The Innsa Hostel is smack bang in the middle of Valencia’s Carmen district and located in a 16th century palace that used to be the residence of the Valencian Renaissance painter Juan de Juanes.
The place has a rambling, lived-in look, partly because the couple who run it want it that way and partly because, being a Grade 1 Protected Monument, the local council won’t allow any serious changes to be made.
Personally I prefer it that way because the place oozes character and a sense of history, and because Mercedes the resident 19th century ghost probable wouldn’t want change anyway.
Mercedes inhabits the attic, which at the moment only accomodates some of the paintings of Jesús de Andres, who is currently working in London, and whose brother Juan runs Innsa with Teresa Gandia, rumoured to make the best paella in Valencia.
Since the summer of 2013 Teresa and Juan having played hosts, if not ghosts (the words have the same origin, as does ‘guest’, originally meaning ‘stranger’) to travellers from all over the world, but most commonly Australia, Germany and the USA according to Teresa, offering low cost accomodation in the heart of Valencia’s historical centre in a palace that combines Renaissance and Gothic architecure with a few Muslim arches thrown in for good measure.
Determined to maintain the 200 hundred year old windows and the 200 year old ivy plant that entangles the internal staircase, or the spiral staircase inside the bar which goes nowhere (as everybody knows) Juan and Teresa have resisted replacing the old elements with plastic and aluminium, and in the case of the ivy, even bringing in the Director of Valencia’s Botanical Gardens to ensure conservation.
This is hostel accomodation and backpackers can expect to share clean, functional rooms, and to be treated like family (in the good sense of the word). And if they can’t sleep, there are the interminable paintings of Jesús, at least one in every room and in every spare space in every corridor, to count.
As well as making travellers feel at home with her extraordinary paella, Teresa is more than a landlady to her guests; her Italian visitors end up calling her ‘Mama’, while the more restrained British opt for ‘Mother Teresa’.
Juan and Teresa like to think of themselves as “innkeepers”, which is one of the reasons for the name, although the main one is that for 150 years the building was home to Casa Innsa, costume and fancy dress makers and renters and for decades the creators of the dresses of Valencia’s Fallera Mayores.
Parts of that business still remain, such as the bar, which has been transformed from the original shop counter.
At the back of the bar can be seen an old brick arch, that according to old plans that Juan and Teresa have been perusing, used to lead out to a garden that reached all the way down to the river when Juan de Juanes painted here, just a short few centuries before Jesús de Andres continued the tradition.
Mercedes would have had trouble intimidating Juan de Juanes, who never painted without taking Holy Communion, praying and fasting. His Raphaelesque Holy Family can be found in the sacristy in the Cathedral of Valencia.
Juan and Teresa can be found at Calle Baja, 48.
They also function as a bar and restaurant, serving only Valencian wines and frequently hosts events such as poetry readings.
Telephone: 963 91 77 51