Few neighborhoods in Rio retained the colonial
charm like Santa Teresa. This hilly neighborhood grew around
the Carmelite Convent, that was built in the mid XVIII century.
Even though it is still
mostly residential, the area is dotted by restaurants with live
music, cultural centers... Many of its residents are artists, painters,
sculptors, and there are special weekends when they all keep
open doors. Santa Teresa and Lapa are
back in great shape. Many new venues are opening, and nightlife
is once again an attraction.
There are several good reasons to visit this
haven of tranquility right next to the rate race of the
financial district. The first one is traveling back through time
taking Rio de Janeiro's only remaining bonde (streetcar)
- it was originally pulled by donkeys! The view of Rio from
Santa Teresa is also spectacular. One of the favorite overlooks
is Parque das Ruinas, the former mansion of Laurinda Santos
Lobo, that was partly restored and turned into a cultural
Museu da Chacara do Ceu, the former residence of
arts patron Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maia, is right next door.
Part of his eclectic art collection is displayed at the mansion,
including Brazilian masters like Portinari and Di Cavalcanti,
Chinese sculptures, Monet, a number of Picassos, the works!
Considering that Santa Teresa is not as easy to
master as Ipanema or Leblon, you will see more if you
explore it with a local, or on a guided tour.
You may alternatively take a taxi and hop off at the spot you
want. At the Chacara do Ceu Museum, for instance, they won't
mind calling a taxi to take you back to your hotel. And then
again, there's always the bondinho!
Once they crisscrossed the whole city. Today
the only remaining streetcar line in Rio de Janeiro connects Santa Teresa to
Largo da Carioca. The ride is really a travel through time. To reach Santa
Teresa the streetcar takes an overpass that is a Rio de Janeiro landmark, Arcos da Lapa. The arches were originally built by slaves
to work as an aqueduct, channeling water from Rio da Carioca. The cars were
first pulled by donkeys, and in the end of the XIX they introduced cars powered
The complex where Carmelite nuns live until today a secluded life is where
the neighborhood borrowed its name from. The first chapel dates back to
1629, built by Antonio Gomes do Desterro. The convent itself started to be built
with the help of Count of Bobadella, by sisters Francisca and Jacinta Rodrigues
Ayres. The nuns were originally devoted to Santa Clara, but in 1777 the adopted
the Monastic Rule of the Theresians, and started to live in an almost complete
seclusion. The church can only be visited when there is a mass.
The museum opened doors in 1972, and its rich collection features works by Picasso, Dali, Monet, and other biggies. The mansion is a project by Vladimir Alves de Sousa built in 1957 in an area with 18 thousand square meters. The gardens were designed by Brazil's most famous landscape designer, Burle Marx. It offers a postcard view to Downtown Rio, and to Guanabara Bay, and the Corcovado Hill. Some of the rooms keep the original decor, with furniture in dark Brazilian jacaranda wood, oriental rugs, reflecting the sophisticated taste of possibly Rio's most important patron of arts, Raymundo de Castro Maia. Chinese sculptures from the Shung dinasty, modern scuptures by Brazilian artists, Brazilian paintings including Di Cavalcanti and Portinari, plus a number of landscape paintings featuring old Rio are among the attractions.
The mansion that was once the residence of Laurinda Santos Lobo was in such a state of disrepair that it bringing it back to its former glory would not be worthwhile. The house was too important, though, as Laurinda played an active role in the social history of Rio. The parties at the mansion were inspiration for Villa Lobos with his piece Quatour, impressions of mundane life. This is how the Parque das Ruinas came to be. The mansion was partly restored, leaving apparent the brickwork and structures, and it entered to the city's agenda, with events like concerts, open air shows, etc.
The staircase connecting Convento de Santa Teresa to Rua Joaquim Silva in Lapa is an ongoing project by Chilean artist Selaron. He has already paved over 200 steps with a mosaic of ceramic, mirrors and tiles from all over the world.
This square on Rua Almirante Alexandrino is the heart of bohemian Santa Teresa, with bars, restaurants, and handcraft shops. It is also the gathering spot for the Bloco das Carmelitas, the highlight of Santa Teresa's street Carnival festivities.