If you have access to a car, then listen up! Here I’ll show you how you can road trip like a Madrileño in summer and fall.
The city of Madrid was built on a hot plain, but the northern part of Madrid province is all hills, mountains, and forests dotted with small, picturesque towns.
When Madrid’s heat gets going with all its fury, many Madrileños escape by heading north for some cool daytripping. And some even have summer homes there as their own private mountain retreat. Then in the fall, lots of Madrileños head to the northern hills for some old-fashioned mushroom hunting, a treasured Spanish past-time.
There are plenty of cute little towns in the northern part of Madrid province, but I recommend Buitrago de Lozoya because, a: it’s popular with Madrileños and b: it has more things to do and see than lots of other small towns in the area.
Buitrago de Lozoya has defensive city walls dating from the 11th century (you can walk along the top of them), a 14th century church, a 15th century castle in ruins, and a small Pablo Picasso Museum. The old part of the town is surrounded by a river nestled in a forested valley.
To get to Buitrago de Lozoya from Madrid, get on the M-30 in Madrid going north to the A-1. Follow the A-1 highway north. Get off at the 76 exit, keep right and follow the signs for Buitrago de Lozoya.
Even if you don’t have a car, that’s no problem as you can get to Buitrago de Lozoya by bus, too. Take the number 191 from the Plaza de Castilla bus station.
Two of the most popular edible varieties of mushrooms to hunt in Madrid province are the Lactarius deliciosus (saffron milk cap / níscalo) and the Boletus edulis (penny bun / hongo comestible). At the same time, there are many varieties that should not be eaten! Some Madrileños do gather mushrooms to be chopped up later and added to a dish of Spanish scrambled eggs (revuelto de setas) and you can opt to bring the mushrooms you gathered to be examined by the Madrid Mycological Society, but even so, I would not recommend you eat any mushrooms you gathered in the wild.
The recommended items for a mushroom hunting excursion include: a wooden basket, a knife, a mushroom book, and a bottle of water.
Every mushroom-hunting Madrileño has his or her own preferred stomping ground, but one good one is the forest near Lozoya.
To get to Lozoya from Madrid, get on the M-30 in Madrid going north to the A-1. Follow the A-1 highway north. Get off at the 69 exit. At the roundabout, get on the M-604 going towards Rascafría. Continue on M-604 until you get to Lozoya. Then head for the forest!
[Photo: Sarah E. Rogers]