Casa Chafariz is a historical building in the Santos neighbourhood within easy walking distance of the Tagus River and all that Lisbon has to offer.
How would you describe Palácio Belmonte in a nutshell?
Palácio Belmonte is the oldest palácio in Lisbon. The house had been in the same family for more than 500 years. It is a stunning sculpture, a 2197-year-synthesis of Portuguese history and culture, located on top of the historical centre of the city. In a few words, Palácio Belmonte is about silence, beauty, exclusivity and insider information.
What was the inspiration to open Palácio Belmonte to the public as a boutique hotel?
When I saw it for the first time from its courtyard, I just felt an overwhelming attraction. My heart started to beat faster. I felt as if arriving home. It happened to be for sale and bought it the next day without even visiting it.
When I came to see it again six months later there were so many windows and terraces, each one with incredible views of old Lisbon and the Straw sea. It was so beautiful, so special, so unique that I felt compelled to share it with a few guests.
The refurbishment obviously respected the rich history of Palácio Belmonte, but there are also contemporary elements. How would you describe the interior design?
Six years of work, a labor of love, were necessary to bring the house back to its former splendor — the huge terrace facing east, 5 other terraces private to the apartments and suites of the former palácio, the dining and sitting rooms with 8m high ceilings, a ‘caisson’, two libraries...
Architect Pedro Quirino da Fonseca, head of the National Monument and a wonderful Portuguese craftsman, helped us during all those years. We had endless discussions on Portuguese history. The first year, I remember walking days and nights to understand and write down a pitch on a ‘2197-year-old house coming back to life’, the changes of light, the sound of rain, the sun, the wind, the boats’ horns, the textures, the volumes, the colors.
We rediscovered all the different layers of construction, hidden frescos, walled rooms and found fabulous archives, letters of queens and kings of Portugal, an escape dating from the Roman time leading to the Tagus, cisterns, roman tower, 59 panels of Azulejos.
You are also hosting exhibitions and other events at Palácio Belmonte. Please tell us a bit about the Belmonte Cultural Club.
The Belmonte Culture Club is a unique place where the world's finest artists along with people from all walks of life enjoy being together to inspire and be inspired by art, conversation and good cigars while tasting some Portuguese specialties.
The group Soundwalk opened its new creation ‘Ulysse’s journey’ in June 2011, the international renowned New York based Concert Pianist Elisha Abas gave a concert in July. In August 2011 the Belmonte Culture Club in association with DaST received 20 students and professors from China, Russia, France and Portugal to prepare a sustainable regeneration program for the São Jorge Castle in Lisbon and at midnight of September 30th opened Maria Pia Oliveira’s exhibition ‘clouds’.
Our motto: create private live concerts, lectures, exhibitions and close contact with great artists while discovering the finest Portuguese wines, cakes and cheeses... another memorable moment at Palácio Belmonte.
How would you like your vacation guests to remember their stay?
The Palácio Belmonte experience is about bringing our vacation guests back to their roots, to their childhood, to fantasy. I would like Palácio Belmonte to be their house while they discover the wonderland of Portugal. My dream is to make everybody become an Ambassador of Portugal, a truly friendly country filled with great people.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Yes, W. Churchill once said ‘Portugal discovered the world. Let us, now, discover Portugal.’ We would love to welcome you!