Madeirans - Settlements



Major Madeiran settlements lie below 700 meters and on, or accessible to, Madeira's crucial national coastal road (Estrada Nacional 101). EN101′s last (1952) link was a tunnel through the rock precipice that is Madeira's north coast. Major EN101 towns average 3,000 to 4,000 inhabitants and range in size from Seixal (900 people), at the east end of the north coast tunnel, to Machico (11,000), landing site of the original settlers. Interior towns (2,000-8,000 residents) lie at the head of ribeiras at the edge of mountain heartland, are on main roads, are handicraft centers, and are of historical interest or scenic value. Strip settlements follow a twisting EN101 from Funchal west to Calheta (60 kilometers) along Madeira's populous south coast. In the sparsely settled north, villages cluster in valley bottoms away from the coast or on promontories above the sea. Many small farmsteads remain in remote mountain valleys, their isolation diminished by an ever-expanding island road network. The traditional peasant dwelling is low-lying and dark, with thick stone walls under crawling ivies, not much larger than nearby straw-thatched palheiros (cow huts). Pastel stuccoed exteriors with azulejo (glazed decorative tile) trim, russet tile roofing, shuttered windows, and multistory units have superseded older halftimbered, ridged-thatch, A-frame rural structures. By contrast, Funchal is an architectural mélange of palatial homes, malls, tessellated plazas, relic colonial buildings, former Country estates ( quintas ) incorporated within city limits as museums, and high-rise glass and concrete hotels. The most striking is the Casino Park complex designed by Brazilian Oscar Neimeyer; the most elegant is Reid's, the former Blandy (British) estate, one of Europe's prime resort hotels. The cathedral (sé), center of Madeiran spiritual life, blends Moorish, Gothic, Romanesque, and Manueline design elements that echo formative historical forces. In old parts of the city, tiny artisan workshops line narrow cobbled alleys near the old customs house ( alfândega ).


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