Located in pretty, very green countryside, an easy 30 kilometre drive inland from Málaga city, Pizarra has experienced significant growth over the last two decades or so.But with a population of just under 5,000, Pizarra remains a friendly, hospitable place, where the addition of modern infrastructure and services has not undermined its charms, and where agriculture, particularly growing citrus fruit, remains the linchpin of the local economy.
Discoveries of various remnants, including tombs and axes, indicate there were settlers in the Pizarra area as far back as pre-historic times. Phoenician and Tartessian pieces of pottery and daggers have also been located, although the first proper settlement was the Roman town of Barbi.
The Moors built a Mozarab church in the area, but the origins of the existing town go back only as far as the 15th century, when a Don Diego Romero was awarded a large swathe of land for his part in the reconquest of neighbouring Álora by the Catholic Monarchs. A town then began to grow up around his mansion, known as Palace of the Conde de Puerto Hermoso, and the parish church.
An impressive palace was built on the site of Diego Romero’s original mansion at the beginning of the 20th century in neo-Mudéjar style, and it was here in 1922 that talks were held on the Moroccan War in what was dubbed the Conference of Pizarra. The building is now a private residence and not open to the public.
Pizarra only officially became an independent municipality in 1847, although the town was really put on the map by the arrival of the railway in 1859, and by the construction of the road linking Álora to Málaga city.
There are various places of interest in the town, including the 17th century San Pedro Apóstol Parish Church, which has a square tower with three bells and a clock. All but destroyed during an uprising in 1931, the church has since undergone restoration works at various times, most recently in 1999.
Another of Pizarra’s historic buildings is the Convent of the Hermanas de la Cruz in Calle Alta, just around the corner from the Town Hall, which was occupied by an order of dominican nuns until 1920.
The Nuestra Señora de Fuensanta Hermitage was built out of rock on the foundations of a 10th century Mozarab (Christian in the Moorishs period) church. The hermitage was declared a monument of Historical and Artistic Interest in 1983.
Pizarra’s Municipal Museum exists thanks to Gino Hollander, a Belgian painter and sculptor who moved to the town in the late 1960s. Hollander initially opened the Hollander Museum in his own home, the Cortijo de Yeguas, which served as a showhouse for his collection of antiques.
He then donated his collection to the Town Hall in 1988, and in the early 1990s the local authority acquired Cortijo de Casablanca, 19th century farm buildings right by the river Guadalhorce which had once belonged to the Counts of Puerto Hermoso, for the new museum. Renovation works were carried out between 1991 and 1994 and the museum was officially opened in 1995.
The museum is well worth a visit. The Gino Hollander hall, which had been stables, houses a permanent exhibition of very diverse pieces from different epochs. The items are grouped together according to the materials and the traditional methods used, that is whether they are stone, ceramics, glass, metal or wood, rather than the period which they date from.
The Agustín Clavijo hall, named after the art historian and Málaga univerity professor, houses a collection of Spanish furniture from different eras, ethnological material, and pictures and sculptures by Hollander.
Guided tours of the museum are offered. There are also gardens, parking areas, a restaurant and a shop selling souvenirs and local arts and crafts. A hotel at the complex is due to open shortly.