Sitges (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈsidʒəs])
is a town about 35 kilometres southwest of Barcelona in Catalonia, renowned worldwide
for its Film Festival and Carnival. Located between the Garraf Massif and the
sea, it is known for its beaches, nightspots, and historical sites. While the roots of Sitges’ artistic reputation
date back to the late 19th century, when painter Santiago Rusiñol took up residence there
during the summer, the town became a centre for the 1960s counterculture in mainland Spain,
in Francoist Spain, and became known as “Ibiza in miniature”. Today, Sitges’ economy is based on tourism
and culture offering more than 4,500 hotel beds, half of them in four-star hotels. Almost 35% of the approximately 26,000 permanent
inhabitants are from the Netherlands, the UK, France and Scandinavia, whose children
attend international schools in the area. There are 17 beaches. Sitges was also the site of the annual Bilderberg
conference held in June 2010. Sitges has been referred to as the Saint-Tropez
of Spain, with property prices approaching those of the most expensive European cities,
the main reason for this being the setting by the sea and
the surrounding Parc Natural del Garraf. Proximity to Barcelona-El Prat Airport is
also a major advantage. Human presence in the area dates to at least
the Neolithic era, and an Iberian settlement from the 4th century. In the 1st century BC it included two separated
villages, later absorbed by the Romans. During the Middle Ages, a castle was built
in Sitges, owned by the bishopric of Barcelona, which later ceded it to count Mir Geribert
(1041). In the 12th century the town fell under the
rule of the Sitges family. The latter held it until 1308, when Agnes
of Sitges sold the town to Bernat de Fonollar, after whose death it went to the Pia Almoina,
a charitable institution, to which it belonged until 1814. Sitges’ economy was mostly based on the production
of wine until the economic boom of the 1960s, after which it became a tourist resort. In 1958, the Liberals (see Liberalism in Colombia
) and Conservatives (see Conservatism in Colombia) both met in the city of Sitges and the nearby
city of Benidorm to sign a peace treaty instituting Colombia’s Consociationalist democracy in
agreement called the National Front (Colombia). For over a century, Sitges has celebrated
Carnestoltes, or Carnival, between the months of February and March, according to the liturgical
calendar. The festivities begin on Dijous Gras, or Fat
Thursday, with King Carnestoltes’ arrival. They continue until the burial of the sardine
— late afternoon on Ash Wednesday. Folk dances and xatonades (traditional local
salad served with assorted omelets) are also characteristic carnival elements. The two most important moments are the Rua
de la Disbauxa, or the Debauchery Parade, on Sunday night and the Rua de l’Extermini,
or Extermination Parade, on Tuesday night. Around forty floats with more than 2,000 participants
fill Sitges. Xató is Sitges’ most typical dish. Its first recorded mention is in local newspaper
Eco de Sitges report on Maundy Thursday, published on 16 February 1896. The report refers to a meal that three days
before had gathered together a selected group of Catalan artists and intellectuals, including
Santiago Rusiñol, Miquel Utrillo and Gaietà Buigas. The name “xató” comes from an expression
pronounced years before by Canudas, a member of the Rusiñol’s group. The main ingredients of xató are endive salad,
cod, tuna, anchovies, aubergine and black olives. However, the essence of the dish is its sauce,
made with scalded chillies, toasted almonds, garlic, olive oil, salt, vinegar and hot peppers. The complete xató meal consists of some different
omelettes or fricandó (a typical Catalan hot meal) and as a dessert, coca de lardons
(typical Catalan cake, made from pork scratchings), served with a bottle of Penedès black wine. Sitges cuisine includes many Catalan sailors’
dishes such as rice Sitges style, stewed sepia with potatoes and allioli (Catalan garlic
sauce), bull de tonyina (made with tuna fish), fideuada (similar to paella, but with noodles
and seafood) or stuffed peppers with cod. Malvasia is a delicate liquor wine served
in Sitges, primarily with dessert. The name “malvasia” comes from the Peloponnesian
port Monemvasía. In Sitges, the Hospital Sant Joan Baptista
continues producing and marketing malvasia according to the traditional method from its
own vines and within its own cellars. The proceeds go to charity. The annual production is approximately 4,000
bottles. Sitges has 17 sand beaches. Four of them are in the east: the first one
called Les Botigues at the beginning of the coast, next to the beaches of Castelldefels
and the other three are following the coast of Garraf (Road C-31). One of them is Garraf village beach. There are eleven beaches in the town and two
to its west, which are difficult to access. All the eastern and urban beaches have flags
indicating the state of the sea and most of them have quality diplomas and blue flags
awarded by the European Union. There are three main nudist beaches located
in Sitges. One of which is Platja dels Balmins, the second
nudist beach is Platja d’Aiguadolç, both of these beaches are populated by all members
of the community. The third nudist beach is Playa del Muerto,
which is more populated by the gay community. Platja dels Balmins and Platja d’Aiguadolç
are located on the eastern side of Sitges while Playa del Muerto is located on the western
side of Sitges and is more difficult to reach. Sitges is part of the long history of motor
racing in Catalonia. From 1908–1920 events were staged over public
roads from Sitges to Canyelles to Vilanova i la Geltrú, and from Mataro to Vilassar
de Mar and Argentona. In 1922 and 1923 the Real Moto Club de Catalunya
ran the Penya Rhin Grand Prix over a 9-mile circuit around the town of Vilafranca del
Penedès until it was replaced by a short lived purpose built circuit, the banked Autodromo
Sitges Terramar, which is still visible at 41°14′18.35″N 1°46′50.20″E. Albert
Divo won the only Spanish Grand Prix held at the banked ‘Sitges Terramar’ driving a
Sunbeam.