Last Tuesday, the Patio Festival (2 – 13 May) kicked off here in Cordoba.
The Cordoban patios represent one of the most unique and charming features of the city.
The patios of Cordoba are the inner courtyards of the traditional Cordoban home. They are almost always elaborately adorned with plants and flowers year round. From palaces and great mansions to the humble abode, even the most modest dwellings have a patio. It’s a fundamental architectural element in most homes.
The patios are at their best during spring, when the proprietors open up their doors to the public for viewing – and the chance to win a nice wad of cash. They represent an oasis amidst the desert-like heat, which according to the forecast (alarmingly accurate in this part of the world), is due to arrive before the week is out. Each one, with it’s own appeal and personality.
The origins of the Cordoban patio go back to Roman times, when houses were arranged around an open space and used as a central meeting place.
During the Moorish period this Roman design was incorporated into contemporary architecture and saw the addition of flowerbeds and water, which is the well or fountain we see today. This is the period when the patios took on their current purpose, when they became a haven to escape the heat and relish the abundance of nature around you.
You will still find these patios spilling with mosaics, ceramic decorations, climbing plants, fruit trees, fountains, flowers and the scent of orange blossom and jasmine – they are a genuine paradise and an absolute sensual feast.
The Patio Festival is one of those authentic icons of the Cordoban May. It is sponsored by the Cordoba City Hall and has been a tradition here since 1918, when some smart fellow realised that these veritable treasures should no longer be kept hidden. Each year around 40 patios are opened up to allow the public to appreciate their magnificence and to compete for the grand prize.
There are two first prize awards of 600€, two-second place prizes of 500€ and two third prize awards of 75€ towards next year’s materials and Patio arrangements. However, it seems clear to me that the prestige that comes with winning a prize far outweighs the rather unproportionate cash winnings for these very proud patio owners.
The Cordoba Patio Festival is not just a competition. After all, in this part of the world what celebration is complete without a party? During this spring festival, there is a wide array of entertainment at your disposal. Food, drink and some of the best names in flamenco travel to the city to make the event a true celebration – Spanish style.