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Costa Brava: captivating and inspiring artists from around the world

Ava Gardner, Truman Capote, Terenci Moix, Marcel Duchamp... A look at their favourite places on the Costa Brava

Written by
Maria Garcia

Between the 1940s and the 1970s, when the Franco regime finally ended, the Costa Brava became a popular holiday destination for Hollywood stars such as Kirk Douglas, Elizabeth Taylor, Craig Hill and Rock Hudson. Many of them first got to know the area when they went there to make a film. Such is the case of Ava Gardner, who in 1948 turned Tossa de Mar upside-down when she made 'Pandora and the Flying Dutchman' in the coastal town. During the filming, Tossa became the focus of Hollywood gossip, which was intrigued by the nature of the friendship between Gardner and one of the film’s male protagonists, Mario Cabré. Rumours of their relationship carried over the Atlantic, and Frank Sinatra, at the time married to the actress, raced to his wife’s side in a fit of jealousy. Tossa has since immortalised those special times with a statue of Gardner, unveiled in 1998. Other celebrities got to know about the Costa Brava thanks to the letters of Truman Capote, who lived in Palamós for three summer seasons from 1960 to 1962. The writer needed to disconnect from his hectic social life in New York to be able to concentrate on what was to become one of his best-sellers, 'In Cold Blood'. Those Palamós residents who still remember him talk about his love of strolling about the town and buying from local famers, they say that he loved 'sardanes' (a traditional Catalan dance), and that one of his favourite pastimes was going to watch the fishermen as they returned from a day at sea. And he wasn’t the only one to enjoy that particular view. When Salvador Dalí visited Palamós, he often headed to the port to see the catches of the day arrive. As well as Capote, other writers have fallen in love with the Costa Brava. Tom Sharpe lived out his life in Llafranc close to Palafrugell. He arrived there in 1992 and, after spending four winters in the Hotel Llevant, bought himself a house. Locals knew him as the Brit with a whisky and a cigar – at the hotel, they had a glass just for him because he didn't like tall or balloon glasses.

Then there's Catalan writer Terenci Moix who, after visiting the Greek and Roman settlement of Empúries with a friend, bought a house in Ventalló. Many friends who visited him also ended up buying a second residence on the Costa Brava – for example, Montserrat Carulla and Josep Maria Benet i Jornet.

Let's not forget those natives of the area, such as Josep Pla, who was born in Palafrugell and whose foundation is at C/Nou, 51, in the town. Or J.V. Foix who came from Port de la Selva. Or the endless dining-table discussions of Carlos Barral, Jaime Gil de Biedma and José Agustín Goytisolo in the Casino of Cadaqués, a town that, by the way, was the residence of Marcel Duchamp for the last ten years of his life. Now you know why they call Empordà the umbilical cord of the world.

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