ZAMORA, 62km north of Salamanca and only 50km from the Portuguese border, is the quietest of the great Castilian cities, with a population of just 65,000. In medieval romances, it was known as la bien cercada (the well-enclosed) on account of its strong fortifications; one siege here lasted seven months. Its old quarters, still walled and medieval in appearance, are spread out along the top of a ridge that slopes down to the banks of the Río Duero, crossed at its widest point by a lovely sixteen-arched bridge. The city’s surviving Romanesque churches are its most distinctive feature, while the beguiling streets and squares of the old town make for an attractive overnight stay. When it’s time to move on, the obvious routes are east to Valladolid, with a stop in the small town of Toro, or north to León, via Benavente and its parador; Bragança, the first main town over the border in Portugal, is just over 100km away on a good, fast road.

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