In Catalonia wine has been made since the time of the Greeks and Romans, and there are many producers across the length and breadth of the land. There are 11 Designations of Origin (DOs) and some of the wines produced enjoy great prestige throughout the world. But equally famous is the cava, a sparkling wine that also has its DO and is especially made in the region of El Penedès. There are other drinks with a long tradition in different Catalan towns that we also recommend you try (in moderation!), such as the vermut, moscatell, mistela, ratafía and Aromes de Montserrat.
The 'porró' is a pitcher normally made of glass that contains a liquid, usually wine, and has a curious shape. The bottom of the bottle is rounded, narrowing upwards into an open handle into which the liquid is poured, and it has a long spout that tapers to a point. The fun is in drinking from the porró through the long spout, tipping the content directly into your mouth without using a glass or cup, which requires some practice. You have to hold your head back to drink and form an 'o' with your mouth to avoid spilling it on your face or your clothes.
Many peoples and countries have a traditional hat and Catalonia is no exception. Although today it has fallen into disuse, the 'barretina' is recognised by Catalans as their characteristic headwear. It is usually made of wool and is red with a black strip around the opening. It used to be worn by men, especially in rural and mountain areas, although it was not unusual on the coast. It is commonly seen in folk dances or nativity scenes, and some celebrities, such as the painter Salvador Dalí, made it known internationally.
As mentioned above, Catalonia is a land of wine, yet it's also a land of sweet treats. Many towns have their traditional varieties, but perhaps the most common throughout Catalonia are the 'carquinyolis', also known as 'carquinyols', which are similar to biscotti, slightly oblong-shaped, and made with flour, milk, sugar and whole almonds. They make for an ideal gift because they're very light, last a long time, and the only thing to keep in mind is that whoever you're giving them to has good strong teeth.
'Espardenyes' in Catalan, this type of footwear is widely used in among performers of 'sardanes' and other traditional dances as well as participants in street parades who carry the 'gegants' (giants), 'capgrossos' (big heads) or other figures made of papier-mâché. The shoes are very light and cool, and the most common type of sole is made of esparto, although today there are many varieties. They most traditional variety are tied to the ankles with laces, and for centuries espardenyes were the most common footwear among the population.
'Castells' (human towers made by 'castellers') are a spectacular and exciting Catalan tradition, which is experiencing the golden age of its history, with more groups ('colles') than ever and with the achievement of formations that until very recently almost no one would have thought possible. The popularity of this traditional activity is such that board games have appeared that simulate a performance of the castellers, and one of the most successful is El Nan Casteller, an entertaining wooden board game ideal for all ages.
If you attend any Festa Major (city or neighbourhood festival), you will discover traditional festival figures and see how popular they are, especially among children but also their parents. Gegants, capgrossos, 'àligues' (eagles), dragons and other characters – each town or neighbourhood in bigger cities has its own – parade and dance to the rhythm of often traditional instruments and melodies, while the crowd follows them or waits on the side to watch them go by. You can't take a gegant or capgros home, but you can easily find a miniature of them made of papier-mâché or other materials.
'Llonganissa' (raw sausage) is made with select lean pork meat, salt and black pepper. It is produced in many Catalan towns, but its epicentre is the region of Osona, whose capital is Vic, where it boasts the seal of Protected Geographical Indication. The climate of the area gives it an exclusive and distinctive flavour. Absolutely delicious, easy to transport and no need to keep cool, it can be an original and ideal gift (for non-vegetarians, of course). Other similar products, which are also very good, are 'fuet' and 'secallona' or 'somalla'.
This is the most difficult object on the list to carry, but if you want a musical gift, a Spanish guitar is a good choice to recall the rhythm of Catalan rumba and also flamenco, which has a great following in Catalonia. There is a range of prices, but other options are to buy a small one for children learning to play, or a toy version.
Since Catalonia boasts so much coastline from north to south, this list of gift ideas has to include something sea-related. And without a doubt, the most tempting delicacies of the sea include the anchovies from L'Escala, which are aromatic and delicious and have a pleasant lingering aftertaste. The anchovy is salted with aromatic herbs and spices and the maturation process lasts around eight months, when the anchovies are put into jars that you can easily carry.