A few weeks ago we went to Santa Teresa – one of Rio’s few hill-side neighborhoods that isn’t a favela.
There is a little tram (bondinho) that starts from behind the Petrobras building downtown (metro Carioca) that goes up the hill to Santa Teresa. The tram is clean but seems to have some serious problems with the engine and in many cases we were wondering if we would get stuck. It costs close to nothing (R$0.50) so no wonder they don’t have enough money to restore it.
Santa Teresa is very different from other parts of Rio, somewhat
reminiscent of San Francisco. It offers beautiful views of downtown
Rio and some white-washed favelas. Santa Teresa itself is a liminal
zone – once prosperous it has been undergoing graduate
de-gentrification. It is currently known as the artists'
neighborhood, though we didn’t see any. What we did see is policemen
warning us about which streets we shouldn’t go into.
At the top of Santa Teresa there is a museum called “Chácara do Céu” (“Sky Cottage”) which has views on three sides of the hill and contains a Monet and some other French artists.
From Chácara do Céu we walked down to Lapa at the bottom of the hill. We were trying to keep track of the quality of cars parked on the street and the amount of graffiti to gauge our chances of getting robbed. For a while it was good, but then we started getting a bit worried. We were almost all the way down at the bottom of the hill, and right at the time when we started to think seriously about turning around we saw the arcs of Lapa just a block away. So, we got to Lapa safe, after all. (Last week we were less lucky.)