The Xató Route unites the Alt Penedès,Baix Penedès and Garraf regions in a common table and dish: xató
The tradition of this dish is long-standing. It dates back to a time when wine merchants visited the so-called historic Penedès to taste the wines. Once the agreements were made, they were invited to eat what was in the larder during the winter: salted fish and vegetables seasoned with a special sauce. Escarole, cod, tuna, anchovies and arbequina olives are some of the ingredients of a genuine xató. The sauce is a combination of almonds, hazelnuts, garlic, bread, red peppers, chili, olive oil, salt and vinegar. Each town has its own variation: a good reason for curious travellers to come and taste the different styles while enjoying the area's many tourist attractions.
The Xató Route connects nine municipalities to this historic dish. The "xatonada" season extends from November to April, and from January to March popular festivals are celebrated weekly. More than one hundred restaurants are attached to the Xató Route and feature special menus based on this dish during these months.
El Vendrell, the Baix Penedès capital, is a good place to start. This town’s recipe uses paprika, onion and roasted tomacons (a small tomato variety) in the sauce. This city is of great interest: from the beaches in Coma-ruga, Sant Salvador and El Francàs to the cultural activities centerd in the figure of Pau Casals. One can follow his life starting at the house where he was born and then continuing to San Salvador’s Museum Villa Casals, the Pau Casals Auditorium and other spots in town such as the Salvador Transfigured parish church. El Vendrell boasts a wide range of museums , including the Angel Guider House Museum, the Apelles Femora Foundation, the Due Museum and the Archeological Museum.
The beach in Falafel, Segar de Falafel beach, the important Iberian village and historic site presided over by the impressive Castle of Santa Creu and Sant Miquel Church, could be the second phase of a trip culminating with a visit to the Baix Penedès region and Cubit, where "xatonadas" are also celebrated, in this case in a medieval atmosphere.
Continuing north along the coast, the road enters the Garraf region through Cubelles. This town boasts an interesting old quarter, with a castle and the church of Santa Maria. There is also the permanent exhibition regarding the clown Charlie Rivel.
Vilanova i la Geltrú, the regional capital of Garraf, is the second capital on the Xató Route. Its xató recipe contains black olives in addition to arbequinas; there's no chili in the sauce, and the bread, soaked in vinegar, is without the crust. Vilanova boasts a wide cultural offer: the Railway Museum, Can Papiol Romanticism Museum, Víctor Balaguer Library Museum, Roig i Toquès Museum of Maritime Curiosities, and the Museum of the Sea all stand out.
The route continues north to Sitges. Here the xató is in synch with the fishing village, as the sauce includes anchovies.
The capital of the Catalan Romantic movement and Santiago Rusiñol offers marvellous beaches and interesting architecture, mostly in the Baluard area, in addition to visits to Cau Ferrat, Palau Maricel and the Romantic Museum, as well as the "Route of the Americans" and the Santiago Rusiñol route.
From Sitges, the route continues inland, to Sant Pere de Ribes, where the xató recipe also includes black olives and the sauce features roasted tomatoes and garlic, both roasted and raw. Here a visit to the old quarter cannot be missed, with its excellent medieval site Sota-ribes.
On the other side of the Garraf massif, the town of Canyelles, with its castle and the church of Santa Magdalena, is the entrance to the Alt Penedès.
The capital, Vilafranca del Penedès, also boasts its own peculiar xató, where lettuce sometimes joins the escarole on the plate, and the sauce doesn’t include almonds, hazelnuts and red peppers but cookies, raw and roasted garlic, and paprika. The Penedès wine capital features an interesting Modernisme route, a medieval center featuring the basilica of Santa Maria and its bell tower, and the Vilafranca Museum-Wine Museum. The Xató Route ends here.