Faro is an unassuming city, located in the deep south of Portugal, in the region of Algarve. The region, as a whole, is very well known for its increasing touristic appeal, mostly due to its golden beaches and high-end resorts. But Algarve also has a very rich history, which can be very well distinguished from the one of the northern side of Portugal. In this article, I am going to talk about these historical events and how they shaped Algarve and, more specifically, Faro’s Vila Adentro.
I've probably mentioned that Portugal has been at the hands of various rulers since its sea-side location and warm climate are suitable for prosperity, when I wrote about the Islamic Festival in the small town of Mértola. Two significant kingdoms that have had Portugal as part of them, and that have helped to shape it, were the Romans and the Moors. This is especially relevant for the south of Portugal. The very name Algarve comes from the Moorish “Al Gharb,” and it was the region ruled by the Moorish empire for the longest time during their invasion in the Iberian Peninsula. For Faro, its history as a city dates back to the Romans, who called it "Ossónoba." They were the first to really push for its fishing industry, a strategy that made the city the most important in the region till nowadays (Faro is the capital of Algarve).
Like in the case of Mértola and even the castle of Torres Novas (a bit more to the north), Faro has the remnants of its Islamic occupation very well present to this day; its castle walls are still standing to this day. But unlike the other castles, the walls of old town Faro, now called Vila Adentro, aren’t strategically located on higher ground but near the docks, overlooking the Ria Formosa, which at the time has been their most economically important asset.
This location has made Vila Adentro a very populated part of Faro (for such an old place). The cathedral, the seminary, and the town hall are all located in its main square, and around it, you have cafés, well-known restaurants, museums, galleries, and the musicians association. And amongst all these, you also have residents, people who have made the inside of the castle walls their home. This is one of the many examples of how Vila Adentro has simultaneously preserved its historical value and advanced with its city. In recent years, Vila Adentro has even been the venue for Festival F, a music festival that has grown a lot since its inception.
The streets of the old Moorish village outside the walls have preserved their patterns but are now filled with shops and cafés -where the downtown shopping area of Faro begins. The old fishermen residences have been modernized but are still part of the docks (and still used by fishermen).
When in Faro, be sure to go through one of the many archways that will lead you to the wonders and the history of Vila Adentro.
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