Gabriella Nonino, traveller, web editor and blogger: “Santa Tecla is the perfect cultural expression”

Gabriella Nonino / ©Rafael Ló—pez-MonnéŽ

Being a prolific author, gifted with an exuberant imagination, the Veronese Emilio Salgari (1862-1911) wrote a vast number of novels, most set in remote and exotic places, like those of Sandokan the Pirate; places he was never able to visit. Due to her profound admiration towards Salgari and an adventurous soul, the Sicilian Gabriella Nonino has dedicated her life to travel, a permanent physical and mental revolution throughout the years that has taken her to an intense experience in every single country she’s lived in, from Israel to Kenya, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia. Gabriella fell in love with Tarragona some three years ago, and decided to settle in an attic terrace flat at Part Alta, an exceptional vantage point for the Tarragona Blog; an absolute ‘nomadic’ declaration of love born in the middle of the city’s heavy social activity.

When not actually travelling, Gabriella, who works as a professional web editor, does travel around the net. And it is in fact thanks to the Internet, she reckons, that back when she was living in London, she discovered Tarragona, a city that has managed to surpass her expectations. “I arrived one day during a demonstration set at Plaça de la Font. There were a lot of people sharing their indignation against general cutbacks, and yet the atmosphere was calm and festive at the same time, with a sort of complicity among those attending which is difficult to explain and different from everything I had seen before. I can still hum that music, L’Estaca by Lluís Llach. It was like witnessing my infatuation”, says Gabriella, who immediately sold her flat in England and became a devotee of every cultural event in the city, as shown in Tarragona Blog’s sensational photo story.

The historical character of the city becomes more evident in the actual monumental configuration of Part Alta, the old walled district. The vast number of Roman remains, classified by the UNESCO as World Heritage, describes, stone by stone and together with other buildings and locations of later construction, how the identity of this town and its area of influence were shaped. However, Gabriella believes that the most important thing in Tarragonais not what it may have been, but what it wants to be”: the pre-eminence of a very active social movement, born with the purpose of sharing and fomenting a sort of city pride, capable of sustainably mobilising dozens of people through a number of festive and connecting activities, from castellers to historical reconstruction groups. “The first time I attended Santa Tecla Festivity, I was in shock: the breathtaking events, the massive involvement, the actual evolution of the festivity… It is much more than a social representation; it is a perfect, complete culture expression”, she states.

Gabriella gets involved, enjoys, absorbs. She spreads her passion for Tarragona and its people. She has engaged with those that have a close intellectual relation with the environment –archaeologists, cultural managers, chefs…-, a philanthropic supporters group with which she shares that stunning terrace in her attic, plus an explosive grappa produced by her father. One might think that it is precisely on this gossipy watchtower staring at the Cathedral, the immensity of the sea and clothes hanging up on some terraces around, that Gabriella has moved from liking to loving the city she chose to live in. “Tarragona might not be the most beautiful Mediterranean city, but it creates a choreography of fantastic people, absolutely involved, in a blend of pragmatism, pride and romantic ideal, which comes to confer a unique personality to this place; the one of a mythological beast, whose power lives inside its inhabitants”, she states.

It is three years now since she moved to this city. Her knowledge about some of the city’s lifestyles has gone a step forward. Gabriella has adapted to the rhythm and she feels that, after traveling for so long, it is in Tarragona that her most vital chapter has been written. “My obsession along the years was always discovering things in a different way. My love story has been fulfilled here. My life is an unfinished journey, but I feel like at home now”, she tells us. Her love for Tarragona is now a reasoned one, and an honest one too: “This is the ideal place to explain History and what the Mediterranean is. It is just about time that we believe in it, just a little bit more”.

Text: Oriol Margalef (@OhMargalef on Twitter)
Pictures: Rafael López-Monné (@lopezmonne on Twitter)
Translation: Artur Santos (@artur_1983 on Twitter)