The hillside between Bellver Castle and the sea is now covered with hotels, apartment blocks, shops and houses, but it was uninhabited for hundreds of years. The castle was finished in 1309 and the administrators, who were the Priors of the Valldemossa Carthusian Monastery, appointed a warden to maintain the estates. The area was known as El Terreno, or the Field, and the only time people came out of the city to visit it was when someone was being burnt at the stake at the place now known as Plaza Gomila. And they came in their thousands. Check out the Inquisition webpage in the Events part of the website to find out more about why people were executed in this horrific way. The Inquisition's main target was the Jews; check out the Organisations webpage for more information on the Jews in Mallorca.
The only other time anyone spent time on El Terreno was in Parc de sa Quarentena, or Quarantine Park. This walled area filled with trees and bushes can still be found to the south of Tito's nightclub. Mallorca was one the first European cities to set up a hospice in 1471, however, a serious epidemic filled it to overflowing only four years later. Palma council appointed seven experts, known as the Morberiu, to give advice on public health and sanitation and they worked in the nearby Tower of Peraires, the stone tower at the entrance to Porto Pi, to the south. They concluded that a member of a ship's crew had brought the plague ashore and a new law ruled that ships from certain ports had to be inspected and if suspected of carrying a disease had to spend forty days moored apart from others. Quarters for the ship crews were made available in this area before they were entering the city (the word quarantine stems from the Spanish for 40 days; quarante dies). This sensible approach to hygiene no doubt had an adverse effect on trade as well.
Towards the end of the 18th century Cardinal Antoni Despuig was appointed warden for the estates and although he divided the land into small lots, few were bought and developed. In 1835 an earthquake shook Mallorca, bringing down the west part of Palma Cathedral. Many citizens fled the city and gathered on El Terreno as the aftershocks threatened to bring down more houses. Thirty years later a cholera epidemic swept through the streets, killing 2,000. No one understood that the disease was spread through dirty water and a camp was set up for the healthy to escape to.
The Mallorcan Economic Societies of Friends of the Country had made an attempt to create a residential area on El Terreno in the 1830s but there were no takers. When the Ministry of Defense took over the sea front in 1859 the first plots of land were sold and a small group of summer residences followed. They were the first of many and by the turn of the century it was the height of fashion to own a house on El Terreno. Spanish Nobel Prize writer Camilo José Cela, American writer Gertrude Stein, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, French author Georges Bernanos and Nicaraguan poet Rubén Dario were but a few famous property owners.
The first two hotels were built near Plaza Gomila and the Victoria and the Mediterraneo backed onto the seafront. They were ready in time for the first wave of British tourists in the 1920s and the area soon became a playground for the rich. However, the party came to an end when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936 and the fledgling tourism industry was stopped in its tracks. Instead the area became a haven for those seeking to escape the threat of air raids.
After World War II ended, El Terreno once again became a popular tourist area and in the 1940s Capllonsch Betti, opened Tito's night club on the Plaza Gomila and it was soon the top night club on Mallorca. It was soon joined by El Patio Club. The rich flocked to the area to rub shoulders with the famous. Regular visitors included film stars, Grace Kelly, Errol Flynn, Natalie Wood Kirk Douglas, Michael Caine, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. They enjoyed performances by Frank Sinatra, Josephine Baker, Ray Charles, Dean Martin, and Marlene Dietrich but the stage shows came to an end with disco boom of the 1970s.
Ca'n Barbara is the small bay between El Terreno and Porto Pi which is cut off from the sea by the sea front carriageway. Although it is now surrounded by apartment blocks and hotels it was once an isolated cove where the rich enjoyed bathing for over 50 years, starting at the end of the 19th Century. There are still a few houses from the fishing hamlet of Corb Mari and there used to be a small group of bathing huts known as Sa Portella. However, life for the bay changed when Avinguda Gabriel Roca was built, cutting it off from the sea and turning it into a harbour for small boats which can sail beneath the bypass.
Gabriel Roca (1896-1986) was Director of the Work for the Port of Palma de Mallorca from 1940 and 1962 and President the Mallorcan Tourist Board from 1949 to 1956. He planned and initiated the Paseo Maritimo (the Sea Walk), the three lane road which runs along the full length of Palma's waterfront. It was a bold move which both reduced traffic congestion into and out of the city, particularly once it was connected to the Via Cintura (the Belt Road), creating a ring road, and created a world class harbour for hundreds of yachts of all shapes and sizes.
If you ever want to stretch your legs and dream how to spend money when you win the lottery, take a walk along the Paseo Maritimo. On the one side are rows of expensive yachts, ranging from some of the largest in the world down to tiny ones. If you look out to sea you can see the small fort on the end of the mole and you will find the memorial to Mallorca's map makers; check out the Map Makers webpage for more information. Across the road are sea front apartments, top class hotels, bars and restaurants. You can even find the first two hotels, the Victoria and the Mediterraneo, while Tito's is still entertaining the youth of today.
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