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Valencian Community Travel Guide

Peniscola port, Valencia (© Alex Tihonov - Fotolia.com)
Peniscola port, Community of Valencia.

Introduction

The Community of Valencia (Comunidad Valenciana in Spanish), also known as the Valencian Country (País Valencià), is the fourth most populous Spanish autonomous community, with a population of slightly over 5 million.

The region occupies the middle part of Iberia's Mediterranean coast. Originally settled by Iberian tribes like the Contestani and the Edetani, the Valencian Country has experienced more population fluxes than almost anywhere else in the peninsula. It was colonised by the Greeks, conquered by the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Visigoths, and the Moors, and reconquered by the Catalans in the late Middle Ages.

The boundaries of the Valencian Community largely reflect those of the historic Kingdom of Valencia, one of the component realms of the Crown of Aragon. Valencians therefore have strong historical and cultural ties with Aragon, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. Half of the Valencians speak the Valencian dialect of Catalan, and 70% understand it.

Cuisine

Valencian cuisine is dominated by rice-based dishes, most famously for paella, of which Valencia is the birthplace. It is a common misconception of foreigners to think of paella as Spain's national dish, when it is in fact regarded y Spaniards as typical of Valencia. The coastal and inland cuisines are quite distinct, the former making abundant use of fish and seafood, whereas the latter specialises in meat dishes, such as roast lamb/goat or stuffed meat.

Notable Valencian dishes include arroz a banda (rice cooked in fish stock), arroz con costra (rice dish with sausages covered with a crust of eggs, often also prepared with rabbit meat), arroz empedrado (rice with dry cod, white beans, tomatoes, paprika, and garlic), bajoques farcides (peppers stuffed with rice, pork, tomatoes and spices), esgarrat (grilled red pepper salad with cured cod, garlic and olive oil), and fideuà (seafood paella made with thin noodles instead of rice). Aioli and picada sauces are very common, like in Catalonia.

There are three Valencian wine appellations: Alicante, Utiel-Requena and Valencia. The region is particularly noted for its semi-sweet Fondillón, a red wine from the Alicante D.O. with a high alcohol content like many fortified wine (although it is not fortified).

Attractions

North

Morella
Morella (© Pedro Antonio Salaverría Calahorra - iStockphoto.com)
outstanding Morella
Peñíscola
Peñíscola (© Pakmor - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Peniscola

Centre

Valencia
Baroque façade, Valencia (© Vladitto - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Valencia

Other attractions

very good Castellón de la Plana
very good Sagunto

South

Denia
Harbour and castle, Denia (© LUNAMARINA- iStockphoto.com)
outstanding Denia
Alicante
Aerial view of Alicante at dusk (© philipus - Fotolia.com)
very good Alicante
Benidorm
Aerial view of Benidorm at night (© Jose Hernaiz - Fotolia.com)
very good Benidorm

Other attractions

very good Altea
very good Elche
very good Javea (Xàbia)
very good Xàtiva
good Gandia
good Torrevieja
good Villajoyosa

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