The Alquería del Duc was a medieval fortified farmhouse built in the sixteenth century. It was bought in 1590 by Alfonso de Borja, the youngest son of the famous San Francisco de Borja, IV Duke of Gandia.
* Report by Karla Darocas. Hons. B.A. (Copyright 2019)
Alfonso transformed the straggly farmhouse into a romantic summer residence suitable for the Nobels and visiting Royals to frolic, fish and hunt. Unfortunately, due to his death in 1593, his renovations were not finished.
After his death, the property was held by his widow Elionor de Noroña from 1593 to 1596. When she decided to move her residence from Gandia to Madrid, the Royal Council of Madrid in 1596 granted the use of the property to the Society of Jesus; the religious order that her father-in-law served and made famous.
In 1600, when Leonor de Noroña died, her testamentary executors sold the farm to Francisco Carlos de Borja Centelles, IX Duke of Gandía, and his wife María Ponce de León 1700 pounds.
The building and the grounds were not utilized often but they did see one glorious spectacle in 1666.
The Hapsburg Empress Margaret of Austria (daughter of King Felipe IV), who was the small girl protagonist in the great painting Las Meninas by Velázquez, now as a young woman arrives in Gandia. She is there to visit the Dutchess. Maria Ponce de León, who is at this point has been a widow for three years as her husband died at age 39.
A route through the marsh was prepared as the Empress and the Dutchess took their stroll, while seven boats filled with musicians accompanied them. They they had a luxurious picnic.
In the middle of the 18th century, the dukes abandon their retreat. In the 19th century it belongs to the Agricultural Local Chamber and then finally to the Gandia City council who qualified the building as a hospitality school. To rehabilite the building, the interior was empyed of its contents and the exterior was reformed.
Today, this is one of the most idyllic places in the whole of the Gandia region run by the Ministry of Tourism whereby it is utilized as a centre dedicated to training students in the hotel and tourism trades.
It is a square fortress farmhouse with a central patio. It consists of two floors. In its day, the ground floor was the barn space for horses, tools, supplies and other service storage. The upper floor were used for by the Dukes as their living quarters with a chapel and bedrooms decorated with luxurious materials.
The outer construction is made in the medieval method of mending irregular stones together with mortar. The corners however, are edged and supported with ashlar (cut stone) bricks, as are the door frames, cornices and the four towers the crown the building.
From the defensive point of view, in addition to the angular stone towers that stand on the top floor, there are other characteristic elements such as small windows and hollows on the main floor.
The roof is made from a wooden structure of beams and covered with Arab roofing tiles.
On the south facade there is a sundial that dates 1780.
The exact date of its original construction is uncertain. On the northwest corner there are the remains of tower that was made from some demolished bricks that do not match the stone and mortar of the Medieval part.
The fact that there are remains of a Palaeochristian necropolis from the 4th-7th centuries very close to this building, gives you a sense of being somewhere very ancient and special.
From the building, there is a beautiful wooden path that leads you down to the marsh called the Ullal de l'Estany.
The word Ullal literally means "tusk". However, a "Ullal" is also any coastal wetland with fresh water that comes from aquifers (groundwater springs).
l'Estany means "the lake" and together they make up an aquatic ecosystem, which supports different animal species (especially birds) and vegetation. This wetland plays a fundamental role in the hydrological cycle that regulates the local climate, temperatures and humidity.
As you walk this beautiful natural area, which has been adapted to wheelchairs, and you stroll over adorable footbridges, you will see how the marsh delicately wraps its beautiful watery arms around a mix of pretty ponds. It is the perfect place to disconnect and fill your lungs with fresh oxygen and your eyes with the green of nature and tranquility. If you look of into the distance you will see the hill of Sant Joan, crowned by the ruins of the Bairén.