ALICANTE, SPAIN

Alicante Travel Blog

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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.

view from santa barbara castle
The local economy is based upon tourism in the beaches from Costa Blanca coast and particularly the second residence construction boom which started in the 1960s and reinvigorated again by the late 1990s. Services and public administration also play a major role in the city's economy. The construction boom has raised many environmental concerns and both the local autonomous government and city council are under scrutiny by the European Union. The construction soar is the subject of hot debates among politicians and citizens alike. The latest of many public battles concerns the plans of the Port Authority of Alicante to construct an industrial estate on reclaimed land in front of the city's coastal strip, in breach of local, national and European regulations.

 

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.

Another well-known festival is Moros y Cristianos in Altozano or San Blas district. Overall, the city boasts a year-round nightlife, helped by tourists, fun-loving residents, and a large student population of the University of Alicante. The nightlife social scene tends to shift to nearby Playa de San Juan (St. John's Beach) during the summer months.

 

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.

 

History

 

 

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.

hmmmmmm paella
By the sixth century BC, the rival armies of Carthage and Rome began to invade and fight for control of the Iberian Peninsula. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca established the fortified settlement of Akra Leuka (Greek: κρα Λευκ, meaning "White Mountain" or "White Point"), where Alicante stands today.

 

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.

However neither the Romans nor the Goths put up much resistance to the Arab conquest of Medina Laqant in the 8th century. The Moors gave the city its modern name - Alicante is Arabic for "city of lights".[2] The Moors ruled southern and eastern Spain until the 11th century reconquista (reconquest). Alicante was finally taken in 1246 by the Castilian king Alfonso X, but it passed soon and definitely to the Kingdom of Valencia in 1298 with the Catalonian King James II of Aragon. It gained the status of Royal Village (Vila Reial) with representation in the medieval Valencian Parliament.

 

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.

santa barbara castle
But between 1609 and 1614 King Felipe III expelled thousands of moriscos who had remained in Valencia after the reconquista, due to their allegiance with Barbary pirates who continually attacked coastal cities and caused much harm to trade. This act cost the region dearly; with so many skilled artisans and agricultural labourers gone, the feudal nobility found itself sliding into bankruptcy. Things got worse in the early 18th century; after the War of Spanish Succession, Alicante went into a long, slow decline, surviving through the 18th and 19th centuries by making shoes and agricultural products such as oranges and almonds, and its fisheries. The end of the 19th century witnessed a sharp recovery of the local economy with increasing international trade and the growth of the city harbour leading to increased exports of several products (particularly during World War I when Spain was a neutral country).

 

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.

Even if not as famous as the bombing of Guernica by the German Luftwaffe, Alicante was the target of some vicious air bombings during the three years of civil conflict, most remarkably the bombing by the Italian Aviazione Legionaria of the Mercado de Abastos in May 25, 1938 in which more than 300 civilians perished.

 

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.

Also, the old airfield at Rabasa was closed and air traffic moved to the new El Altet airport, which made for a convenient facility for charter flights bringing tourists from northern European countries.

 

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).

In recent years, the Port Authority has established it as one of the most important ports in Spain for cruises, with 72 calls to port made by cruises in 2007 bringing some 80,000 cruise passengers and 30,000 crew to the city each year.The moves to develop the port for more tourism have been welcomed by the city and its residents, but the latest plans to develop an industrial estate in the port have caused great controversy.

 

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view from santa barbara castle
view from santa barbara castle
hmmmmmm paella
hmmmmmm paella
santa barbara castle
santa barbara castle
903 km (561 miles) traveled
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Alicante
photo by: Julie-Sensa