About Asturias
Localization

Asturias is located in the central area of the Spanish coast of the Cantabrico Sea. The total area of Asturias is 10,603.57 square Km. It is bounded by the Cantabrico Sea on the north and shares land borders with the Comunidad Autónoma de Galicia (to the west), the Comunidad Autónoma de Cantabria (to the east) and the Comunidad Autónoma de Castilla y León (to the south).

Oviedo is the capital city. The main towns are located in the central part of the Principality of Asturias, from the coast to the inland, and in the mining valleys. Gijón is the highest populated town with 277,198 inhabitants, followed by Oviedo, the capital city, with 225,155 inhabitants and then by Aviles with 84,202 inhabitants. Aviles covers a metropolitan area of 130,000 inhabitants and is the head of the council with around 200,000 people. Some other councils have around 50,000 inhabitants such as Siero (51,730 people), Langreo (45,397 people) and Mieres (43,688 people). The total amount of population is 1,084,341 people according to data of the National Statistics Institute (INE) in 2010.

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Information about Asturias in 'Tourism in Spain' website

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History
Prehistory

The Sidron cave, in Piloña municipality, has revealed the oldest fossil human Neanderthal remains in Asturias so far: latest dated 49.000 years old. Some other important prehistorically regional remains are related to Homo Sapiens and particularly, the cave paintings in Tito Bustillo cave, in Ribadesella, are considered on the world’s greatest representatives of Upper Paleolithic art. Around 9500 B.C., a specific Epipaleolithic culture is dated known as Asturiense. The main remains are located at the coast, in caves or shelters near the sea. During the revolutionary Neolithic period, groups of human people travelled around the current territory of Asturias, limited it and began to develop agricultural and stockbreeding methods. Several remains proved this significant evolution, such as the funeral concept of the tombs found in Monte Areo (Carreño). Metals began to be used. During the Cooper, Bronze, and Iron ages, human communities settled around the “castros”. This social structure would remain for centuries and would be gradually changed with the lifestyle of the Roman Empire (this process can be seen in Chao Martin site)

 

Romanization

“Castro” culture was abandoned and Roman lifestyle was adopted as it can be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Gijón (Campa de Torres, Campo Valdés thermal baths the Roman villa of Veranes). Recently, this historical process has been reconsidered. It was believed that it had not been caught on the territory of Asturias. But now, it seems that those pre-roman regional inhabitants were not so reluctant to new customs and so, the invaders were not so alien to the culture they found beyond the Cantabrian Mountain Range. The “asturianización” of the Roman socio-cultural organization is closely related to the creation of the Kingdom of Asturias later on.

 

The Kingdom of Asturias

One of the most particular episodes of the History of Asturias took place after the fall of the Visigoth kingdom and the arrival of Muslims. In the 8th century after the mythologized battle of Covadonga, the Kingdom of Asturias burst into the political scene of the Peninsula and led the “Reconquest” process. As to proof this, several kings of Asturias acted as patrons to artistic activities involving architecture and craftsmanship in precious metals known as Pre romanic Art in Asturias nowadays. When Alfonso III (911) died and the kingdom was divided into his heirs, Asturias missed its prominence in favor of new peninsular kingdoms. The remaining of the Middle Ages witnessed several rebellions of the nobility. In 1388, the Principality of Asturias was created and attached to the first heir to the Castile throne (to submit the territory to his jurisdiction). The House of Representatives of the Principality of Asturias was also created between that time and the year 1444. The Modern Ages and the Enlightenment: One of the most remarkable regional events was the foundation of the University of Oviedo (16th-17th centuries). By mid 18th century, according to the Ensenada’s cadastre, Asturias had at least a population of 200,000 inhabitants, 90% of them were devoted to agriculture. Within this context, one of the most influencing people in the Spanish Enlightenment, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, was born in Gijon.

 

Modern Ages

From mid 19th century onwards, a great amount of people immigrated to America; the immigration process became one of the key points of the recent regional history. This period also set another main feature of Asturias: the beginning and strength of an economic area related to coal mining and the iron and steel industry. The confusion of Humanity in general and of Spain in particular during the 20th century brought about tragic episodes that affected considerably the Principality, such as the October Revolution of 1934 or the Spanish Civil War which was particularly cruel. By the middle of the previous century, Franco regime began certain economic liberalization that allowed constituting the iron and steel company of ENSIDESA and later on, the mining exploitation of HUNOSA, both public. Democracy came in the middle of a worldwide crisis in the 70’s. Asturias began a complicated of financial problems with the restructuring of its main production sectors. The entry of Spain into the European Community in 1986 meant the highest point of the adjustment of the regional economy in the agriculture, mining, milk, iron and steel, fishing and naval sectors. The Structural Funds contributed to reduce the effects of this transformation.

More info about Asturias

Information about Asturias in 'Tourism in Spain' website

InfoAsturias Official tourism website of Asturias

Culture

The historical background of Asturias has given way to an intense cultural tradition which is revealed by multiple manifestations: from the immaterial character, such as the Asturian language or the mythology, to the monumental heritage, without forgetting the folklore or gastronomy.

"The Asturian language" also known as "Bable" is the traditional language spoken in Asturias. Its grammar, dictionary and spelling rules have been elaborated by the Academy of Asturian Language . Although it is without official status, there is a law which regulates its use and promotion.

Within the monumental heritage of the Principality of Asturias, the Asturian Art, also known as Pre-romanesque Asturian, and declared World Heritage by the UNESCO, is clearly outstanding. The Paleolithic Cave Art of the north of Spain which includes five exceptional Asturias Caves has also been awarded with this distinction. The region also possesses significant examples of other styles of art (Romanesque, Gothic, baroque …) and a singular element of the popular architecture: the "horreo",(traditional Asturian barn) which is a genuine distinctive icon of the Asturian rural landscape.

The magnificent art collection treasured at the Bellas Artes of Asturias Museum , also deserves special mention as it displays the works of the most prominent Asturian artists of all times ( Carreño de Miranda, la saga de los Meléndez, Evaristo Valle, Nicanor Piñole, Luis Fernández…)and distinguished samples from the greatest Spanish painters (El Greco, Goya, Sorolla, Picasso, Dalí…).

Among the Asturian writers who have also made great literary contributions with respect to Spanish literature, we could point out Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, Leopoldo Alas Clarin, Armando Palacio Valdes, Ramón Pérez de Ayala, Alfonso Camín, Alejandro Casona o Ángel González.
Traditional Asturian music displays two characteristic manifestations which have always been associated with the regional prototype: the "tonada song" and the asturian bagpipe.

The most avant-garde cultural production has its headquarters at the remarkable Laboral University of Gijón building: LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial.

Regarding the projection and the pleasure offered by cultural activities, it is worth outlining the programmings of the already centenary Theatre of Jovellanos (Gijon), Theatre of Campoamor (Oviedo, where Prince of Asturias Awards ceremony is held) and Palace Valdés Theatre (in Aviles, venue for many events of the Óscar Niemeyer Internacional Cultural Centre ).

More info about Asturias

Information about Asturias in 'Tourism in Spain' website

InfoAsturias Official tourism website of Asturias

Encycloasturias

Geography

The Principality of Asturias is 10.600 km2 in size and is situated on the North Iberian Peninsula. The steep relief of the Cantabrian Mountains mark the southern limits in a region whose mountain range is close to the coast (especially in the Eastern zone). This determines the geological morphology of the rivers in Asturias: short, fast and in abundant flow, fed by rainfall patterns corresponding to the region‘s wet weather: rainfall is plentiful, temperatures mild and of reduced thermal amplitude.

Territrial Regulation

According to the Asturian Statute of Autonomy, with administrative purpose, the community is divided into 78 councils, a provision that currently has the same legal value as the municipality. The entity smaller than the council is the Parish Council, which does not necessarily suggest an ecclesiastical parish. Different neighbourhoods are present within each respective parish.

More info about Asturias

Information about Asturias in 'Tourism in Spain' website

InfoAsturias Official tourism website of Asturias

Natural environment

Asturias can vouch for having almost one third of its territory declared as being Protected Natural Spaces with special interest. The National Park 'Los Picos De Europa', The Natural Park 'Redes', The Natural Park 'Somiedo', the entire Natural Park 'Fuentes del Narcea', 'Degana and Ibias', under the bracket name of 'Muniellos', the area of Oscos-Eo together with the area of Burón in Galicia, all form part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves for UNESCO.

A total of 345km of Asturian coastline presents a splendid and diverse panorama of beaches, coves and cliffs. From urban to sandy beaches surrounded by nature, through sand-dunes , Jurassic sites, protected country-side, natural monuments...

Renowned equally for its coastline as its mountain ranges, the region deserves its label of being surrounded by Natural Paradise.

More info about Asturias

Information about Asturias in 'Tourism in Spain' website

InfoAsturias Official tourism website of Asturias

Gastronomy

Without a doubt, Asturias is a magnificent natural sea, mountain and country paradise with a very diverse environment. Protected on one side by the Bay of Biscay and on the other by the Picos de Europa mountain range, this region has always been isolated and protected from possible invasions and therefore has many deep-routed traditions and rituals. The typical Asturian is friendly and open, always willing to receive outsiders who wish to get to know their land. Its cuisine is based on cider, fabada (bean stew) and cheese, together with shellfish and fish.

If Asturian cuisine had to be described in few words, it could be defined as slow cooking over low heat. The Asturians do not use many spices or other condiments in their dishes which could distort the natural taste of the ingredients. The kitchens use old-style stoves which conjure up an atmosphere from another era, contrasting strongly with the stress of modern day life. Asturians delight in their stews, the "fabada" being the queen of them al.

Fabada

"Fabada asturiana" is prepared with dried white beans called "fabes", accompanied by chorizo, black pudding, cured pork shoulder, potatoes... this dish is of international renown and there is no set recipe - it can be varied according to the chef's fancy: clams, lobster, hare and partridge have all been used in its preparation. Although the "fabada" is the most famous of Asturian dishes, it is by no means alone - soups or "potes" also form an important part of the local cooking. These include "asturiano", which is made with dried white beans (fabes), cabbage, chorizo, cured pork shoulder and potatoes; "pote de castañes mayuques", made with chestnuts and parsnip top stew, typical from Ibias. 

The generous sea

The Asturian chef carefully chooses his ingredients from many sources: from the sea, the rivers, the market gardens, the mountains... Both freshwater and seawater fish and shellfish are used in local recipes. From the sea, we have anglerfish, which is known as "pixín" in Asturias, hake, conger eel, bonito, sea base, scorpion fish, etc. Shellfish include barnacles, shrimps, small crabs and clams. The "oricio" (sea urchin) has become a real institution, especially in the winter months at Gijón, where they are eaten raw or cooked in various different ways. River fish such as salmon, trout, sea-trout and lamprey complete the range of aquatic species which can be tried whilst visiting Asturias.

The countryside

However, it is also very important to keep the local meat dishes in mind. The "vacuno mayor" (meat from large bovine animals, such as ox, bull, etc.) is very much appreciated by Asturians and it is also exported to nearly all other Spanish regions: entrecote with Cabrales cheese, ox hotpot... "pitu de caleya" (chickens bred in the open air in small villages or hamlets). The partridge, wild boar, roe deer and venison are always prepared with aromatic herbs and truly taste of the mountains. The flavour and character of "carne gobernada" (beef with bacon, eggs, peppers and olives) and tongue "cachopo" are very much appreciated by the locals.

The cheese legacy

Cheese is another extremely important component of Asturian cuisine. In fact, every valley or mountain usually makes its own cheese and as a result, Asturias offers one of the widest ranges in Europe. They can be made from cow's milk, goat's milk or even using three different types of milk, but without doubt the most famous of all is the celebrated Cabrales, a blue cheese included in a Denomination of Origin together with Gamonedo, Pría, Porrúa, Beyos, Casín or Afuega´l Pitu, Peral, Urbiés, etc.

Desserts & sweets 

The Principality of Asturias also boasts a wide variety of confectionary products which are found in specialist shops throughout the region. The Asturian is known for his sweet tooth and therefore there are endless specialities on offer. The most traditional Asturian dessert is rice pudding, but the traveller should also try almond tart, "brazo de gitano"(a type of Swiss roll), "milhojas de crema" (custard millefeuille), "pastel carbayón" (almond pastry), "carajitos del profesor de Salas" (hazelnut biscuits), or the festival specialities, such as "frixuelos" (crepes), "casadielles" (walnut popovers), "panchones de Carnaval" (type of brown bread) or the "huesos de santo" (made from marzipan) and "teresitas" (made from tea) eaten on All Saints' Day, and "tocinillo de cielo" (pudding made with egg yolks and syrup). 

Cider

Austurian cider is the local drink which is drunk socially and used in the preparation of many dishes; it has almost become a cult. It can be drunk in the cider bars called "sidrerías", in restaurants and at times in the "llagares" themselves (where it is pressed). The cider is poured from a height (a practice known as "escanciar") into a wide-mouthed glass only just covering the "culín" or bottom and induces friendship and festivity. Everybody should experience this type of fiesta when visiting Asturias.

More info about Asturias

Information about Asturias in 'Tourism in Spain' website

InfoAsturias Official tourism website of Asturias