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Faro

History

After the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Faro boomed as the Roman port Ossonoba. During the Moorish occupation, it became the cultured capital of an 11th-century principality.

Afonso III took the town in 1249 (the last major Portuguese town to be recaptured from the Moors), and walled it.

Portugal’s first printed works – books in Hebrew made by a Jewish printer – came from Faro in 1487.

A city from 1540, Faro’s brief golden age slunk to a halt in 1596, during Spanish rule. Troops under the Earl of Essex, en route to England from Spain in 1597, plundered the city, burned it and carried off hundreds of priceless theological works from the bishop’s palace, now part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Battered Faro was rebuilt, poking its head over the parapet only to be shattered by an earthquake in 1722 and then almost flattened in the 1755 big one. Most of what you see today is postquake, though the historic centre largely survived. In 1834 it became the Algarve’s capital.