The south side is dry, rocky and populated; the north wetter, lusher and rural. With years of EU development subsidies, it is safe and clean with good roads and infrastructure.
Located just 15 minutes from airport, and away from the main hotel area west of Funchal, Palheiro Village has apartments and villas commanding an impressive view over the capital.
You'll need a car to get around - Blandy Travel can arrange a hire.
Set back from the harbour, Funchal's old town has a Mediterranean feel with touches of colonial outpost; ornate cathedrals with gilded interiors and churches, fortresses, a governor's residence and narrow cobbled streets.
More modern additions include a cable-car ride over the city and up to the botanical gardens.
The grapes for Madeira are grown around the island, but the magical transformation of the base wine into Madeira takes place via a process of Canteiro, for the best wines, over several floors of the Madeira Houses in central Funchal.
Blandy's Wine Lodge, ending with a tasting.
Next to Blandy's, Dos Combatentes is a small restaurant serving well-made food and Portuguese wines. The char-grilled squid is a speciality; the traditional Madeiran beef skewer is also excellent.
Drive up to Pico do Areira, one of the island's highest peaks, for breathtaking views in all directions.
If you need a change from the heated pool at Palheiro, there is a sandy beach 30 minutes' drive away at Machico.
Set on a cliff top with views along the dramatic rocky coastline, Quinta Do Furão is an hotel and restaurant between Santana and São Jorge with a traditional Madeiran menu.
Whilst you are in the area, check out the local traditional thatched triangular houses in Santana and around.
Most of Madeira's food is imported from, and subsidised by, Portugal. The main exception is seafood which is incredibly fresh and ridiculously inexpensive.
The supermarkets are well-stocked with delicious, inexpensive Portuguese wines, costing only a few euros. It would be remiss not to try the local Madeira; a strong, fresh fortified wine, it matches best with a simple supper of olives, strong cheese and tuna steak.
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