t Vall d’Aran nestled on the hillside, surrounded by snowcapped mountains
It was at Empúries, on Catalonia’s Costa Brava (“wild coast”), that the Romans first set foot on the land that they would name Hispania. After the fall of the Roman empire and a period of Visigothic then Moorish rule, it was conquered by the Franks in the early 9th century. It later enjoyed independence as the County of Barcelona before being incorporated into the Crown of Aragón as the autonomous Principality of Catalonia. This regional autonomy survived the union of Castile and Aragón in 1492, persisting until 1714, when Felipe V centralized the Spanish government in Castile.
In the second half of the 19th century, the independence movement re-emerged, but any progress towards the re-establishment of Catalan autonomy came to a brutal stop when Franco came to power in the 1930s.
Following Franco’s death, full autonomy was restored to Catalonia and its Generalitat in 1979. Since then, the independence movement has gathered significant momentum, reaching a head in 2017 when a referendum saw Catalans vote to become an independent republic. This referendum, however, was declared illegal by the Spanish government, and was boycotted by unionist factions.