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Papa don’t park: Lisbon locals decry favoritism over Madonna parking lot

Critics claim US pop star has been given a special deal after she was granted a space for her vehicles for just €720 a month

In the Portuguese capital Lisbon, it’s nearly impossible to find a parking spot – unless you’re Madonna. The US pop star has scored a place to park her 15 cars right next door to her house, all for the modest price of €720 a month. No stranger to controversy, Madonna’s bargain deal has unleashed a political storm, with Lisbon City Hall accused of giving the singer special treatment.

Madonna’s home, the Palacio Ramalhete.
Madonna’s home, the Palacio Ramalhete.

Since Madonna moved to Lisbon two years ago, she has changed houses numerous times. A few months ago, she and her children left a large luxury hotel and took up residence in Palacio Ramalhete, an adapted 17th-century palace in the Lapa neighborhood. With only 14 rooms, the pop idol decided to book the entire hotel for a few years. Here, in front of the National Museum of Ancient Art (NMAA), Madonna seemed to have it all – privacy, tranquility and beauty – right within the center of Lisbon. Everything except a parking space. Like her neighbors, Madonna struggled with the lack of street parking and public and private parking centers.

But the pop star had an even tougher time. Not one to zip around in a Smart Fortwo, Madonna had to find space for her entire entourage. First she asked for the small space used by the NMAA to load and unload artworks but its director António Filipe Pimentel refused. He did however offer Madonna a solution: the plot at Pombal Palace.

The monthly cost of keeping just one car at a private center is around €120

And now, thanks to Lisbon City Hall, Madonna has access to a 309-square meter space for €720 a month. The agreement has angered the opposition of Lisbon’s Mayor Fernand Medina, who have demanded the contract be published.

The cost of the parking spot, which fits up to 15 cars, is a pittance when compared to the rates of street parking meters (€1.2 per hour) or the monthly fees of parking centers (never below €120) that the area sorely lacks.

In response to the criticism, Lisbon City Hall has denied that the deal gives Madonna special privileges, arguing it is similar to other agreements signed over the plot. According to City Hall, the low price is due to the fact there is no time commitment – the contract will end as soon as works for the future East Timor embassy begin.

The political storm, however, continues to cause a stir, like everything that surrounds Madonna’s life in Portugal. As well as gripes over her special parking lot, there have been protests against the speed in which authorities granted the singer residency in Portugal, knowing her stay in Lisbon would put the country in the international spotlight.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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