Lying just 16 kilometres north of Antequera and 60 kilometres from Málaga and the Costa del Sol, Mollina is a real taste of an Andalucía unaltered by tourism.
Essentially still an agricultural area of plains of vineyards, olives and cereal crops, Mollina municipality is nevertheless proving to be an increasingly popular choice for those seeking country properties which are a little way off the obvious beaten track.
The town itself is also very pleasant, with long, wide streets of white washed houses with wrought iron balconies
The exact origins of Mollina are unknown, although one theory is the name stems from the Latin ‘mollis’, meaning ‘soft’, which is believed to be a reference to the light rains which fall at certain times of year.
There is evidence the first settlement in the area was neolithic, in caves about six kilometres from the site of the existing town, at the foot of the Sierra de Camorra. Findings from the period include pieces of pottery and cave paintings.
The Romans also settled in the area, and there are various reminders of this chapter in Mollina’s history dotted around the municipality. In Cortijo de la Capuchina, seven kilometres from the town, there are the remains of a 1st century Roman mausoleum.
The ruins of the Roman Castellum de Satillán are four kilometres from the town. Covering nearly 1,400sqm, the remains date from different periods: a 1st and 2nd century farm and villa and a 3rd century fortification.
Also found near the village was an altar stone dedicated to Hercules, which was moved to Antequera in 1585 and placed in the Arch of the Giants.
In 1410 Don Fernando de Aragón conquered Antequera for the Crown of Castile from the Moors, and with it the lands which would later become Mollina. The existing town dates back to the 16th century when plots of land were given out to colonists by the administrators of Antequera, although it only became officially independent from its bigger neighbour in the early 19th century.
The only monuments of any real historical interest in Mollina itself are the Nuestra Señora de la Oliva Parish Church, which stands in the centre of the town and dates from 1687, and the nearby Covent of the Ascensión, also known as the Cortijo de la Villa. The most outstanding feature of the convent is the old sundial.
At one time there were more olive trees in Mollina than anywhere else in Antequera, and the production of olives was the main local economic activitity. But the mechanisation of the agricultural industry in the 20th century put many people out of work and large numbers of residents emigrated to other parts of the country or overseas.
The town suffered significant depopulation post-war, the number of residents falling from over 5,000 in 1950 to under 3,000 by 1975. Today however the town has a population of around 4,000, thanks at least in part to efforts to create agricultural cooperatives and to change the local economy’s dependence on olive production and expand wine production.
A quarter of a century ago there were hardly any vineyards in Mollina, but today 80 per cent of the ‘Málaga’ Denomination of Origin wines come from this municipality.
The town’s location just off the A-92 highway has also given Mollina excellent road communications with the rest of Andalucía since the beginning of the 1990s, which in turn has led to the town experiencing signicant growth in recent years. A number of companies operate from the town’s industrial estates, many of them agriculturally orientated, but also firms in the textile, soft drinks, paper, plastic and construction sectors.
The other big change in recent times for Mollina is the arrival of rural tourism, and the growing numbers of northern European expatriates investing in properties in the area.
The countryside around Mollina is one of the main attractions. Much of it is quite flat, but the Sierra de la Camorra is a range of pine covered hills extending for eight kilometres, the highest point standing 780 metres above sea level. The hills are the natural habitat of a great variety of animal and plant life, and there are a number of caves which are ideal for potholing.There are also the ruins of an old Moorish castle at the foot of the sierra.
The Parque de Santillán, just outside the town by the remains of the Castellum de Santillán on the MA-703 is a great place for a family day out, and has a bar, barbeque facilities and toilets among its facilities.
There are also a number of walks around the town.