Tossa de Mar is a popular tourist destination. Not just for the beauty of its location on Spain’s Costa Brava, or the quality of its food and hospitality, but also because of its long and varied history. You can explore this history as you walk around the town, taking in the medieval fortifications of the Vila Vella (the Tossa de Mar old town) and the ancient Roman settlement. But it is not all old: there is a more recent cultural and artistic tradition.
Vila Vella, The Tossa De Mar Old Town
Tossa de Mar may be small but there is a surprising amount to discover. The star attraction is undoubtedly the Vila Vella, the fortified town built in the 13th century to protect the town’s population from the pirates and other invaders who frequented the coastline. The inhabitants at that time were mainly fishermen and their families, but at times of trouble the local farmers would also seek safety inside the walls.
People still live in the Vila Vella today, and in some ways it looks much as it must have done in the Middle Ages, especially if you wander off the main paths and down the narrow passages between the houses.
You could spend all day exploring the Vila Vella, walking around the perimeter walls with their towers and battlements, and stopping to look at the Lighthouse Museum and the remains of the Church of Sant Vicenç. Walk to the top to be rewarded with magnificent views and make time to stop at one of the many restaurants serving traditional local dishes.
Other Historic Sites In Tossa De Mar
But there is more to Tossa de Mar than this. Close to the Vila Vella is La Roqueta, the fishermen’s area constructed when the town began to expand in the 16th century. Look out for Can Ganga, once an isolated farmhouse requiring heavy fortification, but now in the centre of the town.
Then walk up to Els Ametllers Roman Villa, the remains of an impressive dwelling that was once surrounded by vineyards. You can see why this site was chosen: it would have had a commanding view of the sea and countryside around.
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Poems And Sculptures
For many centuries Tossa was an isolated community, with little activity other than fishing and farming. But that all changed in the 1930s when it became a popular retreat for artists, attracted by the light and the beauty of the town and its surroundings. And 1950 saw the arrival of Hollywood, when the actress Ava Gardner stayed here while making the film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. This film brought Tossa to the world’s attention and helped to promote it as a holiday destination.
Tossa de Mar continues to enjoy its artistic heritage today. As you walk around you will spot several sculptures, part of a series of outdoor artworks by different artists. These showcase different aspects of the town, many on a fishing or maritime theme, but there is also a figure of Ava Gardner in the Vila Vella. Look out, too, for decorative tiles, some of them with fragments of poetry by local Catalan poets. A reminder, if one was needed, of the rich cultural history of Tossa de Mar.
Visiting Tossa De Mar
While you are in Tossa de Mar don’t forget to enjoy Catalan cuisine in one of the many excellent restaurants, both in the Vila Vella and elsewhere in the town. And, if you have a little longer in the town, there are several opportunities for hiking.
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