Alicante Travel Blog› entry 2 of 3 › view all entries
Alicante (Spanish language) or Alacant (Valencian) is a city in Spain, the capital of the province of Alicante and of the comarca of the Alacantí, in the southern part of the Valencian Community. It is also a historic Mediterranean port. The population of the city of Alicante proper was 322,673, estimated as of 2007, of the entire urban area, 434,505, ranking as the second-largest Valencian city. Population of the metropolitan area (including Elche and satellite towns) was 734,362 as of 2007 estimates, ranking as the eighth-largest metropolitan area of Spain.
Alicante is one of the fastest-growing cities in Spain.
Luis Díaz Alperi (1945), of the Partido Popular (People's Party), has been reelected city mayor with an absolute majority for his fourth term in the Municipal Elections of May 2007, followed closely by Etelvina Andreu (1969) of the Partido Socialista (PSOE).
The city has regular ferry services to the Balearic Islands
and Algeria, and an international airport is nearby, served by Iberia and other
airlines. The city is strongly fortified, with a spacious harbour. Amongst the
most notable features of the city are its main castle, the Castle of Santa
Bárbara, which sits high above the city, and its port, which has become the
subject of bitter controversy in the city as residents battle to keep it from
being changed into an industrial estate.
The most important festival, the Bonfires of Saint John, takes place during the summer solstice. This is followed a week later by seven nights of firework and pyrotechnic contests between companies on the urban beach Playa del Postiguet.
The city is the headquarters of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market and a sizeable population of Euro public workers live here.
At the foot of the main staircase of the City Hall Building (Ayuntamiento) is the "cota cero" (zero point), used as the point of reference for measuring the height above or below sea level of any point in Spain, due to the marginal tidal variations of the Mediterranean sea in Alicante.
Since 2005 Alicante hosts Ciudad de la Luz Ciudad de la Luz, one of the largest film's studios in Europe. Spanish and international movies such as Asterix at the Olympic Games (film) by Frédéric Forestier and Thomas Langmann, Manolete from Menno Meyjes have been shot there.
The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years, with the first tribes of hunter gatherers moving down gradually from Central Europe between 5000 and 3000 BC. Some of the earliest settlements were made on the slopes of Mount Benacantil. By 1000 BC Greek and Phoenician traders had begun to visit the eastern coast of Spain, establishing small trading ports and introducing the native Iberian tribes to the alphabet, iron and the pottery wheel.
Although the Carthaginians conquered much of the land around Alicante, the Romans would eventually rule Hispania Tarraconensis for over 700 years. By the 5th century, Rome was in decline; the Roman predecessor town of Alicante, known as Lucentum (Latin), was more or less under the control of the Visigothic warlord Teodmiro.
After several decades of being the battlefield where Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragón clashed, Alicante became a major Mediterranean trading station exporting rice, wine, olive oil, oranges and wool.
During the early twentieth century, Alicante was a minor capital which enjoyed the benefit of Spain's neutrality during the First World War, which provided new opportunities for the local industry and agriculture. The Rif War in the 1920s saw numerous alicantinos drafted to fight in the long and bloody campaigns at the former Spanish protectorate (Northern Morocco) against the Rif rebels. The political unrest of the late 1920s led to the victory of republican candidates in the local council elections throughout the country, and the abdication of King Alfonso XIII. The proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic was much celebrated in the city on April 14, 1931. The Spanish Civil War broke out on July 17, 1936. Alicante was the last city loyal to the Republican government to be occupied by General Franco's troops on April 1, 1939, and its harbour saw the last Republican government officials fleeing the country.
The next 20 years under Franco's dictatorship were difficult for Alicante as it was for the entire country. However, the late 1950s and early 1960s saw the onset of a lasting transformation of the city due to tourism. Large buildings and complexes rose in nearby Albufereta and Playa de San Juan, with the benign climate being the best tool to bring prospective buyers and tourists who kept hotels reasonably busy. The tourist development, aside from construction, also brought numerous businesses such as restaurants, bars and other businesses focused on visitors.
When Franco died in 1975, his successor Juan Carlos I successfully oversaw the transition of Spain to a democratic constitutional monarchy. Governments of nationalities and regions were given more autonomy, and the Valencian region was not an exception.
Alicante is the Valencia region's second-largest town.
The port has been reinventing itself since the industrial decline the city suffered in the 1980s (with most mercantile traffic lost in favour of Valencia's harbour).