If there’s one thing Lisbon does with aplomb it is ceramic tiles. Wherever you go you will see them adorning floors, walls, benches, metro stations etc. The tile or Azulejos as they are known date as far back as the 13th century, when the Moors invaded the land that now belongs to Spain and Portugal, but they secured their foothold in Portuguese culture between the 16th and 17th centuries. The word azulejo stems from Arabic roots, meaning ‘small polished stone’. Originally they were fairly simple structures cut into geometric shapes in neutral tones.
A great place to trace the origins of the tile and to trace their history is the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (the national museum of the tile). Set is a former monastery the collection is displayed in date order dating from the Moors right up to the present day with some contemporary examples of tiles. It’s surprising just how contemporary the oldest tiles seem with their sharp geometric patterns and bold colours compared to the more classical C16 and C17 versions.
You leave the museum feeling inspired to rush home and tiles something. Given the tiles other wonderful quality – their ease to clean – it’s quite tempting to go home and tile the house. It would make removing Zoly’s slobber from the walls so much easier!