In the vineyards of the Penedes, one hour west of Barcelona, the same distance from another airport at Reus, and just 45 minutes inland from the fashionable seaside resort of Sitges, is an inviting stone-built holiday villa with garden and pool.
It was the first holiday home in the high Penedes to be awarded 4 espigas, the equivalent of 4 stars for "Superior quality", by the Catalonian Government. But let’s consider the holiday property:
The house has plenty of traditional character and strikes just the right balance between rusticity and modern comfort. Antiques and quality furniture are nicely distributed and the overall impression is of a welcoming and well cared-for home.
Our favourite room was the generous country kitchen with its grand dining table and direct access to the gardens and barbecue area.
A comfortable lounge with a fireplace is followed by a hallway leading to a games room with table football, which also has a door out to the gardens. There’s also a downstairs WC and a utility room.
Although perfectly independent, at its rear the villa flanks a large patio and a farmhouse where the friendly, cultured Catalan owners of Villa CA15 stay occasionally. Although hospitable by nature, they are careful not to impinge on guests’ privacy. The swimming pool, which the owners only use when guests at the villa are absent for the day, is a great spot. The swimming pool area is on the other side of a quiet lane running beside the property, where it is not overlooked.
Close by (8 minutes away), both Pla de Manlleu and Pontons provide shopping facilities, and in 20 minutes you are in the larger and delightful Vilafranca del Penedes with its ancient fortress. Vilafranca is interesting place to watch and get a feel for local Catalan life. There are good restaurants here where you might like to sample local specialities such as pan tumaca, canaloni, duck, coq au vin, accompanied perhaps by a good Penedes wine.
The Penedes area is a prestigious wine-making area, particularly renowned for its sparkling cavas and brandies. A visit to one of the local cellars, which often present their wares in conjunction with well-balanced meals offered by professional restauranteurs, is always interesting. We recommend a nice deal offered by the area's wine museum in Vilafranca, which combines a self-guided visit in English, finding out about wine growing here since Romans planted the idea, followed a wine tasting and a fine lunchtime restaurant meal, all for 35 euros per head [price in 2014].
And cultural tourism in Penedes extends beyond gastronomy: castles, hermitages and ancient shrines in the region complement natural settings in which you will find cycling routes, waterfalls, grottos and gentle escarpments.
Adults and children alike will appreciate the house and swimming pool and enjoy exploring places like Montblanc (one of Hugh Palmer’s “Most Beautiful Villages of Spain”), where local legend has it that patron Saint Jordi (St George) killed the dragon. Every year the villagers dress up in medieval costume to reenact the event during a week’s feasting and merry-making to mark St George’s Day (23 April).
Tradition here runs to an excellent culinary culture, and those who like to eat out will have every reason to be pleased with opting for this location.
There are other historical villages to discover amongst the pretty forested hills just beyond the wine-growing land, where the locals still practise traditions such as Vilafranca’s famous “human castles,” composed of men standing on each others’ shoulders. To complete the precarious castle, a child climbs up the men to form the the peak.
While the relative proximity of the coast makes this holiday home a good option for those who don’t wish to be far from the sea, the area around the villa is above all an invitation to explore some inspiring Catalonian countryside. We recommend hiking or biking your preferred stages of the fabulous “Cistercian Route,” which links three Benedictine monasteries and natural landscapes via the well-signposted GR-175 pathway. The whole circular route is 105 km but you can simply take your pick of its most satisfying links.
For seaside trips to beaches at Sitges, the drive is a particularly attractive one, passing from vineyards through Mediterranean pine forest. On the drive back, you see Montserrat mountain in the distance.
Montserrat, just 40 minutes away from the villa, is considered to be the most important and beautiful of all the mountains in Catalonia. Its formidable massif has Natural Park status and its Benedictine monastery is home to the oldest choristers’ conservatory in Europe, not to mention an important library of some 300,000 volumes.
A day out in Barcelona is another popular choice. Catalonia's cosmopolitan capital is one hour from the villa.