The pulvinar, the original Tàrraco’s Circus platform where authorities would locate themselves in order to attentively watch chariot races, has been integrated, after over two thousand years, to one of Part Alta restaurant’s interior that actually adopted the name of this area of the circus. Not many people know though, while being surrounded by nibbles and wine sips, that their meal is being held in one privilege area belonging to the old Roman city, and that it is underneath their feet that Santa Tecla’s marble blocks, once extracted from Mèdol’s quarry with over one metre wide, are kept completely visible and restored.
The owners of Pulvinar pizza restaurant, aware as they are of the establishment’s singularity, tell their customers, by means of some paper tablecloths, that one of the semicircular staircases that provided access to the very same platform had also been rebuilt. From the main dining room, one can see the long Roman wall built following the opus quadratum building process, which still preserves part of the original cornice. If you ever book a table in Pulvinar, ask them to show you the transversal vault of the Circus’ structure, that remains intact and that can be accessed using the underground stairs that are connected to the lower dining room.
Outdoors, at the establishment’s terrace –full of Italian tourists today- we find yet another singularity: the wall that separates the restaurant from the exterior, which was part of the original wall erected in the 12th century in order to minimize the effects of a city that was devastated by looting and, mostly, to restrain diseases. Pulvinar offers a set menu at 12.50€, built onto the Mediterranean cuisine’s philosophy, and it is open every single day, from March until the beginning of November. From then though, the restaurant only opens on weekends until spring is back with us again.
The case of Pulvinar though is not the only one in Tarragona; not even slightly. In fact, the whole neighbourhood is built on top of three Tàrraco terraces at different levels: the Circus, the ludic area; the Provincial Forum, the administrative area; and the temple, the building of cult. Part Alta then, is full of buildings where remains of the Roman and other periods are preserved.
Underneath the Pulvinar and the Baixada de Misericòrdia, in Trinquet Vell street, we find another establishment bursting with heritage: Les Voltes restaurant. This is, unquestionably, one of the architectonic jewels of the gastronomic Tarragona. The establishment, located underneath three vaults of Tàrraco’s Circus, was first opened in the 80s and has always been run by Maria Jové and Francesc Sas.
Les Voltes restaurant offers high-quality Mediterranean food thanks to a 10€ (plus VAT) set menu, and an average à la Carte price between 20€ and 30€. In general, the establishment remains closed every Sunday night and Monday, but they will open it for groups, prior reservation.
We go out from Les Voltes and back to Baixada de Misericòrdia and Carrer Major and, if we then turn into Carrer de l’Abat towards Misser Sitges street, we find Els Arcs restaurant, which is recommended by Michelin guideline. This is a building raised during the Middle Ages that still preserves eight Gothic vaults in the interior. The building, initially used as a sort of cottage, still keeps a peculiar charming look to it, and the excellent local and seasonal cuisine served is both precise and appreciated. Carles Llobet offers an executive menu on working days at 23€, while tasting menu is around 38€.
If we walk towards Plaça de les Cols, we’ll find El Gallo Morón, of which interior keeps part of the perimeter vault of the great Forum. The restaurant has a couple of very charming areas in the interior, which add value to their cuisine, also around the Mediterranean style. From Tuesday to Saturday, El Gallo Morón offers a set menu at 12€, 13.50€ on Sundays. If what you want is having dinner, the restaurant provides you with a 14€ option.
Walking up the stairs that lead to the Cathedral and turning then right towards Les Coques street, we find AQ restaurant, one of the most sublime cuisines in the city, which is meant to enter, one of these days, the universe of restaurants awarded with a Michelin star, which already is recommending it. The establishment, located on the inside of the Provincial Forum cult enclosure, still preserve Roman remains on the back wall perfectly kept and integrated that belonged to the cult area of the old temple. Before going in though, don’t forget to take a proper look at the 20th century Sgraffitto you will find in the restaurant’s main door. Having lunch in AQ Restaurant is a unique experience for all the senses, way beyond the fact that you are provided with archaeological remains at the entrance. The restaurant offers three different menus: the Menú Gran, at 50€ plus VAT; the Menú Petit, at 40€ plus VAT; and the weekly Menu, at 18€ plus VAT.
Then, go down towards ‘Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Tarragona‘, at 22, Sant Llorenç street, and you will come across Barhaus restaurant which, by means of its decoration influenced by the art school founded in Germany in 1919 by Walter Gropius, still preserves, in one of the private dinning rooms, an ashlar wall of the Provincial Forum, dated back to the 1st century. You will find a great terrace, at street level, and another one in the first floor. Barhaus offers set menus from Tuesday to Friday at 12€, while dinner and weekend is served à la Carte, with an average price of 30€ approximately.
Joan Perroni is a man born in Tarragona who has lived, for years, on his particular diaspora in Rome, Tàrraco’s mother. There, Joan does what he loves the most: working as an archaeological excavation assistant in the most timeless and monumental city there is. If constructors in Tarragona complain every time a rock unveils a Roman ruin underneath, imagine what happens in Rome…
Joan –who trained in the Taller de l’Escola d’Aqueologia (TED’A), located back then inside the Antic Escorxador building, home today of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili headquarters– really longs for Tarragona: its dimensions, its quietness, its natural light, friends and family, the castells (aka human towers)… This is why Joan tries to visit Tàrraco as often as possible and spend a few days –usually, not enough to his taste– with his family.
When we presented him with the opportunity to shows us his most beloved personal spots in Tarragona, we reckon he gave us the final yes thanks to yet another short break he had planned to the city. Would you like to know about his three photographs? Do come in.
“I’ve chosen the Aqüeducte de Ferreres, also known as Pont del Diable, because I’m a kind of Tarragona suburb citizen, I’m from Sant Pere i Sant Pau to be more specific. And so, what today is known as a Parc Ecohistòric (Eco-historical Park), used to be my playground as a child, one of my favourite areas to play and walk around. What I see now as ruins and remains were a kind of theme park back then. We used to play at Mas de l’Àngel and Pont del Diable quite often. It is a truly amazing piece of work, one that, to me, should draw a lot of attention. When I was a child, I felt incredibly tiny when staring at it or standing anywhere near it. I used to think about the colossal effort put in building it, so that they could transport and channel water. This is a symbol of our city, and that’s why I’ve picked it”.
Tarragona and Joan Perroni exude the Roman world at all times. Thus, the second location he provided has a lot to do with Tàrraco’s past. “The point where Carrer Major and Baixada de Misericòrdia meet is very special to me because this is one of the first excavations on which I took part, at Pizzeria Pulvinar in particular. In here, we find an access staircase once joining the Roman Circus and the Provincial Forum. Well, this access is still very alive these days. I love to walk up the Baixada de Misericòrdia and, just where it meets the Carrer Major, stare at the Cathedral. I really get the impression of this still being a very current area,¡ even after so many years. Besides, I love the fact that it is home for many celebrations throughout the year and that it has become specially symbolic as it welcomes the so-called Walking Pillars on La Mercè’s day”.
#lamevaTarragona (my Tarragona), as Joan Perroni reckons, is a sort of connecting thread between the past and the present, the old and the modern, and one that works as a sort of linking point between a number of different locations in the city and his personal and work life. We also see this in the case of the third spot he’s provided. “The photograph you can see shows the Antic Escorxador building, today the Universitat Rovira i Virgili vice-chancellor’s office building, but once –over twenty-five years ago– and for three years, the Escola Arqueologia’s headquarters (TED’A). Here’s where I trained as an archaeology assistant. From this point, we used to go to the different monuments and urgent digs, and so this is a place I love because it reminds me of an amazing period where I learnt the job and met a lot of great and nice people”.
We say goodbye to Joan at the stretch of wall located behind the Antic Escorxador building, just by the old TED’A, “which to me symbolises the birthplace of the archaeology of Tarragona, of today’s archaeology of Tarragona. I think TED’A set the basis for the restoration of the city’s archaeological patrimony and the resulting proclamation of the World Heritage Tarragona. It might sound a bit exaggerated, but I reckon it happened more or less like this. Here’s where I grew as a professional, and that’s why I’ve got it deep in my heart”.
Joan Perroni is very active in the social networks, with a personal profile on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where he tells us about his job in Rome, his beloved and yearned Tarragona and the country.
Free access to monument premises, guided tours to the National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona (MNAT) at night, historical re-enactments of the life in the ancient Tàrraco, projections, conferences, exhibitions, gastronomy menus… Tarragona will be commemorating, between 24 November and 8 December, the 15th anniversary of the announcement of Tàrraco as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO with a number of events and activities.
On Sunday 29, for example, as users can access the main monument premises free of charge, a number of re-enactment activities will take place in Passeig Arqueològic, the Praetorium, the Roman Circus, the Amphitheatre, Vil·la dels Munts and Mausoleu de Centcelles. These locations will present you with the key to find out more about the lifestyle of legionaries, centurions, senators and theatre actors; what role magistrates and civil servants had; how life was for firefighters, councillors, auriga and prostitutes; or what gladiators, priestesses and editors did. Also, you’ll get to meet Caius and Faustina in their Vil·la dels Munts; observe Late Empire legionaries at the Mausoleu de Centcelles, or admire the Emperor Augustus at Volta del Pallol.
On Saturday 28 and Sunday 29, monument enclosures (Walls, Praetorium, Circus, Amphitheatre, Fòrum de la Colònia, Necròpolis Paleocristiana, Mausoleu de Centelles, Vil·la dels Munts and the National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona) will remain open to public, and in the case of the MNAT, this will also remain open at night.
Espai Turisme, in Carrer Major 39, will project the first episode of the TV series about the Roman engineering produced by Digivisión for La2 TV channel on Saturday and Sunday. The showings of the documentary are continuous and with free entrance (limited capacity).
On the other hand, and coinciding with the event, a new square will be opened on Monday 30, at 5pm: Plaça de la Unesco, located on the roundabout where Rambla Vella and Passeig de Sant Antoni meet. The new Plaça de la Unesco is a very special spot in the city because it connects past and present, proximity and remoteness. This roundabout also joins Part Alta and the Port neighbourhood together, but also works as a link for the historical centre and the Eixample of the 16th century. Besides, here’s where the old Via Augusta ended, a connecting point between Tàrraco, capital city of the Tarraconense, and the eternal city, Rome. Just beside it, the Praetorium and Amphitheatre. And also a stone’s throw away from here, we can admire the annual Santa Tecla’s International Fireworks Competition, enjoy the Tarraco Viva festival and the processions of Holy Week. This is a place then, very near the meeting point of the entire heritage that defines the Tarragona of the 21st century.
Finally, the commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the proclamation of Tàrraco as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO will also work to showcase a number of the city’s strong points, such as “castells” and the Mediterranean diet. As for the former, a tradition original from Valls, within Camp de Tarragona area, the city’s four main colles will build a commemorative tower on Sunday 29, at 1pm, in Plaça del Rei.
As fot the latter, the Mediterranean diet, nine restaurants in Tarragona will be offering menus based on this amazing diet, between 24 November and 8 December. Bread, wine, olive oil, legumes, vegetables, fish, meat and fruit are main characters of our beloved traditional diet.