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One of the more important autonomous regions in Spain, Catalonia is located in the Spanish northeast, bordering France and the Mediterranean Sea. It was home to native Iberians in antiquity, and was partially colonized by Greeks and Carthaginians before the Romans came, conquered the whole region, and incorporated it into their province of Hispania. The people of Catalonia still speak Catalan, a Latin-derived dialect that is quite similar to Castilian Spanish, but different enough to be considered its own language. Catalonia is home to Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city. The region consists of four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona.

Catalonia is an old and traditional land. As much as any other culture except perhaps the Basques, the Catalonians are fiercely independent, preferring their own language and customs. The region is known for agriculture – chiefly fruit and wine – and cork, which grows in abundance in the province of Girona. Catalonia has many of its own traditions, including festivals, holidays and literature.

Catalan cuisine is excellent: it is heavy on pasta, fresh vegetables and pork and reminds many of Italian food.  They are also known for excellent seafood, and are particularly fond of cod. Catalonia is one of Spain’s principal wine-producing areas and they wines are excellent.

There is much to attract visitors to Catalonia. The all-star of the region is, of course, the beautiful and cosmopolitan city of Barcelona. Barcelona is a modern, chic city known for unforgettable architecture, lively nightlife, world-class shopping and more. Catalonia’s beaches are very good: Costa Brava, the shoreline of Girona province, is considered one of Spain’s best beaches. A little further south, Costa Dorada is home to charming and traditional fishing villages as well as good beaches.

There is more to Catalonia than fun and sun on the beach and margaritas at trendy Barcelona discos. The region is mountainous, bordered as it is by the Pyrenees in the north. There is a great deal of history in the region, from the monastery-retreat of Montserrat to the historic Jewish quarter of the city of Girona.  Inimitable painter Salvador DalĂ­ was born in Figueres, where there is still an art museum housing many of his works. The city of Tarragona was founded by the Romans, and there are still many walls and buildings from the Roman era around town.  

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
31 Oct 2007

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