crosses. Owners decorate their houses with many pots and plants typical of the area. A parallel festival runs for the best singers and dancers on the scene. The local fino wine from Montilla-Moriles flows freely accompanied by delicious tapas.
The patio festival is part of UNESCO´s Intangible Heritage of Humanity list, demonstrating “an integral part of this city’s cultural heritage”, with peaceful communal living.
But what is a patio?
Due to the hot, dry climate of Córdoba, the Romans and Muslims created houses around an inner courtyard (patio in Spanish) with a fountain at the centre and a well to collect rainwater. The Muslims often added flowers to the patio to give the sensation of freshness and this tradition has continued.
Due to its central, communal space, it became the centre of family life. In addition, it provides light and ventilation to the homme.
Types of Patios
Each courtyard has its own unique architecture, as time and family needs have dictated. However, they can be split into two basic groups:
Monumental and stately patios
These patios belonged to the aristocracy or went part of a religious building. Prime examples are the Patio de los Naranjos outside the mezquita, or the Palacio de Viana. The Palacio is not to be outdone boasting not one but twelve courtyards, each with a different architectural style.
All the courtyards in the municipal competition from 1921 until the present are classed as competition patios. They can be further broken down into old architecture and modern architecture patios.
The former refers to those that conserve their main structural features. The latter are patios with modern architecture which belong to houses constructed after the demolition of a previous dwelling, or which have undergone such renovation that the most significant elements are lost.
Find a map of the Patios here