The town of Guanajuato is 80% Italian-Tuscan hilltown and 20% Mexcian colonial village. It`s quite remarkable!
The town, population 50,000, sits embedded into a mountainside six-thousand feet above sea level. Two mile-long tunnels are the only way into (well, under) the town, and when our taxi droped us off under the town square, we we're only a flight-of-stairs away from amazement.
Rising out of the dark stairway, we emerged into a beautiful town square. All four sides of this 100 ft by 100 ft square are bounded by four-story earthen-tone painted buildings. Most have small shops on the street-level: a flower shop, a cafe, and a green grocer, while the upper floors display small residental balconies. There's not a car in sight, as the narrow cobblestone thruways are meant for pedestrians.
A quick glance to the right indicates we were indeed on a mountainside, as we glimsped single-story homes stacked on top of each other clinging to the mountainside. A steep walk out from the square is the only way to that neighborhood.
The town, like so many in the north-central region of Mexico, was settled just after the discovery of silver around 1550. Many of the old mansions of the silver barons remain in Guanajuato; their ornately decorated facades and wrought-iron gated courtyards converted to private homes or businesses. More recently, the University of Guanajuato, with 15000 students, has become the focal point of the city. A wonderful mix of young and old.
The other major square, the Jardin Publico, is quite a sight. It's ringed with four-story colonial hotels and in the center is a garden like no other. The center is architected so that a dense ring of trees runs just inside the circumference of the square. The trees were closely placed, and have been cut so that a full canopy of leaves and branches rises overhead. Picture a green English hedgerow, then lift it off the ground by seven feet, and thats what the entire inside ring of the square sits under. Inside the circle of the canopy lies a small gazebo where as many as six Mariachi troupes gather to trade songs and pass the time. For a few dollars you can ask them to serenade you over dinner at one of the patio restaurants under the canopy. Truely amazing!