Felanitx: winegrowers, wine and great vision

Felanitx is something of a gem in the east of the island. There’s even something about the way the parish church of Sant Miquel watches over the small town of 10,000 inhabitants, with the Archangel Michael above the entrance. In front of the church is a wide flight of steps. On Sundaymarket day – this is not only a way to the church but is also used as a display area for goods being sold. Such as colourful Majorcan ceramics, for example. The place has a long-standing history of clay and ceramics since, in the time of the Arabs, Felanitx was a centre for the production of blue-patterned ceramic tiles – azulejos. (“Azul” means blue).

Looking down from above

If you want a good overall view, it’s not too far to go from the church to the local pilgrimage hill and up to the simple chapel. From up here, you can enjoy a great panorama. If you like to have a bird’s-eye view, the monastery up on Puig de Sant Salvador is the perfect place. This hill is about eight kilometres from Felanitx on the way to Portocolom and it involves winding your way up the serpentine road, getting to 509 metres, marvelling at the monasterio and then relishing the vision in front of you. The view falls over fields, pastures, orchards and almond groves – and vineyards. And that’s a whole other story in itself.

A village and its wine

Basically, winegrowing and the wine trade were thriving in Felanitx way back in earlier centuries. This municipality is considered to be the principal wine-growing region in Majorca. The product was even exported to the Spanish mainland via the harbour of Portocolom. As of the mid-1990s, native grape varieties such as Callet and Mantonegro were made iconic by bold young winegrowers who focused very successfully on quality rather than quantity. Suddenly, the wine with the Majorcan spirit was once more receiving recognition far beyond the boundaries of the island. Further, the winegrowers launched something of a quality offensive in respect of Majorcan wine. It wasn’t long before products such as those of Bodega Ànima Negra, for example, began to be recognised with prestigious international awards. Incidentally, there are various routes that will allow you to experience the surrounding wine country on foot or by bicycle, and it’s a lovely way to see it up close.

Market and fairs

If you’re staying around Felanitx, the Plaça d’Espanya is the central town square, and it’s lined with cafés and restaurants. Resting beneath the palm trees here is just perfect in good weather. It’s worth dropping in to the smartly renovated market hall too. The Mercat Municipal is a shopper’s paradise for fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat and flowers and it’s open daily from 8 a.m. to 1.30 p.m., except for Mondays. And what would proper village life be without its festivals and fairs? A special fair or “fira” with a really varied programme is held every year in October – the Fira del Pebre Bord.

Spicing things up

Pebre bord – it is a small, red, local variety of capsicum, also called Spanish pepper. In the past, people would thread the fruits on their stalks to make long garlands, and leave them for two weeks to dry in the sun on the façades of the houses in such quantities that you could hardly see the walls any more. The ground paprika powder from these peppers is used by the locals as seasoning for their dishes. And it has always been an ingredient in the typically Majorcan paprika meat paste called sobrassada, with the paprika not only giving it the red colour and proper taste… as well as spicing things up, it also had a part to play in the curing and preservation of the product. And that was of paramount importance in times gone by, before there were refrigerators. Today, you can sometimes still see pebre bord drying on the façades of buildings.

The artist Miguel Barceló

Felanitx is the birthplace of probably the island’s most important contemporary artistMiguel Barceló. He is represented in galleries in New York, Cologne, London, Salzburg and Paris. The painter and sculptor, born in 1957, has created a ceiling painting in a UN Human Rights Council chamber in the Palace of Nations in Geneva. Not only that but he created an enormous, stunning and eye-catching work in a side chapel in Palma Cathedral – made from 300 square metres of clay! Which brings us back around to that centuries-old Felanitx tradition

Good food, good (hi)story

From Felanitx, it’s just a few minutes to the little fishing village of Portocolom – which has pastel-coloured houses, a large, natural harbour, a black-and-white-ringed lighthouse, and a handful of (fish) restaurants, offering everything from simple to very fine cuisine. Among them is Restaurante Colón with its chef de cuisine Dieter Sögner, who celebrates “the art of taste with a highly personal touch”. Incidentally, the residents of Portocolom swear that Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón in Spanish) was born in their village – which is where the place name comes from – the “port of Columbus”. Admittedly, nobody’s actually been able to prove it to date. But you never know…

Any way you look at it, Portocolom and Felanitx are really special villages – and would be well suited to property-hunters who are looking for a piece of traditional Majorca.