Visiting a Barefoot Visionary Poet's Birthplace in Ávila, Spain
A mystic, rebel, reformer, philosopher, and writer of ecstatic poetry who has stood the test of time, it's no wonder that Saint Teresa of Ávila inspires such a diverse set of day-tripping pilgrims to flock to the provincial Castilian town where she was born in 1515. As a young girl, she fantasized about becoming a martyr. Later in life, she dedicated herself to ridding Renaissance convent culture of luxury and creature comforts. Her poetry is analyzed by lit geeks and theologians alike. At the still-active convent that was built atop her childhood home, you can peer into the yard where she once played and ponder scenes from her fascinating life depicted in stained glass. The adjoining museum gift shop amasses a curious collection of relics from Santa Teresa and her fellow-poet buddy, San Juan de la Cruz. The strangest: her severed finger complete with emerald ring (her hands were reputed to have miraculous powers—Franco kept her left hand, now housed at La Merced church in Ronda—at his bedside until his death).