Named after its once flourishing wineries – bodegas, Setenil is probably unique among the white villages of Andalucía. While most of them were built on protective bluffs and pinnacles, this town grew out of a network of caves in the cliffs above the rio Trejo.
The houses of Setenil, some below rocks and others on top of or even inside the rocks, create different street levels, forming charming nooks and corners. The present-day village has its origins in Medieval times and the area today officially referred to as Setenil stands on the ancient Almohad settlement.
The town name is believed to have been taken from the Roman Latin phrase septem nihil – seven times no, a phrase possibly linked to earlier invasions or skirmishes. The full moniker Setenil de las Bodegas dates from the 15th century, when its new Christian rulers The first two still flourish on the hills and rooftops of Setenil, but its wine trade was wiped out by the phylloxera insect infestation of the 1860s, which effectively destroyed most European vine stocks.
There has been a human settlement here since at least the twelfth century. Given the evidence of other nearby cave-dwelling societies, such as those at the Cueva de la Pileta west of Ronda, where habitation has been tracked back more than 25,000 years, it is possible that Setenil was occupied much much earlier. Modern Setenil begins in 1484 when the Christian armies expelled the Moorish rulers and started to develop an agricultural base of olives, almonds and vineyards. The castle overlooking the village is a Medieval fortress (14th-15th Centuries) still retains its keep and a well and the heritage of Setenil is completed by the Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación Parish Church, the old Town Hall and the Hermitages of Nuestra Señora del Carmen and San Sebastián.
Cover image via www.setenildelasbodegas.es