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  • project lisboeta


One of the initial and fundamental stages about doing anything in Portugal as a resident is to obtain a NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal).

When we were at the beginning of our planning of moving to Lisbon,

We condensed the obtaining of a NIF with other tasks in a long weekend in Lisbon between bank enquiries, getting a lawyer and property viewing….

To get a NIF you must collate paperwork relevant and go to the offices of financas personally...get a number...queue…..guessing when is the right time to do so, getting the number from the machine not too early ...but neither too late...but just in time before they run out …. a bit complicated for two non Portuguese speakers, with a limited knowledge of about everything Portuguese…..

Obviously we went to the office in the Baixa of Lisbon on the same day when all of the southern hemisphere decided to go too…the queue was endless....the numbers were of course not there anymore (it took me about half hour to understand i needed one..)

2 hours later we had to leave for a viewing ….obviously empty handed...confused, a bit upset...generally regretting not using the unfruitful time for a pastel de nata and a coffee….or maybe two..

We carried on with our plans, of course, and drove further down the country through Alentejo towards the amazing coastal paths and quiet beaches.

On our journey we stopped in the most incredible medieval time capsule that is the town of Marvão.

The most enchanting cobblestone, the whitewashed houses, the views to take your breath away….of this beautiful but eerily empty town….mostly because of the almost biblical invasion of earwigs ….they were literally everywhere, apparently they do so one day per year to mate, we were later told (and is only one of two places in the world where it happens!)….the castle especially was completely covered, the walls from stone turned brown and heaving with life as a metropolis of loved up insects looking for some frisky action before the summer….. I will not judge on this point...i guess we have all been there…

Passing nearby the castle on the peak of the mountain i noticed a great looking building with the sign of the “Financas” on the door, we entered but was almost about to close for the lunch hour….and rightly so…. was almost empty...even the cleaning lady was wrapping up to sit down for lunch, mopping the last bit of the floor …

Obviously not stepping on the already mopped bit….i suddenly remembered my grandmother, walking on the wet floor…that would earn me a quick slap on the back of my head….

I have tried to tell her that I needed a NIF number…in the worse Portuguese-Spanish-Italian mashup.

She pointed to a door ...ajared ...we knocked and push the door, a gentleman was putting his jacket on, i guess already on his way to the local cafetaria for his lunch break,

He looked at us, asked why we were there, and we answered in English….that we really needed to do a NIF and if he could tell us what to do next, maybe we said, could come back in the afternoon? or maybe book an appointment somehow to do so?…

He took his jacket off, sat at his desk, let us sit, we spoke about Italy, where I come from, London, life projects, our professions, architecture, the possibility of opening a larger window in his office to look at the mountains while working ..

We luckily had our passports in our pockets, and gave them to him...

We left after half an hour with a big smile, our NIF numbers, and a very positive outlook..

We didn't know that we just encountered for the first time, the incredible duality of this country, where the rules and the bureaucracy are there with their weight and complications, but all is run by people and even within government related tasks, you will often be facing people rather than websites and automated hotlines….and with people, kindness will take you a long way and will often generate kindness back your way.

We still remember that day as our first day of life in Portugal, we felt cared for and helped.

I asked the gentleman that helped us where he usually went to drink coffee, and what his name was..

I passed by the bar and left a coffee paid for him….i hope he drank it and enjoyed it. I surely enjoyed his company.


We have lately discovered, helped by Google, that the gentleman that helped us was Luis Vitorino the president of the Municipio in Marvão, his photograph just appeared when researching the Town..

We would like to thank him now for being so helpful and inform him that we are now residents of Portugal, i will one day tell him in person, and please even this coffee will be on me.


This is a link to have a look at the wonderful town of Marvão

don't miss it

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