If we talk about one of the hearts of social life in Oviedo, heart that coincides with its main urban lung, composed of hundreds of centennial trees, we are referring to the San Francisco Park. Stage of games for children of entire generations of ovetenses, meeting place for lovers, quiet stroll for mature age, or only forced transit in the center of Oviedo.
It is close to everything, has the geometry of a trapeze, natural and gigantic, of 90.000 square meters. Its edges fit practically with the most central coordinates of the city, and its interior treasures millions of anecdotes in its buoyant old age, which is rather a continuous youth of nature in abundance. Its citizen corners have been domesticated and stylized to the maximum, in harmony with a forest that has never grown in the wild in any case. The Park extends orderly and civilized, clean and leafy.
Oviedo finds in this natural space a basic and essential representation of the green meadows that assail it on all four sides. As if the center of Oviedo had contracted a debt with the landscape of the forest, it becomes at the same time reservation of trees such as carbayones or oaks truly emblematic of the area.
The park owes its name to the old convent of Franciscans that had its origin in this ancient forest, where, it is said, Saint Francis of Assisi rested during his pilgrimage to Santiago. Part of the forest was occupied by an orchard that the monks cultivated, and the whole environment, which constituted the limit of the city, depended on the convent until the confiscation of 1816, year that was donated to the University, which transformed it into Botanical Garden.
This academic activity has left a deep mark on the current park. In fact they can be seen 127 different species of trees and shrubs, to which are added other 23 crop varieties. The 0,5% comes from Africa, the 14% from America, the 3% from Australia and Oceania, the 9% from the Mediterranean area, the Balkans and Asia Minor, the 16% from Europe and the 3% from Spain. In addition, eleven of the species are considered typical of the Astur landscape.
In the middle, the pedestrian paths, perfectly paved. Walks like the one of the Priests, the Bombé, the Herradura or the Alamos form part of the collective memory of the city. The fountains, the music kiosk, work of De la guardia (1887), the King's Chair, on whose back was recorded the name of King Carlos III or the Romanesque cover of the Church of San Isidoro ...
Undoubtedly, the most celebrated son of Oviedo passed through the park on more than one occasion, Leopoldo Alas (Clarín), because the presence of his main work, La Regenta, assaults his readers from all over the world when they enter the most careful forest of Vetusta.
As has been said, the park is fundamentally a place for recreation and walking, but also a festive and gastronomic tent, for a few or many. In it we can discover a tourist eating a sandwich or a whole crowd of citizens with their tablecloths.Text: © Ramón Molleda for desdeasturias.com