Tarragona (110,000 inh.), the former capital of the Roman province of Tarraconense and the see of the metropolitan archibishop of Catalonia, is nowadays an important cultural and administrative centre providing services to the surrounding Camp de Tarragona region.
The old city is built on the southern side of a rocky hill, 67 meters high, wich slopes gently down to the sea on the left bank of the Francol¡ river. The old quarter, known as the Part Alta, is surrounded by Roman walls on three of its four sides. It is here that most of the city's historic m¢numents, religious and government buildings are located.
A pleasant broad avenue, the Rambla Nova, runs through the middle of the modern area, the last stretch commanding a fine view over the sea. It is part ofthe Eixample or "extension" district, built from the mid-19th century onwards following the demolition of part the old walls. At the southern end, round the Port of Tarragona, which handles very large amounts of commercial cargo, is the harbour area and beyond this again El Serrallo, a district of sailors and fishermen. The urban area has spread out beyond the edge of the city centre, mostly towards the east and west.
Trhough Tarragona Hill may have been the site of an Iberian settlement prior to the arrival of the Romans, the city really grew up from the military camp established here by Gneus Scipio in 218 B.C. as a base for Roman penetration up the Ebro valley into the centre of the Iberian peninsula. It soon became the capital of Hispania Citerior -later known as Tarraconense- and was made a colony in 45 B.C. by Julius Caesar. The chief Roman buildings date back to the days of Augustus, who lived here from 27 to 24 A.D., and his successors. In those days the city occupied an area of 60 hectares and had about 3.000 inhabitants. Its importance is demonstrated by the fact it is one of the few Roman cities in Hispania to possess a circus, theatre and amphitheatre.
The first known bishop of Tarragona was Saint Fructu6s, who was martyred in the amphitheatre with the deacons Auguri and Eulogi in the year 257. Tarragona became a metropolitan diocese in the 4th century, a prerogative it was to recover when Christianity was restored in the Middle Ages. After being invaded by the Franks and Alemanni in the 3rd century, it entered a decline, though it retained its political and religious identity under the Visigoths (469) until it was virtually destroyed by the Moslem invasion of 716. It remained abandoned and uninhabited in the midst of the no-man's-land that separated Saracen and Christian domains until the 11th-12th centuries.
The resettlement of the area, undertaken by the Counts of Barcelona, went hand in hand with the reestablishment of Christianity in Tarragona, the archbishops soon becoming the feudal lords, not only of the city, but of the entire Camp de Tarragona region. Merchant shipping and the flourishing economy of the whole kingdom of Catalonia and Aragon gave rise to a new age of prosperity, which saw the construction of the great medieval buildings the growth of the city and the creation of a strong city council. Periods of crisis alternated thereafter with periods of greater splendour, such as the second half of the 16th century, when the see of Tarragona was occupied by Gaspar de Cervantes and Antoni Agusti both patrons of the humanities unversity studies, and Renaissance art.
The catastrophic siege and subsequent sacking of Tarragona in 1811 during the Napoleonic Wars was the culmination of a period of major wars during the 17th and 18th centurics and of political decadence throughout Catalonia. From then on the recovery was slow hut stcady. It became the capital of the province of the same name and the revival of merchant shipping -particularly cargos of Camp de Tarragona wine- sparked off the new phase ot economic and urhan expansion which shaped the city we know today. The industrial boom of the second half of the 20th century has led to a sharp increase in population while the beauty of the coastline and the surrounding countryside, added to the importance of its historic monuments, have carned Tarragona a reputation as a leading tourist spot.
A good way to begin a tour of the old
quarter. or Part Alta, is by strolling along
the Passeig Arqueologic to enjoy the
pleasant view over the Camp de
Tarragona. On one side of the promenade,
opened in 1932, stand the impressive
Roman Walls, 12 m high, built in the
2nd century out of fine ashlars resting on a
base of large boulders, while on the other
is the outer wall added in the early 18th
century. Features of particular interest are
the posterns in the base and the three great
towers: the Torredel'Arquebisbe(rebuilt
in the 14th century), the Torre del Cabiscol
and Torre de Minerva (with a bas-relief).
There are two gates through the wall: the Roman Porta del Roser on the western side, and the classical-style Porta de Sant Antoni (1757) on the eastern side, opposite which stands a handsome ornamental cross made in 1604.
The magnificent Romanesque-Gothic transition style Cathedral, built in the 12-14th centuries on the site of the ancient Roman temple, towers above the city. The unfinished façade is beautifully adorned with sculptures by Mestre Bartomeu (13th century) . A rich artistic heritage, accumulated over the centuries, can be admired inside. It includes the handsome 13th century Romanesque doorway into he great cloister, the 15th century alabaster high altar of Santa Tecla, which is a materpiece by Pere Joan, various other Gothic and Baroque altarpieces, the organ, and the inner, Renaissance-style chapels. The adjoining Diocesan museum contains exhibits of great interest, among them a fine collection of tapestries.
The Part Alta also has other interesting features: Roman remains and Gothic buildings on the Plaça del Pallol, archways along the Carrer de la Merceria, the old Hospital de Santa Tecla, the former city hall (Casa de la Ciutat) and the Casa de la Generalitat. On the Carrer de Cavallers are various mansions, one of which houses the Casa-rnuseu Castellarrlau, decorated by Flaugier. All of them have medieval foundations with later constructions above. The former Jewish quarter or Call, with its narrow streets, is also attractive. Of special importance are the remains of the Roman provincial Forum, alongside which stood a great tower known as the Pretori (Praetorium) or Castell de Pilat, which was rebuilt in the Middle Ages as a royal residence (Castell del Rei). The remains of the archways and gradins of the Roman Circus are still impressive. The circus stood approximately on the site of the Plaça de la Font, at one end of which is the present l9th century City Hall (Casa de la Ciutat). The Pretori and the modern building aojoining it are the home of the Museu d 'Historia de Tarragona and the important Museu Nacional Arqueologic, which contain some magnificent exhibits, such as the sarcophagus of Hippolytus, a famous ivory doll, a Praxitelean Bacchus and a mosaic with the face of Medusa.
At the foot of the Part Alta, close to the sea, are the remains of the eliptically-shaped Roman Amphitheatre (lst century A.D.). Most of the gradins have been preserved and in the centre of the arena stand the ruins of the 12th century Romanesque church of Santa Maria del Miracle which was built on the site of an earlier Visigothic church. ThePasseig de Santa Clara or Passeig de les Palmeres overlooks the sea and runs into the Rambla Nova, a wide avenue with some interesting Modernist (Catalan Art Nouveau style) houses. On the soulh side towards the port, are some of the columns and tabernae of the second Roman Forum, the city forum, and the surviving but ill conserved remains of the Roman theatre.
A 3rd-4th century early Christian necropolis, one of the most important from this period in the Iberian Peninsula, can be seen on the outskirts of the eity, near the final streteh of the Francoli river. Next to it is a museum containing a good collection of sarcophagi and tombs. Within the city boundaries are still more fine legacies from the Roman past. One is the Aqueduct, known as Pont de les Ferreres or, popularly, Pont del Diable (Devil's Bridge), an impressive work of Roman engineering consisting of two rows of very well conserved arches 23 m high and 217 m long, which was built to bring water to the city. Close to the old Via Augusta is a monumental tomb,the Torre dels Escipions, adorned with sculptures of funerary deities, while a short distance away, in the midst of lush greenery, is the huge Roman quarry of El Medol, above which riscs an eagle carved in unexcavated stone. Tamnrit Castle, a group of 12th-14th century buildings that were restored in 1916, stands on the easternmost edge of the borough, overlooking the sea near the mouth ot the Gaià. Various other interesting buildings lie just outside the city limits. The Centcelles Mausoleum, near Constantí. is decorated with beautiful mosaics and is believed to have been built in the 4th century alongside an existing large Roman country villa as a tomb for Constantine I. The Arc de Berà is a very well preserved early 2nd century triumphal arch, comprising a single archway framed by Corinthian pilastres, which spans the Via Augusta, close to Roda de Berà. Near the coast at Altafulla is the newly excavated Roman Villa of Els Munts.
Eating, Shopping and Entertainment
The cuisine of Tarragona has a quite distinctive flavour. The tasty local dishes not surprisingly, are basically made from seafood, blended with the produce of the land: olive oil, hazelnuts, almonds, sweet peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, etc. Romesco is a much appreciated sauce made with just these ingredients and served mainly with fish but also with salads and broiled meats. Other fish dishes include rossejat (well browned rice or noodles cooked in fish broth), arròs negre (rice cooked in cuttlefish ink), and calamars amb xocolata (squid with chocolate). Swects include menjar blanc (made from almond milk) and borraines amb mel. There are local wines to go with all these specialities: white wines bearing the appelation d'origine "D.O. Camp de Tarragona", red Priorat wines, as well as the fullbodied Tarragona wines known the world over. Restaurants are plentiful in the city centre, the fishing district of El Serrallo and along the nearby seafronts.
Good shopping facilities exist in a number of areas: around the Market, and along the Rambla Nova and the pedestrian malls in the city centre-the Carrer Major and Carrer Mendez Nunez. The Part Alta boasts numerous antique shops and there are several art galleries both in the centre and in the Part Alta. In addition to the usual leisure facilities -cinemas, theatres, concert halls, dance halls and discotheques-, Tarragona possesses a modern open air auditorium, the Camp de Mart, built against the city walls, which is the scene of Summer Festivals of music, dance and drama.
Various popular festivals are held throughout the year. The main celebrations take place on the feastdays of Sant Magi (19 August) and Santa Tecla (23 September) respectively. Others are held at Carnival time, and the events of Holy Week, featuring processions in which confraternities dating back to the Middle Ages and armats (Roman soldiers) take part, have a particularly solemn note. Further festivities take place on the feast of Corpus Christi, on Saint Peter's day (29 June), when there is a seafarers' procession in the El Serrallo district, and on the feast of El Carme (16 July). Demonstrations of genuine local customs form part of these celebrations. Spectacular castells or human pyramids are built by long-established teams of castellers, such as the Xiquets de Tarragona, or the Colla Jove dels Xiquets de Tarragona. On certain festival days, "pillars" of castellers parade from the Cathedral (Pla de la Seu) to the City Hall (Casa de la Ciutat) in the "descent of the pillars". Traditional dances are also performed-stick dances, Dames i Vells, and devils' dances. Various figures take part in the parades: they represent giants dwarfs and mythical animals, like the dragon, the eagle and the mule-like mulassa. The bull ring, built near the por area at the end of the 19th century, is use, for bull fights, contests between teams of castellers and other forms of entertainment.
The Port, Beaches and sports Facilities
The Port of Tarragona is one of the most important industrial ports in the country. Inside the fishing wharf area is the Marina, which is run by the Club Nautic, the oldest sailing club in Catalonia. The mild climate affords many opportunities to enjoy the long line of gently sloping beaches with fine sand, separated by small rocky jetties (Platja de Tamarit, Platja de la Mora, Platja Llarga, Platja dels Capellans, Platja de la Savinosa, Platja de l'Arrabassada, and Platja del Miracle, the last being in the city itself).
Water sports predominate-surfing, sailing, rowing, and swimming- but there are also facilities for other pursuits like tennis, cycling, motor cycle racing and horse riding. The range of facilities was further widened in 1983 with the opening of a golf course on El Catllar road.
N-240 Tarragona - San Sebasrian
N-420 Tarragona - Cordoba (Cuenca)
RENFE, Barcelona - Valencia and Andalusia, and Tarragona - Lleida
Reus (7 km)