I recently passed through Lisbon and had one destination that I was determined to see before I left. I only had twenty-four hours and I also wanted to make sure to do this beautiful city justice and see at least the most notable sites and streets. As you walk through the cobblestone streets of this ancient European capital you notice two things: tiled facades and men with hats. In all my travels only Sicilian men wear hats (the most common is the coppola or driver’s cap) as frequently and effortlessly as the Portuguese.
On the edge of one of Lisbon’s main squares, Praça Dom Pedro IV, or more commonly known as Rossio, sits a hat shop that sells a vast array of men’s and women’s hats for all occasions. If you call ahead and know your hat size (and are fluent in Portuguese) they will custom fit a hat for you or if you are spending some time in Lisbon they will measure you and do the same.
Chapelaria Azevedo Rua has been open for business since 1886 when Manuel Azevedo Rua came to Lisbon from the countryside where he had produced wines. I was told that one of the more famous client to buy hats there was Fernando Pessoa considered by many as one of the greatest poets of all times (and as with many artists achieving popularity in his own country only after his death at only 47 years of age).
Stepping into this store is very much a time capsule with it’s display cases largely untouched over the years and examples of vintage hat boxes that the company used in past decades. Using my Italian to communicate with the Portuguese shop owners, I quickly settled on three hats that I could fit easily on my head and that could easily fit in my luggage. All three, I felt, would also quietly fit in to my existing stable of headgear. They are made of wool so light that I had to ask the owner several times if I had understood correctly and it was not instead cotton. I was rather surprised (pleasantly) by their affordability with all three costing less than some of the more renowned hat makers of the world and yet the fit was snug and comfortable, the stitching was excellent and the weight was imperceptible. If I had had more space I would have ventured to get one of their beautiful fedoras, but I know have another excellent excuse to go back to Lisboa and walk its enchanting streets.
With a half mumbled, yet giddy, “Obrigado!” I stepped back out onto the darkening Rossio Square and donned one of my new hats partly blending in with the river of bobbing heads on their way home from work many of which wore a cap just like mine.
If you are ever in Lisbon and would like to try a few hats on for yourself here is the address:
Chapelaria Azevedo Rua
Pç. D. Pedro IV 73
Here is a short editorial piece that was done about the store (it is in Portuguese, but you get the idea):