The eco-historic Parc de Pont de Diable, situated a ten minutes drive north of Tarragona, takes its name from the gigantic remains of the Roman aqueduct build to bring fresh water from the Rio Francoli in to the ancient city.
It is only relatively recently, thanks to local funds and European grants, that this historic area has been re-valued – it follows an earlier surge by the brothers and philanthropists Rafael and María Puig i Valls at the beginning of the 20th century, and is currently being upgraded with a network of three distinct sign posted circular walks, the longest of which stretches over five kilometers up and down the rocky hills.
Starting from the car park, one walk through an ancient gateway, passing the restored la Casa del Guarda, with the track leading deep in to the Mediterranean woodland. What is surprising about this area is not just its natural beauty; hiding between the thick scrub and woodland are the ruins of mansions morphing in to trees and reaching down in to the underworld through the darkness of caved in cellars. There is something eerie about the tall column surmounted by a decaying angel mutely pointing towards the distant sea, an odd place for a homage to King Alfonso VIII which this apparently is ; behind it is lie the medieval ruins of the Mas dels Arcs now an empty derelict shell.
More ruins are found further along the walks with the remnants of a large mansion with marble doorstep and disintegrating rooms. One can just make out the original paint on the crumbling inner walls, a large fireplace, inner steps stopping halfway in to the open sky.
Ahead is another eye catching building, a restored shelter built of dry stonework which bares the date 1881 above its entrance. It’s a small architectural gem with its oval volt perfectly preserved. A stony bench is build along the circular wall stopping by the inner well, a place of greater safety.
Nearby, carved in the natural stone cover, are the touching verses celebrating the ‘day of the tree’ , a homage to nature – Contempoaries of Gaudi, Rafael and María Puig i Valls had a deep affinity with this area and this carving is likely to be their most enduring epitaph.
It reads ”
El amor al arbol
ennoblece al hombre
y su cultivo to enriquece
El amor i adoración a Dios
endulza el corazón del hombre
y santifica su espíritu
M. Puig Y Valls
At the end of the circular walk lies one of Tarragona’s most breathtaking structures, the surviving 2017 meter stretch of the Roman aqueduct, the Pont de Diable, rising 26 metres in height and offering the most unusual access to the outskirts of Tarragona and a befitting grand finale to a wonderful walk.