Marie Rattazzi, a grandniece of Napoleon, was a beautiful socialite. She married an Italian prime minister and was friends with Alexander Dumas and Victor Hugo. The books she wrote about her travels give us a unique glimpse into the life of 19th century European nobility.
When Rattazzi’s “Portugal at a Glance” was published in 1880, the Portuguese complained that it was full of errors and misconceptions. But her list of favorite Lisbon sites stands the test of time. Here it is:
1) The Terreiro do Paço, bathed by the waters of the Tagus river. […] Yes, the Tagus is truly beautiful and I admire it with all the sincerity of my soul. […] It is vast, with spacious, luminous horizons and one of the world’s most splendid harbors.
2) The Rossio, a very beautiful plaza, the busiest in Lisbon.
3) The Tower of Belem and the Jerónimos monastery. The Tower of Belém has a square form flanked by turrets, watchtowers, oculi, lancet windows, and sculptured balconies. Its pure Gothic architecture produces an admirable effect. Near the tower rises the ancient Jerónimos monastery. The main entrance and the facade are one of the most beautiful examples of the opulent Gothic style. […] This remarkable monument was built in Restelo, the beach from where Vasco da Gama sailed to India. The convent, contiguous to the church, is immense. […] The Arab-style cloister has sculptured laces so perfect and beautiful that I would gladly spend consecutive days in contemplative admiration. It is wonderful!
If you’re in Lisbon for a short visit, you’ll be well served by these timeless recommendations.