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"Alicantino, borracho y fino", local saying.
Alicante (Spanish language) or Alacant (Valencian Catalan) is the capital of the province of Alicante and of the commerce of the Alicante, in the southern part of the Land of Valencia, Spain, and a historic Mediterranean port. The population of the city of Alicante proper was 322,431, estimated as of 2006, of the entire urban area, 434,505, ranking as the second-largest Valencia city. Population of the metropolitan area (including Elche and satellite towns) was 725,395 as of 2006 estimates, ranking as the eighth-largest metropolitan area of Spain.

City Hall.
Alicante is one of the fastest-growing cities in Spain. Its economy is based upon tourism in the beaches from Costa Blanca coast, wine production, services and administration. It exports wine, olive oil, and fruit, and has light industries, including food-processing, leather, textiles, and pottery. Turrones (torrons in Catalan) —a honey and almond nougat—is a food specialty of Alicante.

Marina of Alicante.
The city has regular ferry services to the Balearic Islands, and an international airport is nearby. It is strongly fortified, with a spacious harbour. Amongst the most notable features of the city is its main castle, the "Castillo de Santa Barbara", which sits high above the city upon a cliff. The most important festival, the Bonfires of Saint John, takes place at the time of the summer solstice, and they are declared of international touristy interest. Another well-known festival is Moros y Cristianos in any quarter of the city, such as Altozano or Saint Blas.

The city is the headquarters of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market.

View over Alicante and the Mediterranean. At the foot of the main staircase of the City Hall Building (Ayuntamiento) is the "cota cero" or zero point, used as the point of reference for measuring the height above or below sea level of any point in Spain, due to the small tidal variations of the sea in Alicante.

Pre 20th century history
The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years, with the first tribes of hunter gatherers moving 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 Castillo de Santa Barbara stands today. 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.

By the sixth 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 (Greek: meaning "White Mountain" or "White Point"), where Alicante stands today.

Monjas-Santa Faz Square in Alicante Although the Carthaginians conquered much of the land around Alicante, they were in the end no match for the Romans, who ended up ruling Iberia for over 700 years. By the fifth century Rome was in decline, and Roman version of Alicante, known as Lucentum (Latin), was more or less under the control of the Visigoth warlord Teodmiro.

Neither the Romans nor the Goths, however, put up much resistance to the Arab occupation of the area, which brought oranges, rice, palms and the gifts of Moorish art and architecture. The Moors ruled southern and eastern Spain until the 11th century reconquista (recon quest). Alicante was finally taken in 1246 by the Castellan king Alfonso X.

After centuries of war, Alicante enjoyed a siglo de oro (golden age) during the 15th century, rising to become a major Mediterranean trading station exporting rice, wine, olive oil, oranges and wool. But between 1609 and 1614 King Felipe III expelled thousands of Moriscos who had remained in Valencia after the reconquista, due to their allegiance with Berbers pirates who continually attack coastal cities and caused much harm to trade.

This act cost the region dearly; with so many skilled artisans and agricultural labourers gone, the feudal nobility found itself sliding into bankruptcy. Things got worse when in the early 18th century Alicante, along with the rest of Valencia, backed Carlos in the War of Spanish Succession. Felipe won, and he punished the whole region by withdrawing the semi-autonomous status it had enjoyed since the time of the Reconquista.

Alicante went into a long, slow decline, surviving through the 18th and 19th centuries by making shoes and agricultural products such as oranges and almonds, and its fisheries. The end of the 19th century witnessed a sharp recovery of the local economy with increasing international trade, which meant the growth of the city harbour and multiplied exports of several products (particularly during World War I, Spain being a neutral country).

Modern history
By the end of the first quarter of the 20th century the whole of Spain was almost at the point of revolution. Amid growing civil unrest, after years of sponsoring a failed military dictatorship, the king Alfonso XIII abdicated the throne, and in 1931 a Spanish Republic was declared.

A left-wing coalition of communists and socialists narrowly won the subsequent elections, and lost the following one in 1933 to the conservatives and liberals, not accepting their defeat and initiating a revolution which was controlled by the Republican army after bloody struggle.

In 1936, General Sanjurjo and General Mola led an uprising, supported by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany; to check what they claimed was the advance of communism in Spain. After three years of bloody civil war, Franco's armies (after the accidental death of both Mola and Sanjurjo) were victorious; Alicante was one of the last cities loyal to the legitimate government to be overcome.

The next 20 years under Franco's police state were wretched ones for Alicante, with severe frosts in 1941 and 1946 adding to the problems of local orange farmers. Franco died at last in 1975, with his successor King Juan Carlos I guiding Spain towards democracy. Regional governments were given more power, and the cities of Valencia were permitted an autonomy they had not been allowed for four centuries.

Recent history
At the start of the 21st century, in this New Spain, Alicante is the Valencia region's second-largest town. What used to be a rather shabby port after the industrial decay the city suffered in the 1980s (with most mercantile traffic lost in favour of Valencia's harbour) has spruced itself up and become a rather attractive town. As a result, it's starting to attract waves of day-trippers looking for the 'real' Spain.


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