Today I’m taking you on a quick walk around Vilafranca del Penedès, the capital of the Alt Penedès area of Catalonia. It sits mid way between Tarragona and Barcelona and is close to Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú and Calafell.
The town dates back to the 12th century, and features a good variety of old and well cared for buildings. Two key sites are the gothic Basilica de Santa Maria and, right next door, the Palau Balta
In this historically well-endowed square, Plaça de Jaume I, you’ll also find an interesting sculpture that celebrates the local sport of human castle building. It was installed in 1963 and is the work of the Catalan sculptor, Josep Cañas i Cañas.
This spot was popular with a group of scooter gymnasts!
Just a few metres away, you’ll find the town square, Plaça de la Vila, with the town hall and the 14th century chapel, Capella de Sant Joan, now used as an exhibition space.
It’s a compact town so just wander the narrow streets and enjoy the historic buildings. With good light to accompany your wander, you’ll love the cheerful yellows and oranges of the architecture that contrast so well with the blue sky. And be sure to look up to enjoy the beautiful art nouveau street lighting.
Now, remember that statue to the castellers, the human castle makers? Well, if you’re here in the summer check out the timetable for tournaments and see if you can see one. It is a fascinating event, with an enthusiastic audience and climbers. The spot has a long history and has been recognised by Unesco on their “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.
The Vilafranca castellers, els Verds (the Greens), are fantastic builders and dismantlers, winning competitions and setting records for the height and complexity of the towers. Here is some tower action in Vilafranca in 2007:
They also tour abroad to demonstrate this tradition and their skills. Here they are performing in London in April 2013:
Back to the present day, though, and I’m off for a coffee!
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 12 February 2019
Posted as part of Monday Walks