Castile-La Mancha: a journey into the universe of Pedro Almodóvar

In the vast universe of film, certain directors transcend time and space, geniuses who are responsible for leaving an unforgettable mark on film history. Pedro Almodóvar is one such visionary, a creator of stories that take us through a range of emotions, from laughter to tears and love to passion, all with a unique hallmark that it only takes a few seconds of footage to realise his touch and his rich universe. 

But what happens when these fictional Almodovarian worlds become real places we can visit? That’s where our journey begins, in the exciting world of film tourism, a booming form of travel that takes us along the footsteps of our favourite films and series. In this case, we will follow the footsteps of the great Almodóvar in Castile-La Mancha and hike along a route through the locations of his most famous films and even his fascinating life. 

Calzada de Calatrava: the town where he was born

Our journey begins in the province of Ciudad Real, specifically in the picturesque village of Calzada de Calatrava. Here, in this land of windmills and Castilian landscapes, the greatest international icon of Spanish cinema, Pedro Almodóvar, was born. His childhood and the colours of his homeland have had a profound influence on his unique cinematic style.

Windmills are the most recognisable symbol of Castile-La Mancha / Castile-La Mancha Film Commission

Calzada de Calatrava radiates charm and authenticity. Its cobble-stone streets, sunny squares, and centuries-old buildings seem like a true Almodovarian setting all on their own. In this corner of Castile-La Mancha, every corner breathes history while the façades of the houses recall the passage of time. 

Naturally, we can find some essential enclaves in the filmmaker’s biography here. For example, at calle Urbano Morales 48, we can see the house where he was born, while at calle General Aguilera 7 we can find his grandmother Raimunda’s former house.  

But the real treasure of Calzada de Calatrava is the Espacio Pedro Almodóvar, a museum that pays homage to the director’s life and work. Here we can discover memorabilia from his most iconic films alongside personal objects that help visitors get closer to the worlds he reflects on the big screen. 

It is also worth taking a look at the agricultural club and casino, the first cinema built in the town and the setting for locals to gather when each time Almodóvar has been in the running to win an Oscar. We can also visit the Municipal Park, located between the Puertollano Road and the CM-9413, a memorial to the town’s “favourite son” which is home to a sculpture of the director’s profile when he was nominated for an Oscar for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

This park also features a landmark of the Almodóvar Film Route. It is known as the “Encuadre manchego,” crafted by the sculptor Sergio García-Gasco, a native of nearby Toledo, that showcases a giant frame of a typical landscape from the region.

Almagro, the historic town with the most Almodovarian traces

Almagro is one of Pedro Almodóvar’s favourite settings for films in Castile-La Mancha. This town, where Renaissance and Baroque styles go hand in hand in one of the most beautiful, arcaded squares in Spain, has clearly left an indelible mark on the filmography of the renowned director. 

One of Almodóvar’s most recognisable links with this charming town was in his film Volver. In the heart of Almagro, the home of Agustina, played by the talented Blanca Portillo, is strategically located next to the Town Hall and very close to the wonderful Corral de Comedias within the city’s iconic Plaza Mayor. 

Another spot in Almagro that captivated Almodóvar was Calle Federico Relimpio. The director placed the adjacent doors of neighbours Paula and Agustina in this picturesque street, a space where the plot comes to life. It is here that Irene’s ghost, masterfully played by the actress Carmen Maura, wanders behind the iron gates, telling the tale of the film’s intricate narrative. Furthermore, this same street becomes the setting for the solemn funeral procession for their neighbour Paula, an iconic moment in the film.

The streets of Almagro, the setting of Volver / Travel Inspirers

Interestingly, Almagro had already been chosen by Almodóvar in 1995 for some scenes in his film The Flower of My Secret. The filming took place at two locations next to the Plaza Mayor, which happened to be just a few metres from the house that would later be used in Volver.

We can palpably feel Almagro’s homage to Almodóvar at one of the entrances to the city. At the roundabout on the Camino de Calatrava ring road and calle César stands the majestic work “Flor de Calatrava,” a creation by the Mexican sculptor Jerónimo Uribe. This monumental pink flower, inspired by the Calatrava cross and the title of Almodóvar’s film, is a tangible testimony to the filmmaker’s influence on this charming town in Castile-La Mancha.

Granátula de Calatrava, another tribute to the artist

Our route continues by taking us to Granátula de Calatrava, separated from Almagro by only a dozen kilometres along the CM-413 road.

The plot of Volver (2006) begins in the municipal cemetery of this picturesque village where the characters Sole, Raimunda, and Paula spend time cleaning the graves of their loved ones on All Saints’ Day.

The Castile-La Mancha Film Commission offers a map of film routes in the region

In the heart of the village, a peculiar sculpture that pays homage to Almodóvar awaits us. It is an imposing steel-heeled shoe, standing majestically at a height of three metres and weighing a tonne and a half. This work is the creation of the talented Catalan sculptor Enric Plà i Montferrer and, although it bears the title “Feminidad II,” in the words of the artist, “it reflects the provocative character of the director’s female characters.” Undoubtedly, this gigantic high-heeled shoe is a subtle nod to the film High Heels, a cinematic work that left a profound mark on Almodóvar’s filmography.

Puertollano, more cinema please

Our cinematographic route continues in the city of Puertollano, where Pedro Almodóvar himself chose the Municipal Auditorium for the world premiere of his acclaimed film Volver. At this event, the director walked the red carpet alongside some of the film’s actresses. Blanca Portillo, Carmen Maura, and Lola Dueñas joined Almodóvar at this memorable premiere full of symbolism.

A monument that marks another landmark on the Pedro Almodóvar Film Route stands on the Plaza Mariana Pineda, right in front of the Auditorium. This impressive four-metre-tall steel rectangle weighs more than 4,000 kilograms. This majestic work, dubbed “More cinema, please” by its creator and sculptor Manuel Vicente Martín, features one side with the engraved initials of the director’s name and surname. The other side bears the silhouette of an old camera in a clear homage to the seventh art and its influence on Almodóvar’s work.

Other Almodovarian locations

Another example is the ghost airport of Ciudad Real, the landing place for the plane in the comedy I’m So Excited!. The stately La Quinta de Mirabel manor house in Toledo is the setting for a large part of the story of The Skin I Live In starring Antonio Banderas.

Ciudad Real Airport, one of the most filmed airports in Spain / Castile-La Mancha Film Commission

But we all know that the best of Pedro Almodóvar’s route is likely yet to be filmed so new milestones will likely be added to this exciting journey through the lands of Castile-La Mancha.

One result of this is that in 2023 Castile-La Mancha Tourism Office created one of Spain’s best film and tourism campaigns

Both Almódovar and other filmmakers know that this vast region in the centre of Spain combines scenery with a variety and richness that is hard to beat. This is well known by the Castile-La Mancha Film Commission, regular filming partners of the many productions that pass through its territory.

So, whether you want to do the Almodóvar* route or any other of the suggested routes, don’t forget to take this region into account for your next getaway.

By José Miguel Redondo (Sele). Travel Inspirer

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