When Porto Santo used to be assaulted by pirates, locals were suffering excruciating travails. The worst attack happened in 1617 when pirates killed all men and abducted most women in the island. At that time the 16 th century fortress at the highest hill was worthless. Happy days, though, were marked by windmill sails moving around, by the wheat fields and by the hustle and bustle at the threshing floor. But if wind was welcomed for windmills it was not so much for crop fields which led locals to find a unique solution by building lacy walls. The island’s low profile is a constant indented by the shape of the clay houses coverage also tried by Chorão Ramalho in the island’s high school. And, of course, one of the mandatory visit points is the museum of “Cardina” as well as the lookout points and the rocky hills such as the hill of Ana Ferreira.
Being the first ocean liner destiny found by the Portuguese sailors led by Gonçalves Zarco in 1418, this name is naturally present all around Porto Santo and Vila Baleira as seen at the oldest and main street. But also Christopher Colombus, who spent here some time and prince D. Henrique are honoured at D. Henrique’s Lane once again designed by the architect Chorão Ramalho. Emphasis on the sculptured monument “Pau de Sabão” authored by António Aragão as well as on the local handcraft, mostly dominated by pottery as local potters are known for having extraordinary skills. At the North side of the lane we find the mineral water factory, while the church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade stand up for its’ great beautiful altar and for hosting several paintings by Martin Conrado and Max Romer. And surely, we need to highlight the unique “Baile da Meia Volta”.
Caniçal was an excellent hunting territory of João Teixeira, Tristão Teixeira’s 3 rd son. Its’ sea dependency and isolation until the 50’s when was built the Eng. José Nasoloni’s tunnel in 1956, has made this area’s population one of the most affected by misfortune. Whale hunting has brought to Caniçal some growth and gave origin to a very distinct kind of handcraft made from whale bones. Here, fishing was so important that even catholic church owned 2 fishing boats and its’ influence was extended to religious practices among whose the festivities of Nossa Senhora da Piedade, one of the most beautiful processions in Portugal. Here, sea is always present as it was the only way to transfer local timbers to the city of Funchal. Caniçal caught more attention and nowadays its’ landscape is also marked the New Church of Caniçal, designed by Francisco Caires as well as the Church of São Sebastião (Saint Sebastian).
Beyond commercial activities the “reach-me-down” operators were also important concerning the news spread across the island. The woods taken from the mountains were shipped at the old pier of Porto Novo, the same valley that served as scenario for the battles between liberals and absolutists in the 19 th century seen by whoever would be in the fortress at the West hill. From the mountains, the “levada” owners took the water, the mills motor force, such as for the Manuel Tavares’ watermill in great preserved shape. Water serves also the Public Lavatory, authored by the architect Chorão Ramalho, next at the Ponte Velha (old bridge) with the traditional Madeiran stone pavement used by whoever would cross the island through the Caminhos Reais (royal trails) that later, the Republic era preferred to call as “municipals”. Chorão Ramalho was also the author of all the electric transformation stations that mark all sceneries across the island and Gaula it is said to be the only town whose name was adopted from the chivalry romance “Amandis of Gaula” and according to locals, to the first people baptized in town were given the manes of the characters of this story.
The manor built in the 19 th century by British Consul Henry Veitch has a central importance since it was from here that was adopted the town’s denomination. Veitch anyway had a life able to compete with the most interesting literary characters. Less sumptuous there’s also the Manor of Furneira designed by the Portuguese architect Raul lino and ordered to build by Alberto Araújo, another important figure related to Jardim da Serra. Relevance on the Moorish myth original from the area of Furneiras and the cherry trees made up monument by the artist Jacinto Rodrigues. At the highest hills of Jardim da Serra are located the lookout points of Boca dos Namorados where Pêro used to call out his beloved Ignez at the other side of the mountain and Boca da Corrida that beyond offering great sights over Curral das Freiras (Nun’s Valley), makes us realize the fact that religious construction is in constant development concerning the new churches designed by the architect João Cunha Paredes.
It is said that here was ordered to build the first chapel in town by Francisco Gonçalves Salgado and that from this fact comes the name of the area “Salgados”. The area has become the parish headquarters of Camacha town when it became independent from Caniço climbing a bit more up the mountain. On the way, between Salgados and Poiso, beautiful manor properties were built mostly by the British community that flattered by the local climate, similar to British weather, had an important role on the construction of some of the local “levadas” (water courses). Beyond farms with great beautiful gardens we can also find several small agricultural units with old traditional houses that are faithful represented in the local traditional nativity scenes, the picturesque areas of Montado do Pereiro where people usually go for picnics and the area of Rochão that hosts one of the main folkloric groups in Madeira.
There’s no lack of reasons for at least we’re suspicious about the fact that Camacha is the epicenter of traditional culture in Madeira. Some of these reasons are located at the Conselheiro Aires de Ornelas Vasconcelos Square, a local that has become important in the whole country. It is said that this is the place where football was first played in Portugal. The building holding the clock brought from a church in Liverpool by Michael Graham hosts the basketry workshop where we can watch the artisans working and it’s next to the Chapel of São José ordered to build by Alfredo Ferreira Nóbrega Júnior holding in its’ interior an artwork by Martin Canan. In this square we can also find the Casa do Povo with the local folkloric group and the living tradition such as the traditional “villain caps” and the traditional nativity scenes. Close from here stands the head parish church, dated back from the 17 th century and the São Lourenço’s Parish Band.
Lançarote Teixeira ordered the construction of a chapel with his wife’s name (Beatriz) which was replaced in 1745 by a church that kept the same denomination. At the other end of the town, among the woods of Cardais stands the chapel of Sagrado Coração de Jesus. Here, we can follow the Levada do Poiso passing through crop fields along side with the Fountains and the Public Lavatory designed by Chorão Ramalho. The “levada” trail finishes close to the lookout point dedicated to Francisco Álvares de Nóbrega, considered by Horácio Bento Gouveia the greater Madeiran poet in the 18 th century. Overhanging the sea and close to the airport, the Fountain of Seixo that is said to be the same told by Gaspar Frutuoso where explorers found a very fresh and clear water, so light that they called this place Água de Pena (feather water).
This route invites us to a walking tour around town center drifting between sacred and profane local traditions. Visiting the head parish church, designed by Chorão Ramalho, we can see the Cross Stations authored by the local artist João Gomes Lemos and at the old sugar-cane factory, we got to learn the hustle and bustle that used to be back then during the sugar-cane harvest months. We went through the pier trail and on the way climbed up until the fort getting to know the sights and the history of the town. Next to the pier rocks and caves that before were used as warehouses caught our eyes telling us a myth about the cave of the nigger. Popping then by the historical center, got to know about the wine production, its’ storage and transport to Funchal city. Following then to the old sugar-cane factory manor and finishing at the Association Flores de Maio, giving us access to tradition – Charamba and so much more.
Roaming through the surroundings of Porto da Cruz’s town center we get the green fields, the agricultural activities and the immaculate white of the manor houses and chapels as companion. At Referta, the manor house built by Manuel Telo Moniz de Menezes and at Lombo dos Leais, the one owned by Alfredo Vasconcelos de Freitas Branco, local Viscount and unavoidable Madeiran character as well as the “Borracheiro” made up monument by Jacinto Rodrigues, an artist and new artisan, in whose studio we’ve spent some time. Again at Cruz da Guarda, Mr. José de Freitas Vieira has received us in his small workshop surrounded by his wood spoons, his swine scrubbers and by the “caralhinhos” – the traditional wood tool used to stir the “poncha”. On the way to the imposing Penha d’Águia, we got to know the myth of King Sebastian and stopping at Serrado’s Aqueduct in Terra Baptista we saw then the “Levada” of Castelejo which lead us to discover the greatness of the old island’s irrigation channels.