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Vila do Porto

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Capital of the island of Santa Maria, Vila do Porto was the first settlement in the Azores (the island was discovered in 1427) and consists mostly of a long main street leading to a small harbour.

The highest point of Santa Maria is the central Pico Alto (590 metres), which offers fine views over the green and hilly east side, in contrast with the west coast, which is dry and flat.

The bay of São Lourenço, framed by a large half-crater of terraces covered with vineyards and with charming four façade houses scattered amidst the green scenery, is a delightful summer beach resort.

Further south, the village of Espírito Santo is well worth visiting due to the Church of Our Lady of Purification, with a white Baroque façade decorated with black lava stone.

Though the island is only 18 kilometres long, the variety of sceneries, the sandy beaches and the warmest climate of the Azores render it extremely attractive to visitors, specially during the Holy Spirit Festival, celebrated on Whit Sunday.

A curious fact which happened on this island was when Christopher Columbus, returning from his first voyage to America in 1493, stopped here to obtain fresh provisions: he was considered a common pirate and imprisoned by order of the Governor. Perhaps to atone for this, there is a statue of the explorer at the small fishing town of Anjos, on the north coast.

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