North of Murcia and south of Catalonia sits the the home of “la paella“, “La Comunidad Valenciana” in Spanish (La Comunitat Valenciana in Valencian; “Valencian Community” in English). Traditionally the territory had been comprised of three “comarques”, which are now the provinces [names in “Spanish” (Valencian)]: “Castellón” (Castelló), ” Valencia” (València), and “Alicante” (Alacant) .
The Iberians were the first to settle the land, then the Romans who called it: “Valentia Edetanorum”. The name “Valencia” came after James I of Aragon led Christian conquest and colonization of the existing Islamic taifas in 1208. Thirty years later, the Kingdom of Valencia (Regne de València) became the third independent country within the Crown of Aragon.
Some of the major cities include:
- Valencia, the capital of the region and the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. Every August people flock from all over the world to chuck tomatoes at each other during “La Tomatina”. Before then there are the “Las Fallas” (Les Falles) in March, when a year of hard work creating an ornate float, goes up in flames.
- Alicante, famous for its hard nougat (“Turrón”), beaches and the bonfires fires that kick off summer with Les Festes de Sant Joan in Valencian (“San Juan” in Spanish; “Saint John” in English) on June 24th.
- Elche, the home of the Palmeral of Elche (The Palm Grove of Elche, Palmerar d’Elx in Valencian), an orchard of over 200,000 palm trees, which is a World Heritage Site.
- Alcoy is surrounded by the mountains and studded with modernist buildings. Every April, the city throws a party, “Moros y Cristianos”, which commemorates the battles between Moors (or Muslims) and Christians during “La Reconquista”.
- Benidorm, the seaside resort nicknamed, “Beniyork”, because there are so many skyscrapers overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain’s tallest building: Gran Hotel Bali.
The people are called Valenciano(s) and they speak both Castellano and Valenciano (similar to Catalan and Aragonés). They have a reputation for being warm, knowing how to party and, of course, eating well. In addition to “paella“, Valencia is famous for its other rice dishes that use a variety of ingredients, including squid’s ink. Its wines have Denominació d’Origen Valenciana. The blending of the grapes and aging process gives them a different flavor compared to those from La Rioja, Navarre or Galicia.
Here’s a video in English about the legendary “Fallas”:
For the other autonomies