Praça Marechal Deodoro
Heading south from Praça da Alfândega, uphill along Rua General Câmara, you’ll come to the Praça Marechal Deodoro (also known as Praça da Matriz), which is also surrounded by several elegant buildings.
On one corner is the city’s prestigious Theatro São Pedro (Praça Marechal Deodoro, tel. 51/3227-5100, www.teatrosaopedro.com.br, noon–6 p.m. Mon.–Fri.). Hiding behind its neoclassical facade is an enchanting baroque interior that can only be visited by reservation, unless you’re attending a performance. However, the lovely Café do Theatro is open to the public 4–9 p.m. (Wed.–Fri.) and 6–9 p.m. (Sat.–Sun.).
Flanked by Roman columns, the rather imperious Palácio Piratini (Praça Marechal Deodoro, tel. 51/3227-4100, 9–11 a.m. and 2–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) is home to the state governor’s palace. At half-hour intervals guided tours are given. Quite intriguing are the painted panels illustrating a local folk tale whose protagonists include a slave, his sadistic master, and the Virgin Mary. The two statues guarding the main doors (representing Industry and Agriculture), are by Paul Landowski, the French sculptor responsible for Rio de Janeiro’s iconic statue of Cristo Redentor.
Despite its Italian Renaissance facade, the Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Madre de Deus (Rua Duque de Caxias, 1047, Centro, tel. 51/3228-6001, 7 a.m.–noon and 2–7 p.m. daily) is a strictly 20th-century affair.
On the same street, in an attractive 19th-century private residence, the Museu Júlio de Castilhos (Rua Duque de Caxias, 1231, Centro, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 2–5 p.m. Sat.–Sun., R$4) showcases an eccentric collection of historical paraphernalia. Highlights range from a quintet of cannons used by Garibaldi’s troops during the Guerra dos Farrapos to the size 16 boots of a local giant who measured 2.18 meters (7.2 feet) who was a circus attraction in the 1920s.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition