It might sound surprising, but the main economic activity in the Middle Ages was agriculture. Only in 1345, when the city of Vilafranca del Penedès did ask for a port in this place, would Sitges become a commercial exit for the products of the area of el Penedès.
In the XVIIIth century Catalunya would finally get the permission to trade with America. Since this moment, a smooth commercial relationship with the American colonies started to grow. The economic prosperity did last until the beginning of the XIXth century. In 1833 more than 27% of the Catalan people trading with America were born in Sitges (the BACARDI and the BRUGAL families, two of the most important rum producers today, come from Sitges).
Many of those who got rich would return to the village and invest his money to buy and repair the old houses of Sitges and the village became a holiday spot for the American-sitgetans.
The main economic activity, though, would continue to be the agriculture, vegetable gardens and, specially the vineyard (but today only the vineyard of the Hospital of Sant
Joan Baptista, where the famous Malmsey of Sitges is grown, is still worked). Also the fishing activity has resisted but is today reduced to a few boats that still fish and anchors in the port of Aiguadolç.
In 1891 Santiago Rusiñol (one of the architecs of Modernism) would arrive in Sitges. Since then, the village became a cultural focus of this movement.
In 1909, thanks to Ramon Casas and Miquel Utrillo, Sitges was visited by Charles Deering, a North American millionaire who transformed Fonollar street, until then formed by characteristic fishermen’s homes and the old hospital, into a palace. The Palau Maricel and Cau Ferrat (Rusiñol’s house-studio) became two culture-attracting poles and obviously launched Sitges to tourist fame.
Sitges is today the permanent headquarters of the International Film Festival of Catalonia. This Festival is one of the pioneers of the fantasy, sci-fi and terror cinema.