Fortuna is set back from the coast in the mountains of Murcia. This traditional Spanish town, with its hot springs, lets you feel the tranquil pace of Spanish life away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist towns. Set in northwest Murcia, the atmosphere of this beautiful town offers you an insight into the history of the area with the street and plazas full of atmosphere and history.
El Fuente de Fortuna is the spring around which modern Fortuna was built. The fountain structure was rediscovered in 1991 near the streets of San Leandro and San Isidro in a sad state of repair. Standing tall over Fortuna’s central square, El Iglesia de la Purísma Concepcion is easily Fortuna’s most identifiable attraction. It was originally raised between 1728 and 1744, though it has witnessed various modifications over the years. In 1998 the fabulous baroque façade of the bell tower was reformed to its former glory. The interior’s altarpiece and the grand Custodia de las Espigas are both spectacular. The Town Hall is quite modern in comparison, but it is still worth looking at. Its polychromatic stuccos and friezes are stunning – both the work of J. Medina in 1907. Especially unique is the building’s vestibule, which is decorated with oil canvases or panneaux.
Fortuna is probably most famous for its healing water of the historic spa, El Balneario de Fortuna-Leana. It was originally built in 1896, but has recently been thoroughly renovated, keeping its original charm. Its pools and baths take advantage of 126°F (52.2°C) thermal waters bubbling from beneath the ground. These waters were prized by ancient Romans and Iberians and the water’s unique composition became famous for helping with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis. You don’t have to be ill to appreciate the wonderful relaxing waters; just enjoy the calming properties of the thermal baths or enjoy a massage.
On the edges of the town there are a group of important and intriguing archaeological sites, some that date back to the Bronze Age. Just a short walk from the town, you will be able to delve into the diggings, explore sacred caves and observe the ancient Roman inscriptions. The phenomenal archaeological site of El Balneario Romano dates back over two thousand years, when it was the site of both an Iberian and Roman spa. The site is found just 3km north of Fortuna in the Sierra del Baño. Excavations didn’t start here until 1991, but more recent digs discovered that the site consists of two sections: the Hostelry and the Nymphaeum. The Hostelry is thought to date back to the 1st century AD and consists of several small rooms and two large cisterns. As the name suggests, the rooms are believed to have been lodgings for the ancient spa. Nearby, on the eastern side on the Sierra del Baño, is the 1st century BC Nymphaeum. Three successive digs between 1999 and 2001 revealed a semicircular, stepped sanctuary around a fissure where the thermal waters used to rise to the earth’s surface.
Between Fortuna and El Balneario Romano, within an outcrop of the Sierra del Baño, is the intriguing site of La Cueva Negra that’s linked to El Balneario Romano. As the name suggests, the walls of this cave are black and there are numerous inscriptions known as tituli picti. The most significant inscriptions date from the 1st century AD and detail a cult of nymphs and other divinities, like Bacchus, Esculapio and Cibeles. Archaeological work started here in the early 1980s and it is believed that it was a place of worship for both Romans in the 1st century AD and for Iberians during the Bronze Age.
Set on a small plain, only 100m from El Balneario Romano, Castillego de los Baños contains numerous tombs and artifacts. A wide variety of Iberian weapons have been discovered, along with fine examples of Iberian ceramics. Ancient ploughs and sickles have also been unearthed and tell of the Iberians agricultural prowess.
On top of a rocky outcrop, some 430m above sea level, are the ruins of Castillico de las Peñas. The site has yet to be fully excavated, but historians have concluded that the site contains several different phases. The Castillico de las Peñas survived the Second Punic war and was inhabited until the end of the 2nd century AD. Though some people believe the remains of the Castillo de los Moroas, on top of this hill was simply a lookout tower, the size of the foundations make most agree that it was a Moorish castle. It dates back to the 12th or 13th century and is one of the very few pieces of evidence of Moorish occupation in Fortuna.
There are two large parks in or around Fortuna, which offer wildlife, walking and hiking in stunning scenic surroundings and not too far away is the National Park of the Sierra Espuña.
Sierra de la Pila Regional Park sits just north of Fortuna and hosts a wide variety of wildlife and 50 km of hiking trails. Birdlife is especially prolific and there are several areas within the park officially protected to care for certain species. During your walks through the carrasco pines and large oaks, you may see eagles, hawks and the possibly owls hunting. Though they exist in the park, many of the carnivorous animals are notoriously hard to spot.
The protected landscape of Humedal del Ajauque and Ramba Salada is another interesting park area that is worth exploring. The harsh conditions from the water’s high salinity, (the highest in Europe), has stunted most vegetation, but there is plenty of wildlife around. It has been officially protected as a bird habitat and herons and ducks can be seen on the water, common kestrels sit on the shores and large eagles gracefully patrol the skies.
Just over an hour from Fortuna is the amazing Parc Natural de Sierra Espuña, with its limestone peaks, hiking trails, carrasco pine forests and remote mountain villages. Besides hiking, the park and surrounds offer mountain biking, quad biking, rock climbing, fishing and kayaking. In the winter, the mountain precipices can be seen with gleaming white with fresh snow.
Fiestas in Fortuna, Murcia
Despite a population of only 7000, Fortuna celebrates its festivals with vigour. At Carnival time in February, everyone wears ugly masks and the celebrations directly involve spectators. Everyone joins in the fun, especially the children.
Fortuna’s Easter celebrations are as busy as they are enthralling. Expect flamenco laments, parades in regional dress and massive events to mark the Night of Glory (Resurrection). Unique to Fortuna is the Kalendas Aprili, which takes place at the sanctuary of La Cueva Negra and commemorates the ancient Roman pilgrimages made to this sacred location.
On the first weekend after May 15, Fortuna celebrates the Festival of San Isidro, the Saint of rain. In 1998, the first Fiesta de Sodales íbero-Romanas was held and it’s now an annual event. There’s a great parade where people celebrate Fortuna’s Iberian and Roman heritage.
Fortuna gathers its gunpowder to celebrate the Hogueras de San Juan in June. This is a festival particularly popular throughout eastern Spain. The main fiesta is held in Alicante and should not be missed. The streets are alive with fire and the crowds are simply electric.
The most important festival of the year is held in celebration of the patron saint, San Roque and the Sodales and Romans. It takes place between the 10th and 17th of August and is a sight to behold. Besides the massive fireworks displays, and street parties, cultural exhibitions and a Roman street market, there’s a grand Ibero-Roman procession and an election of the nymphs. A dinner is held within La Cueva Negra to truly take you back to the time of the Fortuna’s first inhabitants.
Fortuna has its own style when it comes to food. Its own style separates it from Murcia as a whole. Most of it should be enjoyed with some of the local wine. Particular specialties of Fortuna include:
• Gachasmigas: A dish made of wheat flower, garlic, olive oil and sausages. Traditionally eaten on rainy days (so, you won’t have this often!).
• Empedrao: A rice dish with broad beans.
• Tortilleras: A potato and garlic omelette.
• Cocido relleno: A meat and vegetable stew. The type of meat and vegetables depends on who’s making it!
• Paella de conejo y caracoles: Paella with rabbit and snails. Don’t know it until you try it. You’ll soon be out with the locals picking snails before you know it!
Market Day in Fortuna is on Saturday, so maybe that is a day to visit this pretty Spanish town.