SANT LLORENÇ DE LA MUGA

Founded in 972, the village of Sant Llorenç de la Muga is nestled in the foothills of the Catalan Pyrenees, just a few miles off the Mediterranean coast. The official tourism organization, the Patronat de Girona, has qualified it as one of the most charming in the province. Even so, it has remained a bit of a secret and has avoided the summer crowds that often burden small villages and towns in the area.

The name of the village translates to Saint Lawrence of the Muga – the Muga being the river that flows like a crescent moon around the fortified walls of the village.

Its history is long and colorful, its old world charm preserved; its geographic closeness to the French border often meant sieges, incursions and crime, notably smuggling, well into the 20th century.

Now, the village offers a quiet peacefulness during most of the year, where birds and church bells are the only sounds to break the stillness.

Only during August does this stillness break, giving way to the influx of “estiuejants,” (summer residents), a term for the generations of Sant Llorenç inhabitants that have left to the cities for work, but who have maintained their old homesteads in the village. They return every August, to escape the oppressive heat of Barcelona and Girona. It is during this month that the village celebrates its annual feast day (August 10) with a week of activities planned for children and adults, including a children’s olympics called “Cucanyes” and nightly concerts until the wee hours of the morning.

Its large central square is a few steps away from the house, and it offers the visitor a large café with a terrace overlooking the square, two restaurants and a convenience store that boasts of having practically everything you will ever need, from fresh fruit to crisps to nails and hammers to toothbrush and toothpaste. Another restaurant is located in the lower square, another few steps away.

Behind the church of Sant Llorenç, are the steps that lead to the river, which is dammed during the summer, and affords locals and “estiuejants” a place to plop down their towel, gossip and cool off in the river water.

Active visitors who may get restless just watching the time pass have also trails and pathways to explore the surroundings. The Torre de la Guaita, a medieval watch tower is a twenty minute easy hike for spectacular views. The hermitage of Sant Jordi (Saint George) is a 1.5 hour hike, and the more aggressive explorers can attempt the 3 hr. hike to Santa Magdalena, and the Roca de la Penya, or the 40 km. Camí Natural de la Muga, that follows the river to the Mediterranean at Empuria Brava.

A stay in Sant Llorenç will transport you to another time and place where you can disconnect from the stresses of modern urban life. Its authentic medieval architecture, its quiet meandering river, and its mountain air, all come together to create a magical experience, one you won’t soon forget.