Vía de la Plata
The Vía de La Plata (Silver Way) or Ruta de la Plata (Silver Route) is an ancient commercial and pilgrimage path that crosses the west of Spain from north to south, connecting Mérida to Astorga, and in extension Seville with the Bay of Biscay, at Gijón. According to folk etymology, although the term Vía de la Plata seems to come from the modern Spanish word for silver, "plata", it actually came from the Arabic word balata, which means "paved", for the road was, like many other Roman roads, paved. In fact, the root of the modern Spanish word "plata" is the Vulgar Latin word "plattus", meaning broad, flat or spread out.
Pre-Roman era 
The historical origins of this route are currently uncertain. It is believed, based on diverse archaeological findings, that the route was used for commercial purposes involving tin. Tin was present in many regions of the Iberian Peninsula including Tartessos. Therefore, it is more appropriate to call the Vía del Estaño, the "Tin Way".
Roman causeway 
The "Tin Way" was used as an access road, which allowed the Romans to conquer tribes such as the Callaici, the Astures, and the Vacceos. Many sources, among them the Antonine Itinerary, describe the route to leave from Emerita Augusta, (present-day Mérida), capital of Lusitania, towards Asturica Augusta (present-day Astorga) through Tarraconensis.
The road contains physical evidence that shows a Roman constructed road (called the, or a, via lata, meaning "broad road") that has been almost unchanged at various sections. It was conceived and built as a trade route for the exploitation of gold, as mentioned by Pliny the Elder who held high office as Procurator in Hispania Tarraconensis in 73 AD. It ran from Asturica Augusta (Astorga) in Northwestern Spain, to Emerita Augusta (Mérida) in southwestern Spain. Hence Hannibal's armies, and their elephants, must have passed along it.
The road's first official name was Via Delapidata (meaning "Paved Stone Way"), stretched around 900 km (560 mi), and had a branch that joined with the Via Augusta (or Via Heraclea). After its establishment, the Via Delapidata crossed Hispania from Cádiz, through the Pyrenees, towards Gallia Narbonensis (southern France) and Rome in the Italian Peninsula. Currently, the road passes through Salmantica (Salamanca), Metelinum (Medellín), and Castra Caecilia (Cáceres). The Via Delapidata also served as an access road from Hispania Baetica.
The "Silver Way" was, technically, never a belt road for silver commerce. The name was transmogrified from Via Delapidata to Vía de la Plata as a result of phonetic confusion. However, during the Roman Empire it is known that it was used to connect two main areas of the highest importance at both end, the gold mines of Las Medulas and the copper mines of Rio Tinto.
Modern times 
The suitability of the route's layout is demonstrated even today. The 'Silver Way' is used by modern A-66 and AP-66 freeways as well as by older N-630 national road. Some stretches, however, pass through urban areas. One such case is that of Seville, in which the Vía de la Plata runs along the Guadalquivir. Overall, the Vía de la Plata has become increasingly popular as an alternative to the Camino Francés for pilgrims walking, cycling or riding to Santiago de Compostela, it is one of many routes used by pilgrims across Europe to fulfill a spiritual/physical journey. Large sections are more or less the same as they were two thousand years ago.
See also 
- Vía de la Plata route website
- Guide to walking the Vía de la Plata
- La Vía de la Plata
- La Vía de la Plata en Extremadura