Old Trujillo City Tour
Allow at least a half day on foot for seeing Trujillo’s colonial core, which offers a dense cluster of well-preserved homes and churches to the north of Plaza de Armas. Start at the northern edge of town at Avenida España, the congested beltway that was once a six-meter wall built 1680–1685 to ward off pirate attacks. The crumbling military wall was knocked down in 1942, but a section has been preserved at the intersection of España and Estete.
The waterworks for colonial Trujillo can be seen a few blocks away at Plazuela El Recreo (Estete and Pizarro), where the Spaniards extended Moche and Chimú irrigation channels in order to deliver river water to the aristocratic households of the city. The plazuela is graced with an elegant fountain, carved from local marble in 1750 and then relocated from the Plaza de Armas in 1828.
Knock on the Lazy Susan–like window of the Iglesia y Monasterio El Carmen (Bolívar 826, 9–11:40 a.m. and 4–5:20 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 9–11:20 a.m. Sun., US$1), a Carmelite monastery founded in 1724, to be let into the home of Trujillo’s best collection of colonial art. The monastery has somehow withstood the earthquakes that have rocked Trujillo and houses the city’s best-preserved gilded baroque altar. Its pinacoteca, or painting gallery, contains 150 colonial works, including The Last Supper by Otto Van Veen (Peter Paul Rubens’s mentor).
If you have extra time, the University of Trujillo’s Museo de Arqueología e Historia (Junín 682, tel. 044/24-9322, 9 a.m.–4:45 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–1 p.m. weekends, US$1.50) is nearby and traces Peruvian history from 12,000 B.C. to the arrival of the Spaniards. Because the university is directing the excavations at the Huaca de la Luna, the museum contains excellent artifacts from that site.
Just a peek inside the courtyard will give you a sense of the grandeur of the Palacio Itúrregui (Pizarro 688, 8–10:30 a.m. Mon.–Sat., US$1.50), which now houses the Club Central. The house was built in 1855 in the Italian neo-Renaissance style by General Juan Manuel Itúrregui and has three plazas ringed with ornate columns.
Nearby is the headquarters of the APRA political party (Pizarro 672). Another nearby center of dissent is the Casa de la Emancipación (Pizarro 610, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and 4–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., free), a beautifully restored republican home where Marquis Torre Tagle signed a document declaring Trujillo’s independence from Spain in 1820—long before the libertadores arrived. The house hosts cultural events and contains a small exhibit on César Vallejo, Peru’s most famed poet, who was born in the nearby mountain town of Santiago de Chuco.
Another block south on Pizarro is the Iglesia de La Merced (Pizarro 550, 8 a.m.–noon and 4–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat.). This 17th-century church was built by Portuguese artist Alonso de las Nieves and has an impressive rococo organ and cupola. When the order lacked the money for a traditional wood and gold-plated altar, they instead opted to paint one onto the wall in 1755—the only painted altar in the city. Near the altar is an interesting juxtaposition of the virgins that most embody the Old and New Worlds: Mexico’s brown-skinned and dark-haired Virgen de Guadalupe and Spain’s blue-eyed and blond Virgen Fátima.
Around the corner is the 17th-century Casa del Mariscal de Orbegoso (Orbegoso 505, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Tues.–Sun.). The house is a showcase for the features of colonial homes: a plaza of canto rodado (river stones), brick and lime floors, simple ceilings, and enormous, sparsely decorated rooms. The house was originally the home of José Luis Orbegoso, who led troops during the War of Independence and served as president of Peru 1833–1838.
The Plaza de Armas is where Martin de Estete began to lay out the city grid in December 1534, in preparation for Francisco Pizarro’s arrival the next year. At the center of the plaza is the Monumento de La Libertad, and the face of the winged figure holding a torch closely resembles that of Simón Bolívar. On the other side of the plaza is the Casa Bracamonte, occupied by the Ministerio de Salud and not open for tours. Its most famous features are a balcón de celosia (a wooden balcony from which women could see but not be seen) and finely wrought iron windows, an art form that flourished in 18th-century Trujillo.
Compare the colonial style of Casa Orbegoso with the more elegant republican design of La Casa Urquiaga (Pizarro 446, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–1 p.m. weekends, free and includes an English- or Spanish-speaking guide). This house is one of the best preserved and most elegant republican houses in Trujillo. The original house was destroyed in the 1619 earthquake. Simón Bolívar lived here during his military campaign against Spain, and many of his personal possessions remain in the house.
Construction of Trujillo’s Catedral (Plaza de Armas, 7 a.m.–noon and 4–9 p.m. daily, free) began in 1610 but had to begin anew after the devastating earthquake on February 14, 1619, which destroyed the city and prompted townspeople to adopt Saint Valentine as their patron. A more recent earthquake, in 1970, partially destroyed the main altar, which contains an image of Saint Valentine, among other saints. The cathedral’s museum (9 a.m.–1 p.m. and 4–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Sat., US$1.25 admission) contains the shadowy paintings of the baroque Quito School as well as access to catacombs.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition