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Portugal

The Cloister of Porto Sé Cathedral

Porto (Portugal). The Sè Cathedral in Porto is one of the most important city’s landmark and attracts thousands of people – tourists and worshippers – every day: for this reason it is normally quite overcrowded.

However its cloister – which is accessible paying a small entrance fee – is totally another place, and when I was walking around it, I was particularly moved by its silence and tranquility. This made my visit particularly pleasant and gave me the opportunity to shoot these amazing Azulejos without anyone around.

What really impressed me and captured my attention, is the visible contrasts on the walls: the grey color of the structure contrasts magnificently with the Azulejos highlighting them and without giving the filling effect of “being too much”; but I found also particularly pleasant another contrast, given by the vertical and regular lines typical of Gothic architecture, versus the irregularity, the fantasy and the two-dimensional shape of Azulejos.

The light coming from the center of the cloister was perfectly enhancing the composition: this is one of my favorite photographs I have taken in Porto.

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A Luz De Lisboa (The Light of Lisbon)

Lisbon (Portugal). This is a photo from my recent trip around Portugal. I’m particularly attached to this shot, since it’s the first one I took as soon as I arrived to Lisbon. It was late afternoon, the sun was going down in front of the city and I was drinking a beer at Praça do Comércio, probably the most important city’s square and – for sure – one of the most beautiful ones, surrounded by wonderful buildings and with the end of Tejo river (Tagus, in English) meeting the Atlantic Ocean in front of me.

What captured my attention was the light: it was incredibly brilliant and clean, and the sunset was perfectly colored with a warm orange tone. I immediately understood it was “The Light of Lisbon”, and – interestingly – in front of me there was the banner of an exhibition exactly with that name: “A Luz de Lisboa” (translated, The Light of Lisbon).

Behind the building’s corner there is one of the symbols of Lisbon, the April 25th Bridge, whereas people are walking around, probably going back home or preparing for Lisbon by night.

 

This is my first photo of Lisbon and Portugal. Many others will follow in the next days…

 

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The Bica Funicular (Ascensor da Bica) in Lisbon

Lisbon (Portugal). A quick-and-dirty tip about Lisbon: I understand that probably the main city attraction – the one that everyone coming to Lisbon has been recommended to do – is a downtown tour with the tram n. 28, crossing all the main touristic sites of this wonderful capital, including a very special passage through the Alfama district. But for this reason, the hop- on and hop-off with the tram n. 28 can be a serious challenge, since many tourists share this recommendation and the coaches can be very overcrowded and hot.

So, consider to leave the 28 to locals and to “tripadvisor.com” short-sighted tourists, don’t be lazy and walk the city using your legs! It’s much better, you will always find a place where to sit down and relax for some minutes (contemplating the beauties of Lisbon), you will discover the city much better in a less conventional way and – last but not least – you won’t complain about your choice when you will see the tram passing close to you totally overloaded of people.

And if you want to shoot a picture highlighting the typical streetcar system with the challenging slopes of Lisbon’s districts (such as the Bairro Alto), the Bica Funicular (Ascensor da Bica) is probably what you are looking for!

All above considered, enjoy Lisbon!

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The Central Courtyard at the Palacio da Bolsa in Porto

Porto (Portugal). Yesterday I posted a photo of a nice courtyard in Milan; here today I’m posting the same subject – but this time it is from my recent trip to Porto, the second city of Portugal and one of the most beautiful one.

This sumptuous and elegant neoclassic building is the old Palacio da Bolsa (in English, the Stock Exchange Palace). It’s not used for its original scope anymore: for example, the courtyard photographed here in the past was the negotiations room, and the ceiling is decorated with the emblem of the countries with which Portugal was having commercial relationships.

However, today the Palacio da Bolsa it is still used for the meetings of the local commercial association.and for some special events. During the day, the Palacio da Bolsa opens its doors to visitors, and it is possible to walk along its corridors, as well as to visit its rooms, following a 45 minutes guided tour. I particularly appreciated the fact that during the tour I could shoot photos, and this one is one of my favorite from that visit.

The Palacio da Bolsa is located in the Infante D. Henrique Square in the historical center of Porto, and is designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

To capture this image I used a Leica Q camera: I think its 28 mm lens is very versatile and is very suitable for architecture photography (with a touch of creativity).

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The Chapel of Bones in Evora, Portugal

Evora (Portugal). It’s Halloween, again! Did you notice it? I guess so… In the past weeks the number of photos shared on social networks about Halloween parties and related events have been increasing and increasing. It seems that people are thinking only about this event: there’s a general excitement, and to be honest I do not understand the reason.

Let me speak frankly: I do not like Halloween at all. Perhaps it’s because I’m not American, but for sure I don’t feel it as a traditional recurrence of my calendar. In Italy, in the past years, there has been a growing interest on Halloween, but mainly – I suppose – for consumerist reasons: supermarkets are full of Halloween-related products, candies, sweets, masks and of course the traditional pumpkins (which are much better prepared with a good risotto, than carved and illuminated with candles). For sure, when I was a baby, there wasn’t any Halloween to celebrate with my friends: nobody dressed me to look like a zombie or a skeleton, and I never walked around my neighborhood knocking at every door and asking “trick or treat?” (despite all these things, I had a happy childhood – believe me).

Anyhow: if this is the trend, let’s surf it! At least, my intention is sharing photos from my travels, therefore I decided to wait for Halloween to post this one taken during my recent trip around Portugal (perhaps I’m too commercial, but I try to be fully in line with the contemporary spirit of Halloween). I took this photo when I went to Evora, a lovely and old little city some kilometers south-east of Lisbon. One of the main touristic attractions here, is the “Chapel of Bones” (Capela dos Ossos, in Portuguese), which is connected to the Church of St. Francis. This is a very weird place, a bit shocking at the beginning; but at the end I enjoyed the visit. I didn’t know it, but there are several other “chapel of bones” around the world: one is in Rome, another one is in Milan (San Bernardino Alle Ossa); in all of them, bones are used to decorate walls also with the main scope of transmitting the message of being “transitory” (a sort of “memento mori”). In Evora’s Capela dos Ossos this is confirmed at the entrance, where the motto “We bones that here are, for yours await” welcomes the visitors. I found it pleasantly grim…

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The Arab Room at the Palácio da Bolsa in Porto

Porto (Portugal). Let me be very frank and honest – this time I quote myself:

if there’s anything I’ve been loved more and more since I started my deep and intense relationship with photography, it is the feeling that I’m capturing photos more often for myself instead of for the others.

Why I’m saying this? Let me go back with my mind… In the past years, especially at the beginning when I started taking photos, the final step of my workflow was just uploading and sharing my captures on social media such as Facebook and Flickr: the purpose, for each shot, was raising the largest possible number of “likes” or “shares”. And as such, my opinions about my photos were strongly conditioned (if not even determined) by their “popularity”, something now I can’t even think about…

Year after year, increasing my self confidence with the camera(s), I implicitly began to be more “neutral” on what the others were saying about my captures. I don’t want to say that I’m more clever; but for sure, I don’t care about receiving lots confirmations on social media… As said, I take photos for myself, for my personal, intimate pleasure of doing this, without any economic reason, without any interest in selling any book or promoting any service. I’m totally free, and I love it.

For this reason, I decided to close my “fan-page” on Facebook (yes, I had a fan page) and I dedicated much more time to this blog. Furthermore, I started not uploading original photos on Facebook, but posting directly only their link. This has reduced my popularity – Facebook discourages this way to share contents, and the visibility is very limited by the social media’s algorithm – but of course I do not care at all.

Well, just to avoid any possible misunderstanding: it does not mean that I don’t like interacting with my followers of course! And as the manifesto of Photographing Around Me clearly statesif you leave your comments (including negative critics) I will be happy of caring about them!

I will probably return on these thoughts, since I’m thinking frequently about these things and I have something else to add. But it’s time to talk about the posted photo: I took it at the marvellous Palacio da Bolsa in Porto, Portugal. It’s an interior capture taken at the Arab Room, completely decorated in the exotic Moorish Revival style, fashionable in the 19th century, and used today as reception hall for personalities and heads of state visiting Porto.

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Alfama District in Lisbon from the Pool at Memmo Hotel

Lisbon (Portugal). Alfama is the oldest and probably the most characteristic district of Lisbon: it goes from the Tejo river up to the Sao Jorge Castle, and it is today a very popular touristic attraction. Every day, thousands of people come here – most of them with the popular tram number 28 – and walk up and down this picturesque labyrinth made of narrow streets, small squares and cozy restaurants playing fado.

The thing that impressed me most, and that I tried to capture when I was contemplating the landscape of Alfama at the beginning of sunset, is the perfect coexistence of sumptuous and elegant churches emerging from a dense jumble of roofs and terraces (the typical “miradouro”). This strong contrast in my opinion represents the true essence of Alfama, a sort of DNA of this district, which went – in the years – through opposite periods. In fact, if during the Moorish domination the Alfama was corresponding with the whole city, with the later expansion to west the district started its decadency and became inhabited mostly by poor people and fishermen. With the devastating earthquake of 1755, the Alfama was not affected and it was therefore preserved by any activity of reconstruction, keeping its original urban texture. With the recent renovation of old houses and with an activity of deep restoration, the Alfama is today one of the most vibrant part of Lisbon, populated both by locals and by foreigners.

I captured this image from the poolside on the roof of the Memmo Alfama Hotel, the first boutique hotel in Lisbon: a perfect terrace where to enjoy a drink watching one of the most popular and spectacular view of the Portugal’s capital.

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Azulejos at Sintra National Palace, Portugal

Sintra (Portugal). The Sintra National Palace (or, in Portuguese, “Palácio Nacional de Sintra”) is a very popular destination located 25 kilometers west from Lisbon. For this reason, it’s easily crowded with tourists (in my case, it took 30 minutes to reach this place with a car, but more than an hour to find a parking lot) and I can’t say that I was particularly pervaded by the atmosphere of the place – unfortunately.

Except when I entered into the dining room, characterized by fantastic azulejos (painted tin-glazed ceramic tile-works) decorating the walls – reminding me the Cloister of Porto Sé Cathedral visited few days earlier. I found this scene, with the armchair in the corner and light filtering from the window, very nice and worthy of being captured (and shared here of course).

I prepared this photo yesterday, almost one year after I went to Portugal. The reason is because at the beginning I was not finding it so interesting, probably because it was mixed with ordinary (for me) images of a place with many tourists. But whereas I was working on it, I thought that travelling to a popular destination can be challenging for those, like me, who live their trip as something beyond the simple “visiting a place” and – as written here above – try to be pervaded by the atmosphere of a place. For this reasons, sometimes, I think it’s a good idea to dedicate more time to observe details, than to waste minutes waiting for remaining alone and finding the right “isolation” from the mass.

It’s my personal opinion (feel free to write yours) but in my case it works!

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Luis I Bridge in Porto

Porto (Portugal). Few days after my post on the Arab Room at Palácio da Bolsa, I’m happy to share another photo taken in Porto: it’s one of the city’s symbols, the marvelous bridge “Luis I” (or, in Portuguese, “Ponte Dom Luís I”), which crosses the Douro river with its 172 meters and two decks (the upper one for the light metro train, and the lower one for cars), connecting Riberira with Jardim do Morro and the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar.

Perhaps it’s because I’m (still) a civil engineer, but I’m always fascinated by bridges. They perfectly combine elegance and functionality, easily becoming not only part of the landscape (I can think about Istanbul, for example) but also a city landmark: Ponte Vecchio in Florence is jut one of many examples; or the Millennium Bridge in London, to mention something of contemporary.

But probably one of my favorite bridge ever is this one crossing the Euphrates river: not so “architecturally” charming, but for sure very exciting to be crossed…

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