Monday, March 26, 2012
An Italian Girl in... Lisbon
I arrived in Lisbon in a mid-February morning. I took off in a foggy Milan to find a spring blue sky at my arrival. The first impact with Portugal could not have been sweeter. And "sweet" is probably the adjective that most suits Lisbon. Sweet is Fado, the town traditional music, sweet are the sounds of the Portuguese language, sweet is wandering through the allays and streets of the old town without a precise direction, sweet is relaxing at the ocean breeze caressing the city, sweet are - definitely - the pasteis de nata in Belem suburb: this is the city in a word and a bunch of must-dos.
The central part of the city stretches from Praça do Comercio to Rossio (the main train station). Mind the architecture: you will find spots of Haussmannian-style buildings that remind of Paris. Indeed, Lisbon had his own Earl Haussmann: the Marquis of Pombal. He was the Prime Minister from 1750-1777. Beside reforming the society, he embarked in the city reconstruction after the terrible earthquake in 1755. The adjacent Praça da Figueira and Praça Dom Pedro IV are the best examples of XVIII Lisbon architecture. Some meters to the South, the Arco da Rua Augusta leads to Praça do Comercio. This is the heart of the city and it's best-known landmark: dominated by the statue of King Joseph I, it stretches to the waters of the Tago. Take a moment to enjoy the view of this square and for a coffee at Café Martinho da Arcada, one of Fernando Pessoa's favourite places together with Cafe A Brasileira in the Chiado.
Don't miss a trip to Belem suburb, a few kilometres out of the city: this village is part of UNESCO World heritage thanks to three outstanding buildings. The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos a Manuelin-style monastery dating back to the XVI century, the Belem Tower, constructed in the same period as the monastery as a defence post and - last but not least - the Monumento aos Descobrimentos. This last - constructed in the XX century - is one of the best symbol of the past importance of Portugal: a marine power, a State of explorers which conceived the first journeys to the "New World". From the top of this statue, which honours the courage of Portuguese sailors, you can still feel that each single moment of a journey is a precious learning. And that on the other side of the "pond", there's America.
While writing this post, the most important Italian expert of Portuguese literature and culture, Antonio Tabucchi, passed. He was an outstanding novelist, well-known to the Italian audience. My journey to Lisbon would not have been so special, if I had not read twice his masterpiece "Sostiene Pereira".
Adeus Antonio, Lisbona sfavilla sempre nelle tue parole.