The island of Santa Catarina is noted throughout Brazil for its Mediterranean-like scenery, attractive fishing villages and the city of Florianópolis, the state’s small and prosperous capital. The island has a subtropical climate, rarely cold in winter and with a summer heat tempered by refreshing South Atlantic breezes; the vegetation is much softer than that further north. Joined to the mainland by two suspension bridges (the longest, British-designed, has been closed for several decades to all but cyclists and pedestrians), the island is served by frequent bus services connecting it with the rest of the state, other parts of Brazil, Buenos Aires, Asunción and Santiago. During January and February the island is extremely popular with Argentine, Uruguayan and Paraguayan tourists who can usually enjoy a summer holiday here for much less than the cost of one at home.
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FLORIANÓPOLIS – or “Desterro” as it was originally called – was founded in 1700 and settled fifty years later by immigrants from the Portuguese mid-Atlantic islands of the Azores. Since then, it’s gradually developed from being a sleepy provincial backwater into a sleepy state capital. With the construction of the bridges linking the island with the mainland, Florianópolis as a port has all but died, and today the city thrives as an administrative, commercial and tourist centre. Land reclamation for a multi-laned highway and new bus terminals has totally eliminated the character of the old seafront, and with it has vanished much of the city’s former charm. Despite all the changes, though, the late nineteenth-century pastel-coloured, stuccoed buildings still recall faint old-world images, while the relaxed, small-town atmosphere provides a total contrast to the excitement of São Paulo or Rio.