Tarragona and the Via Augusta

DSCF0768Anyone who has driven south along  the Spanish coast from La Jonquera (the French border) to Cartagena has probably covered some stretches of the ancient Roman road Via Augusta,  and nowhere is it quite so obvious as Tarragona. Known as Tarraco in Roman times it was capital of the Hispania Citerior Province and the richest town on the coast.

Today, many important Roman remains are preserved in the city and I spent a day visiting them. Easily seen from my parking spot above Miracle Point is the large 2nd century amphitheatre. Heavily pillaged for its building materials, recycled stone can be found all over the city. It is still a wonderful site and easily viewed from above without having to pay an entrance fee, but if you want more detailed information then the included audioguide is very useful.

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DSCF0835Close by are remains of the 300m long Roman circus, built for horse and chariot races. Only a small portion can be seen as the rest is beneath modern apartments and the Archaeological Museum which displays many of the Roman finds from the city.

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DSCF0790Placa del Forum is bustling with a local produce market, but amongst the stalls of colourful fruit and vegetables I find a small section of the Roman walls. A much larger section can be visited further west in the Archaeological Passage, a long, narrow garden which runs between the 3rd century Roman walls and he more modern medieval and 18th century fortifications. Opposite the entrance, in an inconspicuous modern building, is a very useful miniature reconstruction of 2nd century Tarraco showing all the main Roman sites as they would have looked at that time.

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DSCF0889My last stop in the city is the Roman Forum. Hidden behind the busy and noisy Central Market and unusually higher than the modern street level, the site includes the ruins of a judicial basilica and some splendid tall columns.

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Tarraco would not have been such a successful city without the life force of water. Carried to the coast from the Francoli River 15kms away, a magnificent section of the aqueduct still stands just 4kms inland and close to the AP7 toll road. It is known as the Pont del Diable (Devil’s Bridge) and towers 27m above the valley. Amazingly, it is possible to walk across the 217m length. It looks pretty scary when you view it from below but it’s not so terrifying to walk across. I even felt safe enough to take a selfie!

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DSCF1121North of Tarragona, on the N340, I find two more Roman monuments, marking the route of the Via Augusta. The first is the Tower of Scipios, a funerary monument, while the second sits proudly in the middle of the road. The Arc de Bera was built in honour of the Emperor Augustus and marks the city limits of Tarraco.

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