Its own pace of life, that’s what the Penedès has. Its countryside and cava, wine, nature, its restored castles, its light, its personalities and their stories… All this goes to make a cocktail that is, at the very least, delicious.
There can be no doubt that the Penedès is gaining more and more friends, both from home and abroad. Artists and actors, journalists and families, an increasing number of city dwellers who want to change their way of life without totally depriving themselves of their natural habitat choose the Penedès as a place to live.
We have already mentioned that the people of the Penedès, as in all rural areas, are individualists. But, at the same time and although it may seem contradictory, they also like to put their ego to one side and launch themselves into a widespread pastime: joining forces to hold all kinds of events and popular gatherings.
The local saints’ days already result in an avalanche of festivals and celebrations and agricultural cycles also play their part: the peach fair in Ordal at harvest time and the wine must fairs that are celebrated by almost every town after harvesting are just a few examples. Vilafranca’s cockerel fair is also very famous.
In recent years various institutional and private initiatives have joined these traditional events. Some of these recently created festivals have now become a vital part of the region’s year, such as the Cavatast in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, where visitors can taste a wide assortment of cavas, and the Vijazz festival, which in early summer invades the old town of Vilafranca with stands where you can try wines, cavas and delicatessen foods, as well as setting up stages for a multitude of concerts.
However, the most spectacular celebration is surely the ‘fiesta mayor’ or great festival of Vilafranca. The explosion of colours, noise and music is quite an experience. The medieval dragon and all kinds of figures, some of which were being used back in the Middle Ages, give Vilafranca’s biggest week a very special, magical touch.
The ‘castellers’ or human castle builders are the stars of many festivals. They didn’t need UNESCO which, in 2010, proclaimed their castles as intangible cultural heritage of humanity, to realise that what they do is unique. Their commitment is total. A team spirit par excellence, teamwork if ever there was any.
As with the case of the ‘castellers’, more eyes are now turning to history itself and renewed energy is being devoted to merging the modern with the traditional, the urban with the rural. It’s in fashion, in the Penedès, to restore castles and monuments for tourism, and traditional farmhouses and other historical buildings to live and work in.
The Penyafort castle has lived many lives. Its first inhabitants were the lords of Penyafort, a family of ancient lineage. Near the castle, the Foix Nature Park also deserves a visit, perhaps ending with a snack, for example at Castellet i la Gornal, one of the best conserved monument towns in the entire region.
That’s the thing about the Penedès: you can never experience it all. Its inhabitants are unequivocal about their recommendation: choose a location, a moment and enjoy it slowly, with full awareness. In other words, at the Penedès pace.
(interested in reading more)
Barbara Schwarzwälder, “Penedés a delight for the senses”, Ed. Vinificadas 2013