Modernization brings Madeira to a crossroads

 

For Centuries, this Portuguese haven in the mid-Atlantic has captivated visitors with its stunning beauty, semitropical climate and open-armed hospitality.

The bustling capital, Funchal, is literally a work of art, with miles of hand-laid mosaic-tile walkways leading to exotic gardens, colorful boutiques and refreshing pools amid five-star resort hotels.

And the mountainous interior, with peaks thrusting beyond 6,000 feet, is like discovering Superman’s Lair of Solitude, with a pervasive tranquillity and natural grandeur.

But explosive growth, especially in the last decade, has left Madeira at a crossroads that threatens its promise as an idyllic getaway.

While the new prosperity has helped fuel the development boom — with rampant construction of private homes, residential complexes and more hotels, amid escalating property values — the growing congestion threatens like a tsunami to overwhelm the island’s culture, grace and charm.

“There are almost as many cars now as people,” said Luisa Silva, a bank employee in Funchal, where nearly half of the island’s 250,000 people live, making it the most densely populated city in the European Union.

By Joseph F. Nunes, Hartford Courant. Read the whole article at InsideBayArea.com