A black sheet hangs from the balcony of a blue-painted house on the beachfront. In the distance, a ship of local sailors returns from America, or perhaps the Philippines. One of the sailors looks over the bow and recognizes the blue house from which the sheet hangs. Also the black color that indicates that someone in his family has died while he was at sea.
For centuries, La Vila Joiosa (or La Vila for the locals) has conversed with the sea through objects, houses and myths that today enrich its history. We discover the secrets of this iconic town 32 kilometers from the city of Alicante that shines between ancient walls, fairytale beaches and colors, many colors.
The town that speaks with the sea
The origin of the colors in La Vila can be found in its marine origin. During the 16th century, La Vila Joiosa was considered a strategic point in the defense of the Alicante coast against attacks by Barbary pirates, a reason that led to fortifying the town as well as introducing different watchtowers attached to old farmhouses. After the cessation of the attacks, the activity of La Vila was deployed outside the walls until it merged with the Mediterranean Sea.
The houses of the first sailors were located in front of the beach, but their aesthetics were so similar that the fishermen decided to paint each house a different color in order to recognize their home when returning over the horizon. Upon seeing the line of colors by the sea, the vilero could identify not only its façade, but also messages spread by its relatives through black fabrics and sheets (death of a relative), or white (birth of a new member). ).
Many years later, La Vila is a true reflection of its past: all you have to do is drop by the old town, considered a Site of Cultural Interest, to get lost in the Pal alley, so perfumed with rice dishes, pebrereta and clothes hanging between the that someone has camouflaged a mermaid tail. The hanging houses overlooking the Amadorio River, the atmosphere of Arsenal Street (where you will take that typical photo), or the children carrying unicorn floats every summer. In the old town of La Vila, the tourist ABC is dispensed with to get carried away by the nostalgia of its colors, the roofs behind which a palm tree appears, the air conditioners eroded by saltpeter or a walk to the port.
It is precisely in the fish market where La Vila has deepened these months in new fishing tourism proposals as the spearhead of its seafaring heritage. The route “From the sea to the table” is the commitment to revive the old local customs for the visitor through immersion in the arts of fishing and deep-sea and inshore boats. After the explanations, the boats are visited to discover the goods of the day and link up with their subsequent auction at the fish market. As a final touch, the visitor accesses the Tennis Club restaurant, where chef Toni Mayor acts as the perfect mentor for a gastronomic evening.
La Vila has delved into new fishing tourism proposals as the spearhead of its seafaring heritage
“This proposal is based on the philosophy of the fishermen’s wives and their typical What has the sea brought us? when their husbands returned home”, tells us Beatriz Almarcha, responsible for the project. “We bring fish of the day that we previously acquired at the fish market to prepare a dish in a spacious kitchen and a relaxed atmosphere.
Toni offers us two signature tapas and good wine while we distribute the stalls to prepare the food, generally a typical suquet de peix – a seafood stew -: one person is in charge of peeling onions, another of cleaning fish, and while we go pecking. At the end of the day we all end up eating what we have prepared.”
A project born from the collaboration of the City Council of La Vila Joiosa and the Fishermen’s Association as a way to promote fishing tourism, a trend that allows diversifying the fishing activities of coastal towns and whose boom is committed to reconnecting with the past of a territory.
Sugar Mediterranean and other gourmet delights
Beyond fishing, there are other shortcuts to the past of La Vila through the palate, its sweet and salty nuances. The seafaring activity of La Vila Joiosa was not only nourished by fish, but also by the chocolate trade coming from the routes with Marseille, Guinea or America, which provided cotton, cigarette paper or exotic cocoa pods that entered untangle from the port of the city of Alicante. Vila Joiosa was a pioneer in the export of sweets in the Valencian Community from the 18th century, although the first cocoa factory did not appear until 1840. By 1937, there were already 29 chocolate shops in the town that distributed their delicacies throughout Spain.
The Chocolate Museum of the Valor Factory illustrates with curiosities of cocoa, its production process or the original wrappers
Currently we can visit three factories. Chocolates Pérez is the smallest but also the most authentic, since it is the only factory that maintains its artisan production chain with the grandson of the original founder guiding the visits. From here, we can connect with the Chocolate Museum of the Valor Factory, the most important. In this temple worthy of Willy Wonka, the visitor is illustrated with curiosities about cocoa, its production process or the original wrappers of the chocolate bars. Finally, we find Chocolates Clavileño, a factory that has been open for more than 130 years around a granite mill, among other traditional items.
However, before visiting these sweet paradises, you may prefer to locate yourself at kilometer zero of a gourmet route that begins in the Central Market and its coca and salted fish stalls. The best common thread to the typical breakfastthe Valencian version of late breakfastIt connects with Cantina Gallina, where in addition to its exquisite montaditos we can take our own purchases from the market so that they prepare it on their griddle.
To eat, nothing better than a visit to Casa Elordi, another place next to the market where chef Mónica Alfaro delights her guests with proposals such as her mask and musola rice, as well as a pampered selection of menus. Or succumb to the exquisite cauldron that Jaime Pinet prepares in the 314 tavern. Options that invite you to pause, to renew your energies to discover everything that La Vila still has to offer.
blue is a feeling
Vila Joiosa is a town of many layers to link during our visit. From the market we go through all its historical secrets, such as the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, one of the few examples of a church-fortress in Alicante and built in the 16th century following the Catalan Gothic style.
Simple and symbolic, the church is a perfect reflection of the old framework that we can also appreciate through the remains of its walls, vestiges of the old fortification that today sigh in Costera del Mar street. The heritage of La Vila beats in its center historical, but we can also explore surroundings of ancient watchtowers, Roman remains and dream beaches.
The tower of El Xarco and the tower of Aguiló, examples of watchtowers from the 16th century, survive as old guides of the town and are the best excuse for a hiking route with a blue end. Or if you prefer, La Malladeta is another excellent route through the vilage landscape to reach this archaeological site of an Iberian sanctuary that reveals the best panoramic views of the coast.
A walk, the sea that encourages you to take off your shirt and as many beaches as possibilities. In the surroundings of La Vila we find coves for all types of travelers and environments: leave early in the morning if you want your little corner in the Racó del Conill, a naturist emblem covered in pine trees, turquoise waters and cliffs like new springboards.
There are secret stairs that speak to the sea and squid sandwiches at the beach bar in Los Estudiantes cove, where gannets guard the coral from the horizon. The small cove of Esparrelló, carved by secret cliffs; Paradís beach, near the Montiboli hotel; or Bol Nou, the most bohemian and devoted to diving, are other recommendations.
If you prefer to stay at the beginning of history, you can always enjoy the urban beach of La Vila Joiosa and travel to the summers Classic of the 60s through irresistible topics: umbrellas that rival the color of the houses, a hammock under the palm trees or a good rice on its terraces. A walk through the old town, confused as an ancient sailor, although this time you don’t have to worry about the black color of the sheets or their centuries-old messages. Going back to La Vila today only means good news.