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El Bajo Ampurdán: a few hours in Spanish Tuscany

Between the eastern Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea, the Baix Empordá region, or Bajo Ampurdán, encompasses a bunch of villages, from the interior to the Costa Brava, which draw a bucolic landscape typical of Tuscany. Gastronomy that wastes class, medieval architecture, literary farmhouses and watercolor beaches for a getaway of less than 72 hours.

Three days go a long way. Especially if you have a racing car that runs at the stroke of diesel and a natural and irremediable attachment to the spirit of On the road (payment, for these parts). It would take months behind the wheel to travel the kilometers of benefits of Bajo Ampurdán. We put honey on your lips with this succulent appetizer in a region that has become a home today and a benchmark for the global gastronomic elite.


On March 8, 1897, this small town of Bajo Ampurdán saw the birth of one of the best humanists of the national intellectual harvest that has given the nineteenth century. The talent of the writer and journalist Josep Pla would begin to bear fruit in the 49 of Carrer Nou. Today the foundation that bears his name (Carrer Nou, 51) dedicates his work to the protection and promotion of the vast work of the prolific Empordà with an agenda that includes literary, journalistic activities, routes around the area, exhibitions and even gastronomic symposia.

One way to perceive all the splendor of these kilometers of coastline is by taking the Camino de Ronda, a sandy walk parallel to the sea that Born in Calella de Palafrugell and dies on the promenade of Llafranc. In its tiny marina, you will find the stairs that lead to the lighthouse of Sant Sebastià in 1857, at a height of 178 meters above sea level. Above, the exclusive four-star Hotel Far (Muntanya de Sant Sebastià, Llafranc) It has the best views of the beaches of Palafrugell and surroundings. And since we are in one of the best-equipped regions at the gastronomic level, Toy Sáez, the chef of his restaurant, has made a place among critics and diners from here and there with his rice, fish at his point and Seafood from the neighboring fish market of Palamós.

The Pa i Raim restaurant (Torres Jonama, 56) lives its best moment in the former residence of the Empordian genius. A pairal house, generous in size, run by its descendants and specialized in an excellent market cuisine, the same that has brought this region to the top of the world gastronomy. What can you not miss? One of its three menus (pica pica, seasonal or tasting) in a lush garden full of lyrical connotations.

If Tuscany had a sea, it would be like that © Thinkstock


From Palafrugell, about seven kilometers towards Girona, the population of Pals, a delicious medieval site that exhibits the church of San Pedro, one of the most charming parishes that I can remember. It is advisable to park the car at the entrance of Pals and, with appropriate footwear, ascend to the parish through the cobbled streets of the Gothic quarter, with its semicircular arches and ocher stone facades that remind so much of Tuscany. From the Tower of the Hours, a Romanesque structure built between the 11th and 13th centuries, or from the viewpoint of Josep Pla, it is easy for the imagination to fly contemplating the erotic fields of Ampurdán, Pals beach and, beyond, the Medas Islands, a tiny archipelago declared a natural marine jewel since 2010.

The slopes of the winding streets of Pals are a kind of urban triathlon that culminate in a sudden awakening of appetite. And if there is a place of pilgrimage, with the permission of the priest of the parish of San Pedro, That is Vicus (Enginyer Algarra, 51), the gastronomic reward for those who leave the beaches of the Costa Brava for a while. The former Can Barris family hostel has become a elegant space specialized in Catalan cuisine, run by Elisabet and Gerard since 2011. The culinary pranks are directed by the chef Damià Rafecas, coming from kitchens like ABaC, Sant Pau, L'Esguard and El Racó d'en Freixa. It is worth reserving a table for one of their dinners pairing with wines from the region.

A street of Pals © Thinkstock


Begur, the last stop of our short route, inspired the title of one of Pla's stories (One of Begur), and which is part of Five stories of the sea, a compilation of chronicles that illustrate the atmosphere of this region of Girona through its light, the weather, its fishing villages, that unique culture and the philosophy of peaceful life.

Eight are the beaches and coves registered in the municipality of Begur. From north to south, the extensive Racó beach, the nudist Illa Roja and Sa Riera, the closest to the town of Begur. To the east, Aiguafreda, guarded by Mount Rodó, and Sa Tuna, difficult to access. At the southern end of the Begur coast, Playa Fonda, which remains almost virgin, and Fornells, the cove where the Empordà coast was officially baptized: Costa Brava.

Our last stop is due to a whim of romantic tints. The prize at the end of the road responds to the name of Aiguablava, the southernmost cove in the municipality, at the foot of a steep cliff. With fine sand and crystalline waters, the beach is bounded by a lush natural environment just urbanized. Among the scant architecture, a historic family hotel stands out. The emblematic Aigua Blava, founded by Clara Capellà in 1934 and run until today by the same family, winner is proclaimed in the most beautiful panoramic category from the bay of Aigua Blava. His chef Lluís Ferrés, devoted to traditional Catalan cuisine, has earned the respect of foodies and experts in a region that demands at least the maximum excellence in its stoves.

An award for those who wake up early: From the hotel, a dirt road that goes unnoticed leads to a natural wonder (as illustrated in the last photograph) whose name I don't want to remember. In Lower Ampurdán, I do.

The natural pool of Begur © Emilio Sánchez

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