“Navarra” in Spanish (Nafarroa in Basque) is the autonomy that sits between the Basque Country and Aragon, with France to the north. Thanks to Ernest Hemingway, the capital, Pamplona, is known throughout the world for the San Fermín Festival, (July 6 to 14) . Although there is much more to the city and officially “The Chartered Community of Navarre” than running with the bulls.
Before the Romans, Navarre was ruled by the Vascon tribe. Unlike most of Spain, the Visigoths never successfully conquered the region, nor did the Moors. The exception was the Muslim-Basque City of Banu Qasi, which served as a buffer between the regions who were sometimes allies of convenience when it came to the two other kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula: Aragon and Castile. The Kingdom of Navarra would be born after repelling Frankish invaders. It was the first of many battles between the neighboring states that stretched into Napoleonic times. The marriage of Isabella married Ferdinand in 1492 did not see Navarre fall under the Spanish crown – that occurred following the War of the League of Cambrai in 1515.
This important role in Spanish history is reflected in Navarre being one of two autonomies (along with the Basque Country) to have almost total responsibility to collect and administer its taxes. Despite its relatively small size, the region has a wealth of different landscapes. The northern area (near the Atlantic Ocean) could belong to “Green Spain”. The Pyrenees rise in the east, just one of the many mountain ranges, while “La Bardenas Reales” in the southeast (close to the border of Aragon) are Spain’s Badlands.
Pamplona, the capital and by far the largest municipality of the region. A fortress city, it survived as a semi-autonomous entity even after much of the area was annexed by Spain. The remnants of military structures are now parks: the walls that exist today date from the late 16th to 18th centuries. Within them is the old city beyond them the two 19th Century modernist expansions, the second of which, “II Ensanche” (second widening) was planned, based on the grid pattern model Ildefons Cerdà designed for Barcelona.
Tudela, sits in the Ebro Valley. It is famous for its sponge cake (“mantecada”) as well as other pastries. Other towns of note are: Barañáin, Burlada, Estella – Lizarra, Zizur Mayor, Tafalla, Villava/Atarrabia, and Ansoáin.
The people of the region are Navarro(s). The area is linguistically mixed, with Basque speakers in the northwest and Castilian speakers in the south. Pamplona shares this characteristic. Like its landscapes, Navarre offers many choices for food, all of which usually includes local ingredients from the fertile valleys. The white asparagus from the region is popular throughout Spain as is the wine designated Denominación de Origen (DO) Navarra. Meanwhile, the first recording of the word “tortilla” was in a Navarrese document dated 1817, to give you a sense of its importance to the country and the food.
Here’s a video with a little bit more about the region
For the other autonomies