The Palace Tower of the Varona family is the only fortress in Álava that retains its moat and, according to the historian Micaela Portilla, “one of the best preserved fortified structures in the province”.
This structure, a National Historic-Artistic Monument Site, has been inhabited by direct descendants of the family since the 12th century.
The building, clearly of military nature, features three architectural periods. Initially there had been a wooden tower, but this burnt down and was replaced in the 14th century with the Castilian style tower that we know today, while the Gothic Renaissance Palace was added a century later.
The surname Varona (manly woman) was granted on the fields of Soria in the 12th century during the battle of Alfonso of Castile and Doña Urraca against Alfonso I ‘The Battler’, King of Aragón and Navarre. María Ruiz Pérez managed to take Alfonso I prisoner and Alfonso VI, King of Leon and Castile, considered that given her bravery she should be called “Varona”. Hence the surname.
The Varona family have remained in this place since the 12th century succeeding the Perez family who had held the land since the 7th century. Visiting the Palace Tower of the Varona family is to immerse yourself in the life that its rooms and halls have lived, now restored, as with the rest of the complex, thanks to the Provincial Council of Álava.
The visitor can enjoy objects from the 15th to the 20th centuries: furniture with canopied beds, cupboards filled La Cartuja de Sevilla dishes and Bohemian glassware, writing desks and bookshelves with genuine incunabula, upright pianos from London, wallpapers from Paris, Alsace and Spain, and light bulbs on which the family name is silk-screened.
Possibly because, according to some studies, the home of the Varona was one of the first places to have electric lighting installed.
It is not even necessary to cross its front door to confirm its military nature. From outside visitors can see most of the defensive elements of the medieval fortifications, both on the tower and the palace, as well as a water filled moat that protects three of its sides.