The Costa Cálida which translates to Warm Coast is approximately 250 kilometres of coastline in the Spanish province of Murcia, where the first signs of human civilization can be traced back as far as one and a half million years. In more recent times, native Iberian tribes inhabited the coastline, trading with other Mediterranean cultures including the Greeks and Romans. However, the region was only put on the map after the arrival of the Carthaginians in 230 BC, when they founded a trading port at Cartagena.
In 713 AD the Moors (Arabs) invaded the region after defeating the Hispanic-Visigoth army of Teodomiro in Cartagena. Then, in 815 AD the Caliph of Cordoba, Abderraman II founded the city of Murcia on the site of a former Roman colony. During the years of Arab occupation there were many advances in art and architecture, importation, and irrigation techniques needed to transform the arid landscape into a successful agricultural community. The Moors were so successful in exploiting the Segura River and irrigating the land, their system stills forms the basis for current watering throughout the region.
Murcia and the Costa Cálida were re-conquered in 1243 by Alfonso X of Castilla and Leon, with many changes ahead. Murcia grew and prospered, transforming itself into a political and economic centre. By the 18th century the city of Murcia was one of Spain’s architectural treasures, with elaborate churches, cathedrals and palaces. Then in 1810 disaster struck with the looting of Murcia city by Napoleonic troops. This was followed by epidemics of plague and cholera sending Murcia province into decline until modern times. These days the Costa Cálida is largely sustained by citrus fruit farming and associated industries. While industrial development is evident inland, the coastline thrives on tourism and many foreigners buying homes. This has injected a cosmopolitan feel to the region, while retaining much of its community feel and traditional culture.
The Costa Cálida offers an extensive cultural panorama, with its wide variety of museums and historical collections, theatres, auditoriums and exhibition halls. From the long history of the Region of Murcia a great artistic heritage has been preserved. In Cartagena you will find many influences of Roman times, through roads, public buildings and a magnificent theatre. Since the dawn of Christianity there are still Paleo-Christian remains in Algezares and Roman Visigothic ruins in the city of Begastri.
The Islamic presence has left many traces in Murcian culture, with the most interesting of these being found in the Medina Siyasa located in Cieza. Medieval-Christian Murcia is represented in numerous castles around the Costa Cálida like the Torre Alfonsina in Lorca, the fortress in Moratalla, and the defensive castle in the mountain town of Aledo. During the Renaissance a multitude of religious buildings were built. One example is the magnificent church of San Patricio in Lorca.
The neoclassical and modernist era has left its greatest influence on the Costa Cálida, in the grand Casino of Murcia, the beautiful city of La Union, and in the historical buildings scattered around the city of Cartagena. One building however, that is truly breathtaking and depicts Murcian culture is the Murcia Cathedral, with its magnificent tower standing 92 metres high providing panoramic views of the city, it is the most representative landmark of the city. Other aspects of the traditions and culture from the Murcia Region can be found in the network of art galleries, archaeological museums and exhibitions around the Costa Cálida. The most famous being the Museum of Fine Arts in Murcia, the collections of sacred art in the Murcia Cathedral, and the Naval Museum located in the port of Cartagena.
The Region of Murcia treasures a gastronomy made up of exceptional local quality products. The varied and imaginative recipes reflect the influences of the many communities that have settled in the region over the centuries. The geographical diversity of the Murcia region infuses a huge variety of dishes made from locally sourced produce, like fish and shellfish from the Mar Menor and Mediterranean sea, fruits and vegetables from the countryside, and traditional meats and fine wines which are recognized as quality nationally and internationally. The region produces and exports highly demanded products such as Calasparra rice, wines from Bullas, Jumilla and Yecla, salamis, vegetables, citrus fruits, jams and preserves. All this is topped off by a culinary art of gastronomic excellence in traditional dishes like Caldero, Migas and Paparajotes.
The migration of different civilizations and cultures through the Costa Cálida has left a lasting gastronomic influence, still present in the cooking of today. Hence, we can find clear similarities between current typical dishes and foods from the ancient Greco-Roman times. Many of the traditional crops of the Region of Murcia were used in the Roman era such as the vine, the olive tree, the fig tree and the artichoke. Later, the settling of the Arab culture in the Mediterranean brought a tremendous heritage of flavours and aromas to the Murcian cookbook, with a long list of foods and recipes which were named by the Muslims that still remain the same today. After the discovery of the Americas, a series of products from the new continent were introduced like the tomato and the pepper, which quickly became essential in the local gastronomy.
The Region of Murcia benefits from excellent climate conditions, great soil and good human resources for grape growing and producing quality wines. There are over 47,000 hectares of land in the Murcia region dedicated to the cultivation of the perfect vine. The three original main areas for wine production on the Costa Cálida are in Bullas, Jumilla and Yecla. Though there is also a strong presence of vineyards in the regions of Abanilla and in the countryside of Cartagena, where they are known as “wines of the earth”. The variety of good soil and the perfect weather conditions enable the production of a wide range of red, rose and white wines.
The typical wines of this area are derived from the Monastrell grape variety, bringing us the popular wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonay. Wine Tourism or “Enoturismo” in Spanish is becoming evidently popular on the Costa Cálida as local vineyards and bodegas, large and small, open their doors and give you a chance to discover, explore and taste their fine wines from the region. The unique experience of Wine Tourism makes an ideal day out, giving you the opportunity to see a new area, learn about how vineyards and wine cellars work, and experience fine wine tasting accompanied by local tapas in a beautiful countryside setting. A bodega visit must be one of the nicest ways to soak up some Spanish culture and tradition.