We have walked the city streets, learned the bus routes, visited the central shopping mall, checked out the main cathedral and located the nearest supermarkets and the public library. Now that we have our feet on the ground we are free to check out the interesting sights of the city.
Torrevieja, or old tower, is a city of 100,000 people with double that number when you count the surrounding suburbs. The original tower that gave the city its name was built as an overlook facing the sea. The tower no longer exists except for some foundation stones that mark its origin. The city has since erected a stone tower representing the city’s namesake.
The Torrevieja area had proximity to sub-sea level lowlands just a half-mile inland from the coast. Some early settlers dug a ditch from the sea to these lowlands and flooded two areas to form shallow lakes that were used as dehydration ponds to make salt. These two salt ponds are huge, combining to cover over 9,000 acres. Salt production still takes place and now exceeds 800,000 tons/year exported mostly to Western European markets. The shoreline areas of the salt lakes are protected parklands serving as habitat for birds and wildlife. Wading birds are common as they prey upon fish in the shallow lagoons.
The city does not have a natural port, so the area was overlooked until the 17th century as far as a hub of commercial activity. Early settlers were mostly fishermen from Genoa and Naples looking for less competitive fishing areas. To this day Italian surnames are common among the local population. Modern day Torrevieja features a water-break seawall that extends nearly a mile around the city’s main marina which moors over 300 boats. People can stroll the entire length of the seawall on a beautiful boardwalk and get an outstanding view of the city waterfront from offshore.
The main church in Torrevieja, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, was originally built in 1798. A severe earthquake in 1829, which would have registered a 6.6 using the Richter scale, had its epicenter close to Torrevieja and devastated the city. Surrounding towns were also nearly destroyed. There was little history of seismic activity along the Mediterranean coast, so the local populations were caught completely by surprise.
The current city of Torrevieja is a tourist and expat destination. Nearly half of the population is made up of British expats who own a home or apartment somewhere around the city. English is spoken in most shops, restaurants and businesses. There is an English language weekly newspaper, an English cinema, and innumerable groups and clubs including golfing, cycling, acting, hiking and jogging. Runners were drawn to the 31st annual Torrevieja Half-Marathon, which took place on February 23rd and draws over 2,000 runners.
While we are not beach people per se, we enjoy strolling along the waterfront on a warm sunny day and feeling the cool breeze. And now that we have our bearings, we look forward to getting to better know our new home town.