12/12/2013 09:12 GMT | Updated 10/02/2014 05:59 GMT

The Costa Del Sol - Not Far From Spain - Not Far Enough!

Malaga, is the hub airport to southern Spain and one of the busiest tourist airports in the world. In good years, it handles its share of the 16 million tourist visitors who come to Andalucia. I know it is hard to believe if you have ever endured the "kiss me quick - fish'n'chip shops" of the Costa Del Sol but only 8 million of those visitors are foreigners, and only 2.5 million British. The rest are Spanish from outside Andalucia.

Those Spaniards who live within Andalucia, not included in the figures, visit other parts of their own region some 20 million times. Why? Because Andalucia is amazing! If it was a country it would be the 25th most popular, to visit, in the world.

Surprisingly you can generally be there in less time than it takes to circle the M25 and, if you pick your flights cleverly, for about the same cost as a tank of petrol. Once the aircraft lands, most people, will be on coaches, or hire cars, heading for the hotel zones. The 6km of road from Malaga airport to the earliest resort of Torremolinos was the first decent road to be built in the area since the Romans left.

The former military dictator of Spain, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, needed tourist income to energise his third world economy but he didn't want the values of freedom those tourists might display to his oppressed people, so he put the early tourists in cages. They were surrounded by water, like Mallorca (Whose very spelling was changed to Majorca to further distance it from the real place) or along the coastal strips, or Costas, with no real way in or out except by air or cruise ship. Remember, at this time Spanish women needed a letter of permission signed by their husband to be permitted to do things which everyone else in Europe took for granted. Franco's control of Spanish life and the media was total.

When the USA accidentally dropped 4 nuclear bombs on Spain in 1966 it was barely reported, much less debated. The thing that I have never understood however, is that despite the fact that Franco died in 1975, that Spain had a new constitution in 1978 and that unrestricted freedom of movement for EU citizens is a much envied right... tourists still seem to largely confine themselves to the Franco cages. Each Spanish province has a capital city, usually of the same name, so Malaga city, or Malaga Capital is the ancient centre here. It is only 12 minutes from the airport by direct train but is rarely visited by the foreign tourist. If they did they would find a city that is approximately 300 years older than Rome, albeit that Rome's date is rooted more in mythology than anything else.

Malaga, know as Malaka, was a Phoenician trading post, one of 3, set up to allow for the export of metal, initially copper, from the mines of southern Spain. This pre-Roman copper production was principally from a small area called Rio Tinto, which has given its name to one of the modern world's largest metal companies. Later, the Romans called the area the Beautiful Sea or Marbella, a name which has also lingered. The Arabs built 3 of the most important, and beautiful, cities in the world here. Cordoba was the largest city globally in the 15th century and the place of rebirth of what had been Greek philosophy and mathematics, rescued through the scholarship of Arab Spain. Then, as the Spanish were taking their lands back from the Arabs, in fact Queen Isabella was laying siege to the last Arab enclave when she paid Christopher Columbus to go to India, they opened the largest cash register the world had ever seen and Spain was rebuilt from the proceeds of American silver and gold. These buildings are now ancient and they are everywhere. So why then do most of us still impose the Franco geographical restrictions on ourselves? I'm not sure but if you give me your occasional attention I will tell you why we shouldn't!