I’m moving away from Alfama next week (to more settled accommodation) so I thought while I am still here I would show you some more of this area. Alfama is the oldest area in Lisbon, the medieval district was a Moorish and then a Jewish quarter before it became a fishing community. It’s built on solid rock foundations, which is why it escaped the catastrophic damage the rest of the city suffered from the 1755 earthquake. It has a village like quality to it, and is a snapshot of time before 1755. It also provides views over the city.
The pink building in the photo below is where I am staying, it was a monastery which has been converted into apartments. The other photos show a selection of the decorative styles of building in the district.
I’ve said before that walking is the best way to experience Alfama: not just because some of the streets are not wide enough for cars to get through; or because you won’t get to see what’s at the end of winding set of steps; or so you can take in the aromas of local dishes being cooked, that waft, tantalisingly, over the cobbles; or missing a tiny bar with only three tables inside, that has some of the best portuguese wine and tapas you will ever taste; it is because you will hear fado. The beautiful, haunting sound of fado will be your companion as you wander along the bumpy, cobbles, it is the soundtrack of Alfama.
The origins of fado are disputed, but the fado one hears in Lisbon today came from Alfama in the 1830s. Fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, originally often about the life of the poor, or the sea, today fado is a form of song which can be about anything. Fado may be melancholic, but it is also beautiful, in 2011 UNESCO designated fado as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage. Amália Rodrigues is fado’s most celebrated performer (fadista), she was known as the Queen of Fado, (Rainha do Fado) and was most influential in popularising fado worldwide. When she died in 1999 the portuguese government declared a period of national mourning. This mural of Amália is on a wall in Alfama.
The Viewpoint of Santa Luzia is a terrace, with, as the name suggests, views over Alfama. It also has some good examples of azulejo, both on the side of the church and on the terrace.