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History of Madeira

Those who have visited the island agree that it is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. This group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic has an exuberant beauty that will charm you whether you are seeking a relaxing seaside destination, amazing trails for hiking and other outdoor sports, or if you just appreciate culture and good food. The island of Madeira was formed by now dormant volcanoes. It has underground rivers, fertile soil and a truly unique landscape. Of particular interest are uninhabited islands that are natural reserves, with unique species of flora and fauna, and of course the Laurissilva Forest, classified as World Heritage by UNESCO. It is also here that one of the most famous and exquisite wines of the world is produced: “Madeira wine”. Porto Santo is the second island that is inhabited. It is known for its fantastic 9 km beach of golden sand. The archipelago is also composed of the Salvagens and Desertas islands, which are natural reserves for sea-lions, dolphins, shearwaters, and many other species. Located in Portuguese territory, these welcoming islands were already known before the arrival of the Portuguese. In fact, the earliest references to the islands date back to classical antiquity, with some literary allusions "to the paradise-like Atlantic Islands," which suggests that the archipelago would be have been known by Phoenician and Greek navigators.

A Legendary Island

1418 was the year when Portuguese sailors landed for the first time in Porto Santo. It is said that a storm led them to this 'Safe Harbor', after several days adrift. Madeira was discovered a year later and so named because it is densely covered with trees. To this day, the history of this fantastic destination is associated with various legends. One states that the island burned continuously for seven years so that the extensive vegetation could be cleared to be populated.

Around 1425, King John I began its colonization, establishing 15 years later the system of captaincy, with the division of the island into three territories. Tristan Vaz Teixeira was appointed captain-donee of the Captaincy of Machico. Six years later, Perestrelo became captain-donee of Porto Santo, and in 1450, Gonçalves Zarco was appointed captain-donee of the captaincy of Funchal. The first settlers cultivated various crops, but it was the all-important sugar cane that quickly turned the city of Funchal into a mandatory stopover for European and Mediterranean trade routes. Interestingly, Funchal, Madeira's capital, owes its name to a plant, the fennel, which was abundant when the island was first discovered. Fennel is still widely used today in the confection of teas and traditional candies. Besides sugar cane, wine also greatly contributed to the economic development of Madeira, from the seventeenth century, thanks to trade agreements with England. The influence of the many English merchants who settled on the island is still visible today in the local architecture. The kindness of the local people, coupled with the island's beauty and its mild climate have attracted several notable visitors. In the nineteenth century, a strong tourism-based economy emerged. This was further developed in the mid-twentieth century, with the construction of an airport, now known as the Madeira International Airport. Today, Madeira is a cosmopolitan island, where nature meets modernity. If you enjoy beautiful scenery, tranquility and contact with nature, this land may well become one of your favorite places in the World. Relax, enjoy the stunning sunsets and do not forget to toast with a glass of "Madeira".

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