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Vila Franca do Campo

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When the first settlers arrived at the São Miguel island, between 1439 and 1443, some decided to establish themselves at a wide space that seemed fertile and was close to the sea; they called it Vila Franca do Campo because it was set on a field (campo) and because it was exempted of taxes (franca).

The town became the island's capital until 1522, when an earthquake almost completely destroyed it; Vila Franca do Campo was immediately rebuilt, but it had lost forever its former importance in favour of Ponta Delgada. During the 18th century it prospered due to the exportation of oranges (later replaced by pineapples) to the United States, and manors and rich churches were built.

The county's main attraction lie at sea: the famous islet of Vila Franca do Campo is really the crater of an extinct volcano which shelters a natural swimming-pool in the shape of a circle where water-sports can be practised (both the islet and the surrounding waters were declared a natural reserve).

Another well-known attraction of this part of the São Miguel island, shared by the counties of Vila Franca do Campo and Ribeira Grande, is Lagoa do Fogo (fire lagoon): an enormous lake also set in the crater of an extinct volcano dazzles visitors with its transparent waters, always changing colour as the sunlight or clouds travel above it, white sand beaches and slopes covered with vegetation.

Two other lagoons, Lagoa do Congro (conger lagoon, with dark green waters) and Lagoa dos Nenúfares (water-lilies lagoon, covered by these flowers), as well as fine beaches such as Água d'Alto, Degredo and Vinha d'Areia, never disappoint the expectations of visitors.

In terms of handicrafts, the county is proud of its pottery, louça da vila, which includes pots, mugs, pans, bowls and other utensils which were part of the local inhabitants' daily life until recently.

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