Aia (pronounced eye-a) is a small village situated on the slopes of Mount Pagoeta in the Basque Province of
Guipúzcoa, Spain. It is located 30 km to the west of San Sebastiánand about 10km inland from the coastal town of Zarautz. Aia is set amongst rolling green hills and lush green forests, and surrounded by some stunning mountain views. The town still retains its ancient character, with the large Church of San Esteban building as an impressive centrepiece. The population of Aia has gradually declined since the 1950s, to a population of 1750 in 2005.
Based on cave paintings and engravings and also stone implements that have been found in the Aia district, it is believed that human habitation of the area dates back to over 10,000 years ago. The town of Aia itself was mentioned in one of the oldest documents of
Guipúzcoadated 1025. The town was also mentioned as being part of the Union of Sayazin the Decree of the Brotherhood of the Province of Gupuzkoa in 1375.
Farming was originally the main economic activity in the Aia district, with families of the small villages living within closed, self-sufficient economic systems. Land was generally owned by the municipality and rented to the farmers to work. Specialised crafts also began to develop, and in particular Aia became a main centre for the production of
iron. This was largely due to the abundance of natural deposits of iron in the area. Numerous foundries were established in the area, which had a significant impact on the growth of the local population. It was from these foundries that many family lineages in the Aia district developed. The demise of these old forges in Guipúzcoa was brought about by the introduction of blast furnaces that ran on coal.
Aia is known for its natural beauty, still situated amongst Basque farmlands largely unchanged over the past couple of hundred years. It has several impressive attractions that are well known across the province. The convert|1335|acre|km2|sing=on
Pagoeta Nature Reservesits just to the west of the town of Aia and preserves not only the natural beauty of the area but also the district's cultural heritage. The park contains numerous ruins of old mills, foundries and farmhouses, and even some ancient burial mounds dating back 5,000 years.
Agorregi Forge, located within the park, is one of the best preserved examples of a foundry in Guipúzcoa Province. The forge which can be seen today was built in 1754 by the Lord of Laurgain Palace over the ruins of an earlier version. Lying at the bottom of a deep valley near Manterola farmhouse, it used the river's hydraulic energy to power its great bellows and turn its waterwheels.
Also situated near Aia and within the Pagoeta Nature Reserve is the Iturraran Botanic Garden. The garden was established in 1986 and includes more than 1000 species of plants, trees and shrubs from all over the world. It also includes some endangered flora of the Basque Country.
* [http://www.aiako.com Aia official website] Information available in Spanish and Basque.
* [http://www.aiapagoeta.com/index.php?&Sec=09&Sub=02&Cod=6 360 degree view of Aia]
* http://www.euskomedia.org/euskomedia/SAunamendi?idi=en&op=7&voz=AIA AIA in the Bernardo Estornés Lasa - Auñamendi Encyclopedia (Euskomedia Fundazioa)]
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