Crafts are rather expensive on the island, but collectors might want to seek out exquisite Madeira embroidery or needlework. Check to see that merchandise has a lead seal attached to it, certifying that it was made on Madeira and not imported. The businesses listed in this section are all in Funchal.
At the factory Patricio & Gouveia, Rua do Visconde de Anadia 33 (tel. 29/122-29-28), you can see employees making stencil patterns on embroidery and checking for quality of materials, though the actual embroidery is done in private homes and this process is not likely to be of great interest to anyone not seriously interested in embroidery. Of the several embroidery factories of Funchal, this is not only the most famous but also the best place to buy embroidery because many of the routine souvenir shops scattered throughout the island sell embroidery from Taiwan and other places. The embroidery at Patricio & Gouveia, however, is the real thing -- every item is guaranteed to be handmade on the island. Bordal-Bordados da Madeira, Rua Doctor Fernão Ornelas 77 (tel. 29/122-29-65), also carries an outstanding selection of completed embroidery.
Madeira Wine -- Funchal is the center of Madeira's wine industry. Grapes have grown in the region since the early 15th century, when Henry the Navigator introduced vines and sugar cane to the island's slopes. Every Madeira wine is fortified, brought up to full strength with high-proof grape brandy. The distinctive flavor of Madeira comes from being kept for months in special rooms called estufas. These estufas have high temperatures instead of the cool chambers where most bottles of wine are stored. Madeira refers to a whole body of wines that ranges from very sweet to very dry. Even the cheapest Madeira is quite remarkable, and the French, among others, use the least expensive Madeira for cooking, which adds more flavor than sherry or Marsala.
The light-colored Sercial, with a very dry taste, is gently scented. This wine is often compared to a Fino Sherry, although Sercial has its own special bouquet and character. Bual (sometimes known as Boal) is more golden in color and is a medium sweet wine, sometimes served as a dessert wine. It is velvety in content, its color ranging from a dark gold to a brown. Mainly a dessert wine, Malmsey is a sweet, chestnut-brown Madeira. The grapes that today produce Malmsey were the first ever shipped to the island.
Madeira Wine Company, Av. Arriaga 28 (tel. 29/174-01-00; www.madeirawinecompany.com), a well-stocked wine shop next to the tourist office, offers samples from the diverse stock, which covers virtually every vintage produced on the island for the past 35 years. The shop is housed in a former convent dating from 1790. The building contains murals depicting the wine pressing and harvesting processes, which proceed according to the traditions established hundreds of years ago. You can savor a wide range of Madeira wines in a setting of old wine kegs and time-mellowed chairs and tables made from kegs. Admission is free; it's open Monday to Friday 9:30am to 6:30pm, and Saturday from 10am to 1pm. Guided tours cost 5€. Tours last 1 hour and take visitors into a museum of antique winemaking equipment and past displays of some of the oldest bottles of Madeira wine. The highlight of the tour, however, is when visitors are taken into a cellar bodega for an actual wine tasting. Visitors are escorted through the premises Monday to Friday at 10:30am and 3:30pm, and again on Saturday at 11am.
Markets And Bazaars
The Workers' Market, Mercado dos Lavradores, at Rua Hospital Velho, is held Monday through Saturday from 7am to 8pm but is liveliest in the morning. Flower vendors dressed in typical Madeiran garb of corselets, leather boots, and striped skirts will generally let you photograph them if you ask them -- especially if you buy some flowers. The market is filled with stalls selling island baskets, crafts, fruits, and vegetables, and offers Madeira's largest array of that day's fish catch.
In Funchal's bazaars, you can purchase needlepoint tapestries, Madeiran wines, laces, and embroidery on Swiss organdy or Irish linen, as well as local craft items such as goat-skin boots, Camacha basketry, and other eclectic merchandise. The colorful City Market, at Praça do Comércio, Monday through Saturday, offers everything from yams to papaws to a wide array of handicrafts, including products in wicker and leather. Bazaars are found throughout the center of Funchal.
At these bazaars, there are good deals on handmade shoes and tooled leather. However, prices on other items (embroidery, needlework, table linens, and tropical flowers) can be high, so have an idea of what you want to pay for certain items and sharpen your bargaining skills before going. Madeira is an excellent place to buy tropical (though expensive) flowers such as orchids and birds of paradise, all of which can be shipped to the United States. U.S. Customs allows flowers from Madeira into the United States, as long as they are inspected at any American airport upon arrival.>
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.