South-western European state, which includes most of the Atlantic coastal region of the Iberian Peninsula. The name derives from that of the ancient Portus Cale (today’s Vila Nova de Gaia) located on the left bank of the Duero (in port. Douro) a few kilometers from the mouth of this river and already mentioned in the Itinerarium Antonini.
Boundaries. – Portugal has approximately the shape of a rectangle and is limited to S. and W. from the Atlantic to N. and E. from Spain and precisely from Galicia; from León, Extremadura and Andalusia. Portugal, with an area of 88,683 sq km. (excluding the Azores and Madeira, which have a total area of 3081 sq. km. and for which see the relative items), constitutes the seventh part of the Iberian Peninsula and is the 18th in terms of surface area among the European states (between Hungary, with 93,072 sq. Km. Of surface, and Austria, with 83,857 sq. Km.) Its maximum length from N. to S. is about 560 km., And its maximum width of 218 km. The length of the political border is 2046 km., Of which 832 belong to the maritime border and 1214 to the land border.
Natural divisions. – Portugal has been divided for centuries into different regions, which differ from each other in natural characteristics. In N. the regions of Minho and Douro, which correspond wholesale to the historical region called Entre Douro and Minho, are mainly made up of granite masses strongly modeled by atmospheric agents and arranged in mountain chains that have a NE-SW direction. and heights almost always exceeding 1000 m. They are intensely cultivated regions thanks to the existence of two important factors: the great abundance of water, due to frequent rains, and the tireless work of man, who continually tries to buy new land for agriculture.
Profoundly different from the geological point of view is the Traz os Montes, made up of schist soils. The broad-leaved woods, widespread in the nearby regions of the Douro and Minho, yield in Traz os Montes, due to the great summer drought, to the cultivation of rye, potatoes, wheat, and the breeding of livestock (sheep and goats).
To the south of the Traz os Montes and the Douro lies the Beira which, due to its morphological characteristics, is in turn distinguished in Beira Alta, Beira Trasmontana, Beira Bassa and Beira Litoranea; this latter region, essentially flat, is very favorable to human settlement thanks to the intense development of agriculture and the sea that bathes it; the Beira Alta and the Trasmontana, on the other hand, corresponding to the upper part of the Vouga and Mondego rivers, are in completely opposite conditions. The Beira Bassa finally forms an inclined plane towards the Tagus valley and is engraved by the right tributaries that go to the aforementioned river.
The low valleys of the Tagus and the Sado and the peninsulas of Lisbon and Setúbal form another natural region: Extremadura. The low valley of the Tagus, an alluvial plain known as Ribatejo, is intensely cultivated with wheat and vineyards and is rich in natural grasslands for raising cattle. In stark contrast to this is the low valley of the Sado, swampy and therefore not economically important.
To the south of the Tagus up to the Algarve mountains lies the Alemtejo, a vast region of plateaus, whose average height is around 300 m.
In stark contrast to the Alemtejo is the Algarve. On the sides of the mountains the agaves and prickly pears give the landscape an African aspect, while the flat regions, characterized by a luxuriant vegetation of orange, olive, fig, almond and pomegranate trees, have a Mediterranean aspect.
Administrative divisions. – Portugal since 1834 has been divided into administrative districts headed by a civil governor assisted by a district council (Junta Geral do Districto). There are 18 districts on the continent and 4 on the adjacent islands. For Portugal 2002, please check commit4fitness.com.
Portugal is divided into six historical regions, each of which corresponds to two or more districts: Entre Douro and Minho: Viana do Castelo, Braga and Oporto; Traz os Montes: Bragança and Vila Rial; Beira: Aveiro, Viseu, Coimbra, Guarda and Castelo Branco; Extremadura: Leiria, Santarem, Lisbon and Setúbal; Alemtejo: Portalegre, Évora and Beja; Algarve: Faro. The districts of the adjacent islands are Angra do Heroismo, Horta and Ponta Delgada for the Azores, Funchal for Madeira.
The districts are divided into 302 concelhos (sub-prefectures), which in turn include 3884 freguezias (municipî). The districts, as has already been said, are governed by a civil governor (governador civil), the concelhos by an administrator of the concelho (administrador do concelho), the freguezias by a rector (regedor) and by a council of the freguezia.