Italy and Portugal July 7-20, 2015


        In July of 2015 I spent two weeks in Europe, attending a psychology conference in Milan, Italy, then sightseeing in four places in Portugal.  I had previously travelled in Italy twice before, but I had never been to Portugal.  I will describe highlights of what I learned in Milan, Italy, and what I experienced in Lisbon, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, and Porto of Portugal.  Photo numbers refer to 99 pictures that I have posted at - click on a photo to enlarge it and see its label, then use the arrows to scroll through the photos.


Milan, Italy

        After flying overnight from Los Angeles, and changing planes in London, I took a bus and tram to my hotel, then the Metro subway to the University of Milan-Bicocca, to attend the Opening Ceremony of the European Congress of Psychology late afternoon Tuesday (photo 1). By the time I arrived and found the right building, I missed the welcoming speeches, but heard part of a lecture on Alzheimer's.   I learned that rates of dementia increase dramatically after age 90, but are lower for those with "cognitive reserve" of higher IQ and education.   There was musical entertainment by three opera singers, then a reception at which I saw six friends that I had met at previous conferences.

        Wednesday through Friday the conference had multiple sessions simultaneously, but I had printed the online schedule ahead of time, and marked those that I was most interested in.  Wednesday morning I attended a lecture by a friend that I knew in Seattle more than 30 years ago and hadn't seen since!  He made a distinction between Learning Goals, which focus on process, and Performance Goals, which focus on outcomes, and reported that Learning Goals lead to higher performance. 

        After chatting with my friend, I attended a symposium on self-efficacy (feeling competent, e.g., in academics, sports, or social skills) and learned that adolescents with low self-efficacy are more likely to express anger, aggression, depression, and risky behavior.  I then looked at some posters, and one reported disturbances in glial cells in the brain in schizophrenia.  Another symposium was on subjective well-being, which includes happiness, which is an emotion, and life satisfaction, which is a cognitive appraisal.

        As I was leaving the university, I met a colleague who told me that Cirque du Soleil had a show at Expo 2015 (photo 2), an exposition with food pavilions (e.g., photo 3) from countries around the world, so I went there to see the show (photo 4) since I am a big fan of Cirque du Soleil.

        On Thursday I attended a symposium on social skills, and learned five steps for conversations:  1.  Opening line - to let the other know you want to talk, such as asking where you are from, or commenting on the situation such as the weather; 2. Introduce yourself; 3. Explore things in common - to find something to talk about; 4. Extend the topic or change topics - asking questions about the other, not dominating the conversation about yourself; 5. Closing - expressing appreciation (nice to meet you or thanks for the info) or referring to meeting again. 

        I then gave my talk based on my study of Intimate Relationships that is online in multiple languages at, in collaboration with colleagues around the world.  I reported that Schwartz' Personal Values clustered into the four high order values of Conservatism, Self-Enhancement, Openness to Change, and Self-Transcendence found in previous research, and that they had similar correlations with social background and attitudes across 12 countries in the study.  Another talk in the same symposium talked about the importance of skin tone and colorism (favoring light skin) in African and Asian communities.

        After viewing a number of posters, I attended another symposium that included the finding that a mother's emotional support promoted a girl's well-being even when she felt negatively about her body image.  I then met with a representative of a book publisher who had emailed me expressing interest in my research on Intimate Relationships, and she gave me guidelines for writing a book proposal! That evening I attended the congress dinner at the National Museum of Science, where I met colleagues from several countries.

        Friday morning I attended a lecture on Theory of Mind, which is the realization that others have thoughts and feelings, and learned that it is correlated with intelligence tests among young children.  Another lecture was on "magical possessions," the feeling that part of a person we miss is embodied in possessions we have from them.  Early Friday afternoon a symposium focused on the importance of close relationships in physical health, noting that their lack has effects on mortality rivaling cigarette smoking, blood pressure, blood lipids, obesity, and lack of physical activity.  I then met with my Italian collaborator on the Intimate Relationships study to discuss the book proposal.

        I left the conference mid-afternoon to do a little sightseeing in Milan.  First I went to the Castello Sforzesco (photo 5) and saw some sculptures and paintings. Second was the Pallazo Reale (Royal Palace, photo 6) where I saw more sculptures and some stained glass windows, which I generally appreciate.  Third was the Duomo, the second largest Gothic cathedral in the world (photos 7 & 8), where I climbed up to the roof for a view of the city (photo 9).   After dinner, I returned to the Duomo for a light and sound show like I had seen projected onto cathedrals in other European cities (photo 10).


Lisbon, Portugal

        On Saturday, I flew to London, then changed planes to Lisbon, making Portugal the 51st country in which I have travelled.  I had reserved a private room for two nights in a hostel, since it is easier to meet people in hostels than in hotels.  I had a fish dinner, which was consistent with a t-shirt I saw someone wearing that said Lisbon Menu and had only rows and rows of fish! 

        On Sunday, I climbed up the hill to see the Sé Catheral (photo 11) that has an ornate organ (photo 12), then climbed further up the hill to see the Castelo Sčo Jorge (photo 13) that has a panoramic view of the city (photo 14).  Instead of walking down the hill, I rode a 3-wheeler tuk-tuk (like photo 15) up to the top of the hill (photo 16), then down to the Fado museum at the base of the hill, where I learned that Fado is a style of music that expresses feelings like missing someone. Originally sung by sailors and prisoners around the turn of the 1900s, and popular in brothels, it became respectable in the late 1920s with censored lyrics and licensed singers, then popular with records and radio, and international when singers went to Africa and Brazil in the 1930s.  The museum had pictures of Portuguese guitars (e.g., photo 17) and singers, as well as stations where you could listen to samples of Fado music (photo 18).

        I walked to the square at the bottom of Augusta street (photo 19), then up the pedestrian street with sidewalk cafes and pastry shops (photo 20), to Rossio Square (photo  21), then to a museum of contemporary art which had a few nice sculptures, and to a church that was not Catholic like most others since it did not have a crucifix (photo 22).  

        I then went to dinner at a Fado restaurant recommended by my hostel, where I stayed three hours and listened to five sets of singing -- three by a woman (photo 23), one by the restaurant manager, and one by another man!


Sintra, Portugal

        On Monday, I took the train to Sintra up in the mountains, where I had reserved a private room for two nights at a hostel with a great backyard for relaxing and visiting.  After dropping off my luggage, I took a bus further up the mountain to Palacio Pena (photo 24), a fairy tale castle (photo 25), which had an ancient telephone system within the palace (photo 26).  From there I walked down the hill to the ruins of Castelo Mouros, built when Muslims ruled Portugal from 718-1139 (photo 27), which had a great view of Sintra below (photo 28).  I then took the bus back to the Historic Center of Sintra, and explored Sintra Palace (photo 29), which had ceramic tiles on the walls (photo 30) that I learned more about later.  From its steps there was a view back up to Palacio Pena on top of the mountain (photo 31).

        On Tuesday, I took a bus to Quinta de Regaleira (photo 32), which was a huge park with a chapel (33), a tower (photo 34), a well that could be walked into for initiation ceremonies (photo 35), and a waterfall with caves (photo 36).   From there I rode the bus further to the grounds of Palacio Monserrate (photo 37), where I walked by a fern garden (photo 38), a Mexican garden (photo 39), and the ruins of a chapel with roots growing down the walls (photo 40) - like the Cambodian temple I had visited that appeared in the film Laura Croft Tomb Raider.

        When I took the bus back down, I went past the Historic Center to the train station where I caught a different bus to Cabo da Roca (Cape Rock), the western-most point in Europe (photo 41), with a monument (photo 42), and a rocky shoreline to the south (photo 43).


Return to Lisbon

        On Wednesday I took the train back to Lisbon and checked into a hotel that I had reserved before deciding that it was more interesting to stay in hostels.  I explored Portuguese painting and sculptures in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (photo 44), then artifacts brought back from voyages to Asia in the Foundacion Oriente Museu, including many kinds of shadow puppets from various countries (e.g., photo 45).  At 9:30 there was a free classical concert in Largo Sčo Carlos, a few blocks from my hotel, but the seats were all taken by 8:00, so I ate dinner in a restaurant across the street, then watched the concert from the sidewalk overlooking the square (photo 46). 

        The hotel and the nearby Baiza-Chiado Metro station were high up a hill, so there were long escalators down (photo 472) and up the from the subway trains.


Porto, Portugal

        I had originally not planned to go north to Porto, but an exchange student I met at the hostel in Sintra convinced me that it was worth the trip, and I am glad that I went. There was a high-speed train that took only 3 hours on Thursday, and I was able to reserve online a private room in the hostel he recommended.  Following the recommendations of the staff person at the hostel, I walked way down the hill (photo 48) to the riverfront (photo 49) that had port wineries across the bridge. I then walked along the colorful Cais Ribeira past the sidewalk cafes (photo 50), to the Casa Infante (photo 51), birthplace of Henry the Navigator who encouraged voyages that led to trade with India and to colonies in Africa, Brazil, and Macao (across from Hong Kong).

        To learn more about those voyages, I walked on to the World of Discoveries that was a small amusement park (photo 52) with model ships (photo 53); touch screens about voyagers (e.g., photo 54), life aboard ship (e.g., photo 55), and routes of the voyages (photo 56); and a boat ride with panoramas of places visited on the various voyages (photo 57).

        I then took a streetcar (photo 58) to the end of the river, and a bus past the beach along the Atlantic Ocean (photo 59), to an area famous for seafood restaurants where fish is barbequed on the street (photo 60).  After dinner I was able to take the Metro blue line from Matosinhos back to Camp 24 Agosto near the hostel (photo 61).

        Friday morning I walked to the Torre dos Clérigos (Tower of the Clerics, photo 62) with two pipe organs (photo 63), and noticed a sign saying there would be an organ concert at noon, which I wanted to attend.  But it was early, so I walked on to the famous bookstore Livraria Lello (photo 64) with dual curved stairways to the second floor (photo 65), where I found a book on Portuguese history called "The first global village: how Portugal changed the world" by Martin Page.  The chapter descriptions indicate a history of intrigues and conquests, mixed with voyages, civil war, and dictatorship, too complex to summarize in a couple of paragraphs. 

        I also explored the nearby Igreja das Carmelitas (photo 66), where I saw a statue of Jesus in a glass coffin (photo 67), which is common in Catholic churches in Portugal.  I then went to the Museu Nacional de Soares des Reis, showcasing a sculptor by that name, before going back to the Tower church to hear the organ concert. 

        Afterward I had the most wonderful lunch of shrimp and mango salad on crisp toast (photo 68).  I then visited the Center of Photography (photo 69), thinking it would have great photographs, but aside from a few graduation projects, it just had several rooms full of old cameras (e.g., photo 70).  On the way to the main Cathedral I happened to pass the Museu das Marionetas (photo 71), which had some delightful marionettes (e.g, photo 72).  Then to save climbing, I took the funicular (photo 73) up the long hill to the cathedral (photo 74), which was gilded with a lot of gold (photo 75), presumably from gold mines worked by slaves in Brazil.


Return to Lisbon again

        In the late afternoon I took the train back to Lisbon, in time to eat dinner and watch another free concert in Largo Sčo Carlos (photo 76).  One piece they played was the William Tell Overture, and I wondered how many in the audience would recognize that it was used as the theme song of the Lone Ranger TV show of the 1950s. 

        Saturday morning I took the Metro (photo 77) to see the Center of Modern Art (photo 78), which displayed food and objects associated with African Orishas (photo 79) that I had learned about when I was in Brazil while teaching on Semester at Sea.  I took a tram to Belem, but it dropped me off on the top of the hill, where I found a cemetery with crypts and tombs above ground (photo 80), like the ones in New Orleans -- but there it was because the water table was so high the caskets would float if put underground! 

        After a long walk down the hill, I finally came to the Monastery of Jerónimos (photo 81), which had many arches (photo 82). In the western part of the building was the Museum of Archeology, which described a Southwest script (photo 83), which is unusual in having symbols for both letters and syllables - English uses letters and Japanese Hiragana represents syllables. It also had statues representing religious traditions over millennia in Portugal.  I then took a bus to the Museum of Ethnography, which had artifacts from colonies (e.g, photo 84), and to the National Palace of Ajuda (photo 85), which had dozens of rooms (why were they needed?) including a dining room that seats 180 (photo 86).

        I took the bus back to the waterfront to see the Tower of Belem (photo 87) but was unable to go inside because it had already closed.  A mile down the river was the Padrčo des Descobrimentes (photo 88) dedicated to the discoverers.  While taking the Metro back, I realized that it was common to have bookstores in the Metro stations (photo 89).  After dinner in a sidewalk cafe by the Metro station, I relaxed in the bar on the sixth-floor roof of my hotel, which had a great view (photo 90).

        On Sunday, I visited the church (photo 91) that was the Lisbon home of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), which was founded during the Counter-Reformation in response to the Reformation started by Martin Luther.  I learned that the Jesuits promoted iconography (the use of images) for Catholicism - (in contrast to the emphasis on the written Bible for Protestantism).  On display were examples of iconography in sculptures and paintings, including Jesus' nativity, the stages of the cross, and the veneration of Mary.  I then visited the National Pantheon (photo 92), which had tombs of national heroes (e.g., photo 93), and walked up the hill to the Monastery of Saint Vincent (photo 94) where a crowd was gathered to honor 300 graduates of a school of nursing.  Inside, many rooms had ceramic tiles on the walls (photo 95).

        When I rode the trolley down the hill, I noticed a sign warning about pickpockets (photo 96).  Earlier in the week a woman tried to reach into my pocket as I was boarding a streetcar in a crowd.  I pushed her hand away and hollered at her, and she ran away.  That pocket only contained a map, since I am cautious about pickpockets, so I was only mildly upset - but if she had grabbed my camera I would have been furious, since it contained photos of my experiences and people I had met.

        To learn more about the ceramic tiles I had seen, I went to the Museum Nacional do Azulejo (photo 5865).  The term Azulejo is from an Arabic word for ceramic tile. The early designs in Lisbon were geometric and floral, as in Islamic art.  But unlike Islamic art, which avoids images of people as being idolatry, later Lisbon tiles depict people in religious, hunting, and domestic scenes (e.g., photo 98).

        Monday morning I flew from Lisbon to Philadelphia, then changed planes and flew to Los Angeles (photo 99).  Overall, it was enjoyable trip.  I gained insights at the conference in Italy, and gained familiarity with several places in Portugal.  But the best part was meeting people from various countries in each of the places I visited. People in Portugal were very friendly, and helpful when I asked for directions when there were no street signs!  Most spoke English, and written materials were usually in both Portuguese and English, although I could read some Portuguese (and Italian) from having studied Spanish and French and knowing how Latin-origin (and other) languages change from studying linguistics!