Like all cities, Palma has many different faces. However, there is no doubt that its most interesting aspect is the contrast between its old and modern sides. Everyone is familiar with the open, Mediterranean and cosmopolitan image that the Mallorcan capital projects. The Passeig Marítim with yachts moored and the Cathedral in the background, streets with outside terraces, the busiest streets in the shopping area. A visitor who only walks around these very well-known areas is left with a superficial image, almost a cliché.
This is because Palma has a feel about it that is difficult to find in other areas. It a city that is enclosed within itself. Secret and churchlike. Tourists tend to walk around a well-established route: going from the Cathedral to the shopping area, passing through the Plaça Major. However, you just need to head a few metres off the beaten track to find a series of winding, and sometimes dark streets. They are always silent, with entrances to palaces, closed windows and churches. This is a city of cats and closed windows that the writer Llorenç Villalonga so wonderfully depicted.
The side of Palma that is less known about could be represented in a single place: Plaza de Sant Jeroni. It is a quiet spot, with the gates to Sant Jeroni convent on one side and the old La Sapiencia School on the other. It is very close to the old Seminary. You can hear the sound of a fountain, and all of the buildings are so picturesque alongside one another that they almost look like a stage design. Few people pass through the area, which has a profound urban beauty that evokes bygone centuries and has been conserved with very few changes over the years.
"Palma has a feel about it that is difficult to find in other places. It is enclosed within itself. Secret and churchlike"
Not far from there, the basilica of Sant Francesc has one of those places that in themselves give meaning to the city. This is the gothic tomb of Ramon Llull, the wise and mystic Mallorcan who represented modernity and an anticipation of the future to come in the 13th century. It is as if his body lying in the middle of the silence and solemnity of the temple continues to think about transcendental matters, indifferent to the vicissitudes of the modern age. Palma has few vantage points. This means that everyone has the same image of the Mallorcan capital: the one from the Passeig Marítim and the harbour. However, if you want to gaze at the beautiful landscape of roofs, terraces, fields of tiles, bell towers and inner gardens, with the Seo in the background, there is nothing better than going up to one of the terraces next to the Es Baluard contemporary art museum. From there the city looks complex, demure and geometric with the sea in the background. There is a very special spot, reminiscent of Rome or Paris, that has been created next to the Costa de sa Pols steps and Calle Arabí, in the apse of the Sant Miquel church. There, on some small steps, you can find a number of terraces belonging to establishments that are very popular with young people. They are next to a book shop and a wine bar and the atmosphere is full of music, books, poetry, and art. All of this is found in a space of a few square meters away from tourism and shopping. The historic and modern facets of La Palma far surpass the postcard images. They are complex and highly charming. They offer lots more than a visit to monuments or some shopping, hence their endless vitality.
Textos: Carlos Garrido
Fotografías: Cristian Montoro