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Alicante

Alicante is a truly beautiful and historic port city located in the autonomous community of Valencia on Spain´s Costa Blanca. Alicante is a cosmopolitan city with a population of around 328,000 and is the second largest City in the Valencian region and the capital of the province of Alicante.

History

The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years. The first tribes of hunter-gatherers moved down gradually from Central Europe between 5000 and 3000 BC. Some of the earliest settlements were made on the slopes of Mount Benacantil where the Castle of Santa Barbara now stands, perched high on the clifftop overlooking the City´s Iconic Marina. By 1000 BC Greek and Phoenician traders had begun to visit the eastern coast of Spain, establishing small trading ports and introducing the native Iberian tribes to the alphabet, iron and the pottery wheel. The town was named Leuce Akra (white cape) by the new Greek settlers from Marseille around 325 BC . By the 3rd century BC, the rival armies of Carthage and Rome began to invade and fight for control of the Iberian Peninsula. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca established the fortified settlement of Akra Leuka meaning "White Mountain" or "White Point" where modern day Alicante stands today.

The Carthaginians and Romans fought over the Iberian Peninsular for 100´s of years with power in the region repeatedly switching between the two empires. The Romans eventually taking control and subsequently ruling over the province for 700 years. With the Roman Empire in decline The Moors moved in and ruled over most of Southern and Eastern Spain until the 13th century when Alicante was finally taken in 1246 by the Castillian King Alfonso X. However, shortly after it then passed to the Kingdom of Valencia.

After several more decades of being the battlefield where the Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragon clashed, Alicante finally emerged as a key Mediterranean trading station exporting rice, wine, olive oil, oranges and wool. Following the expulsion of thousands of skilled Moorish artisans and agricultural labourers between 1609 and 1614 by King Felip III, the feudal nobility found itself sliding into bankruptcy. Things got worse in the early 18th century; after the War of Spanish Succession, and Alicante went into a long, slow decline, surviving through the 18th and 19th centuries by making shoes and growing agricultural produce such as oranges and almonds and fishing. The end of the 19th century witnessed a sharp recovery of the local economy with increasing international trade and the growth of the city harbour leading to increased exports of several products (particularly during World War I when Spain was a neutral country).

During the early 20th century, Alicante was a minor capital that enjoyed the benefit of Spain's neutrality during World War I, and that provided new opportunities for the local industry and agriculture. The Spanish Civil War broke out in1936 and Alicante was the last city loyal to the Republican government to be occupied by dictator Franco's troops on 1 April 1939 and its harbour saw the last Republican government officials fleeing the country. Vicious air bombings were targeted on Alicante during the three years of civil conflict, most notably the bombing by the Italian Aviazione Legionaria of the Mercado de Abastos on the 25th of May 1938 in which more than 300 civilians perished.

The late 1950s and early 1960s saw the onset of a lasting transformation of the city by the tourist industry. Large buildings and complexes rose throughout the city with the fabulous climate being the biggest draw attracting prospective buyers and tourists from Northern Europe who kept the area´s hotels busy. New construction benefited the whole economy, as the development of the tourism sector also spawned new businesses such as restaurants, bars and other tourist-oriented enterprises. Also, the old airfield at Rabassa was closed and air traffic moved to the new El Altet Airport which made a more convenient and modern facility for charter flights bringing tourists from northern European countries.

The Port of Alicante has been reinventing itself since the industrial decline the city suffered in the 1980s (with most mercantile traffic lost to Valencia's harbour). In recent years, the Port Authority has established it as one of the most important ports in Spain for cruises, with 72 calls to port made by cruise ships each year bringing some 80,000 passengers and 30,000 crew to the city each year.

Transport Links

Alicante Airport outranks its Valencian counterpart being among the busiest airports in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and Malaga. It is connected with Madrid and Barcelona by frequent Iberia and Vueling flights, and with many Western European cities through carriers such as Ryan Air, Easyjet, Air Berlin, Monarch and Jet 2. There are also regular flights to Scandinavia, Benelux and Russia. Alicante railway station is used by Cercanías linking Alicante with suburbs and Murcia.Long-range RENFE trains run frequently to Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. Alicante Tram connects the city with outlying settlements along Costa Blanca. Since 2011, electric tram-trains have run up to Benidorm, and diesel trains go further to Denia. The city has regular ferry services to the Balearics and North Africa


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