Barberà de la Conca is a beautiful yet little-known village in a region called La Conca de Barberà (approximately 100 kms south of Barcelona), in the province of Tarragona. Located on a hilltop crowned with a Knights Templar castle and a Baroque church, it has stunning views of distant green hills and a countryside dotted with vineyards and cornfields, interspersed with almond and olive groves, the other traditional mainstays of the local economy. The climate in the region is Mediterranean-Continental, with hot, dry days and cool nights in summer.
Barberà dates back to around the 10th century. Its well preserved 11th-12th century castle was built initially to repel the Moors but was then ceded to the Knights Templar and later to the Knights Hospitaller. It eventually passed to the state and then to the village (in 1858), to be used as the village school until the early 1980s. The three-nave Baroque church, whose beautiful belltower can be seen from many kilometres away, was built in 1792-1796 (on the site of a previous Romanesque church) during a period when winemaking came into its own in the region, leading to a flourishing of the local economy and a surge in its population.
Barberà has long been associated with wine- and cava-making, although a major crisis was the devastation caused by phylloxera, a deadly disease that laid waste to vineyards in France in the late 19th century. Despite a fervent hope that it would fail to cross the Pyrenees, phylloxera arrived in Catalonia in 1879 and in La Conca de Barberà in 1893. As a response to the devastation of the wine-based local economy, especially for smallholders, Spain’s first wine cooperative was founded in Barberà (1920-1921), designed by Cesar Martinell (disciple of Gaudí), who was also the architect of around 40 other so-called "wine cathedrals" (another nearby example is in L’Espluga de Francolí). Since 2009, the very old trepat grape variety – one of the few that survived phylloxera -- has been honoured in Barberà’s Festa del Trepat Vi+Art (end of June each year), which celebrates this unique grape variety in combination with art and gastronomy. The cooperative movement is central to Barberà’s history, and is nowadays reflected in the Viver de Celleristes (a winery incubation initiative), designed to launch local wine and cava start-ups by young entrepreneurs. Novel and innovative approaches are now a hallmark of Barberá’s wine and cava industry, focused on the trepat, macabeu, parellada, ulls de llebre and garnatxa negre grape varieties (DO Conca de Barberà label).
This part of southern Catalonia has artistic and architectural traditions that date far back in time, including cave paintings (UNESCO World Heritage, part of the Mediterranean Arc series) and ancient monuments, public buildings, churches and monasteries, such as that of Poblet (UNESCO World Heritage). A brief list of the more important artists and architects associated with the region includes two of the most important painters of the 20th century, Joan Miró (who spent the summers of his youth in Mont-roig del Camp) and Pablo Picasso (who developed his Proto-Cubism style of painting in Sant Joan de Horta), and also Antoni Gaudí (born in Reus), architect of the famed Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and numerous other remarkable works, and Gaudí’s disciples César Martinell and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, architects of many modernist buildings in the region, including the “wine cathedrals” (early 1900s). Barberà itself is associated with the renowned Catalan-Dutch artist Enric Adserà Riba, who spends several months of the year in the village. Several of Enric’s art works are on display in Barberà’s wine cooperative and castle and and also in Tarragona’s Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Rural Life in L’Espluga de Francolí. Finally, Barberà also celebrates art in its annual wine and art festival, Festa del Trepat Vi+Art.
Barberà is located on a Catalan stretch of the Camino de Santiago, which passes through numerous ancient hamlets and villages in Catalonia and eventually joins up with the French Camino in Logroño, taking in the emblematic Monastery of Montserrat along the way. A notable section of the local part of the Camino is the Cistercian Route, which links up the three 12th-century monasteries of Poblet (UNESCO World Heritage site), Santes Creus and Vallbona de les Monges. The immediate surroundings of the village itself offer endless possibilities for easy walking through gentle Mediterranean landscapes, while the nearby Prades mountains, Tossal Gros and Vall del Corb offer more challenging walking and trekking routes.
Nearby places of interest
Just 8 kms away is the beautifully preserved medieval walled town of Montblanc, said to be the origin of the legend of St George’s battle with the dragon. Located in the nearby Prades mountains are several rock art sites (UNESCO World Heritage, part of the Mediterranean Arc series), documented in Montblanc’s Muntanyes de Prades Interpretation Centre. Some 12 kms away is L’Espluga de Francolí (near Poblet Monastery), which has underground prehistoric caves, a wine cathedral and museum, a rural life museum and an ancient distillery of aiguardent converted into a museum. Other places of interest in the environs include the monumental town of Santa Coloma de Queralt, with an impressive castle and looming defence tower, the medieval towns of Conesa and Guimerà, the ancient hamlets and villages lining the Corb river in the valley of the same name, and the several medieval castles built along the Gaià river to repel the advance of the Moors. As for nearby cities, Reus (30 kms), the birthplace of Gaudí, has an excellent Gaudí Interpretation Centre, some beautiful modernist buildings, and, as a former major European wine exporting centre, a vermouth museum, not to mention excellent street-centred shopping. Tarragona (50 kms), has a lively, well-preserved old quarter centred around Roman architectural remains (UNESCO World Heritage), including a well-preserved amphitheatre with spectacular views over the Mediterranean. Just 40-50 minutes away are the beach resorts of the Costa Daurada, including Salou and Cambrils, but also more tranquil beaches indenting a rugged coast offering many opportunities for walking.