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A rider jumps over a bonfire. / Photo: Jesús Rodriguez Arcones

The town of Las Vegas celebrates Las Luminarias, a spectacular party in the light of the fires in honor of the patron of the animals

The small town of San Bartolomé de Pinares , belonging to the region of Alberche-Pinares, in the province of Ávila, 100 km from Madrid, is preparing to celebrate one of the most important events for its almost 600 inhabitants: the festivities in honor to San Antonio Abad (San Antón), patron of animals, and better known as Las Luminarias. For two days, smoke and fire will envelop every corner of the city with the triple objective of ridding the people of the forces of evil, driving away evil spirits and attracting health and luck to both animals (especially horses and donkeys, which once were crucial in the life of society) as for their owners ... A show that has become a claim that attracts more and more curious. This ancestral commemoration has an uncertain origin but, it is said, has been celebrated since the 18th century, when the need to keep animals healthy was vital for the livelihoods of the villagers. The festivities begin on the night of Thursday, January 16 (around 7:30 p.m.), when a score of huge fires (lights) are lit in the streets and squares, made with the bouquets that have been collected a week earlier in the forests surrounding the town. The humidity of the litter leaves a smoke (purifier) ​​of colors to come off.

At 9 pm, once all the fires are at their peak, the most awaited moment arrives: with the ringing of bells, some 200 riders are placed under the balcony of the priestly house to receive the blessing with holy water. After taking pasta and wine from the land, the entourage continues, to the rhythm of the sounds of the drums and bagpipes, the Butler (the official person in charge of organizing the party) to tour all the luminaries of the town. That is when the impressive jumps of the horses (now guided by both men and women) on the fire, while being pulled by the expectant neighbors. While some go through the biggest bonfires riding, others decide to gather around others and roast sausages, black pudding and chops until the wee hours of the morning.

The horses and their riders star in the festivities in honor of San Antón. / Photo: Jesús Rodriguez Arcones

The next day, on Friday, January 17, with the town wrapped in smoke and the hangover of the previous night, the fires are lit again, this time to celebrate the feast of San Antón, which will leave in procession from the Church of San Bartolomé Apostle , the most important enclave of the town. After religious events, there is a tasting of pasta and lemonade for everyone at the door of the parish hall, as well as music, pasodobles and jacks, contests and festivals in the Plaza de España. Finally, the act of Las Cintas, in which riders resume the prominence before the parties close (more information at www.lasluminarias.com).

Through streets and paths

With the return to tranquility after the festivities, a walk through the narrow cobbled streets of this small town located between gentle hills and pine forests is interesting to discover its monumental enclaves, such as the aforementioned church, whose origin is estimated at the end of the XV century or early XVI. It stands out for its high bell tower of 20 meters high and the altarpiece of the main chapel of the late sixteenth century, of polychrome gilt wood with a size of St. Bartholomew. It also has several hermitages, such as Our Lady of the Visitation, that of Santo Cristo and San Roque, and other places of interest such as the Plaza de Cascorro, in front of the Town Hall .

Overview of San Bartolomé de Pinares (Ávila).

For trekking enthusiasts, the beautiful natural environment that surrounds San Bartolomé de Pinares is full of roads and marked trails between streams, forests and hills (the town is 1,000 meters above sea level) of Tripa Ituero (rocky system that surrounds part Township). One of the routes is precisely that of the Miradores . The circular route, easy, about 8.3 kilometers, part of the Church of San Bartolomé and leads to four viewpoints that offer the best views of the town and the Gaznata Valley where it sits. The one of the Five Sources, the Viewpoint of the Eras of the Segoviano, the one of the Hill and the one of the Gut Ituero are the names of these natural balconies. If there is luck, you can see numerous birds of prey, including black vultures (more information at the local tourist office, on La Virgen Street, 1).

The villa is also at the crossroads of the Camino de Santiago and the Teresiana Route and has a hostel for pilgrims.

Where to sleep

Rural house El Molino | Church Street, 14 | tel .: 920 206 204 | 160 euros / 10 people maximum. Old mill in the center of town with stone walls and two floors. It is fully restored and has five rooms on the upper floor. In the living room, he still retains all his exposed machinery. The rental of the house is complete for 10 people.

Uncle Peguero House | La Paloma, 37 | Tel .: 677 23 40 14 | 200 euros / two nights. Rural house with 10 rooms located in the center of town in a quiet and rural environment, close to shops and bars. It is fully equipped and has the necessary amenities, including Wi-Fi connection.

The courtyard of My House | La Pinilla, 12, Tornadizos de Ávila | Tel .: 630 14 58 55 | from 100 euros / 6 people. Accommodation with three bedrooms and two bathrooms in the town of Tornadizos de Ávila, about 20 km from San Bartolomé, next to the Town Hall square and overlooking the river, where fishing can be practiced. The house is fully equipped with a dishwasher, microwave and washing machine and has a children's playground.

Where to eat

Roasts, stews and stews of beef (Avila Meat, Protected Geographical Indication), as well as steaks, are good options to eat around the area at this time. Also the roasted tostón, the lamb or the lamb. For the sweet tooth, it is obligatory to taste their sweets: the flowers, the twisted ones and the donuts. La Piscina bar (Camino del Barraco, s / n) is one of the best known of the town, in a natural environment with swimming pools and terraces. It is ideal for family meals. Also La Plaza (La Virgen, 19), in the center of the town, is a recommended place to have some beers and tapas. To taste the local meat, El Asador de Mariano (Sta. Teresa, 52, Barraco. Tel .: 920 28 10 29), an inn about 15 km from San Bartolomé specializing in homemade stews. In the town of Herradón de Pinares, about 5 minutes outside, La Plaza-El Negro (Plaza Mayor, s / n, Herradón. Tel .: 920 27 02 50) is a bar with good skewers and snacks. You can also eat homemade portions of the typical local cuisine.

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