PALENCIA, 47km north of Valladolid, is Castile’s least-known city, and capital of a small and equally unheralded province of the same name. That it has a rich past goes without saying, especially in Roman and medieval times – Spain’s oldest university was founded here in 1208, though it was later swallowed up by that of Salamanca. But today’s modest city of 80,000 has no great sights, though the authorities are working hard to promote what little is left: there are pretty riverside gardens, famous Semana Santa processions and numerous restored plazas, most dominated by churches built in a rather gaunt white stone, but while all are diverting, none – save the cathedral – is outstanding. It’s actually in the wider province that Palencia reveals its charms, especially in the north in the so-called Montaña Palentina – a region of peaks, lakes and Romanesque churches – but also along the Palencian section of the Santiago pilgrimage route.

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