By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As winter approaches, Cariocas start to think of their next destination in Rio’s mountains, and Itaipava is certainly one of the favorites. With a refined culinary scene, charming hotels and pleasant temperatures, Itaipava, approximately 2 hours from Rio, is a great destination, either for a short weekend getaway or the upcoming vacations.
Among the five districts of Petropolis’ region, Itaipava is the most sophisticated. Concentrating fancy condominiums, five star resorts, malls and even a Country Club, Itaipava is an escape for many from Carioca society – no wonder the district is called,”Búzios from the mountains”.
With a climate that combines mild temperatures and low humidity, Itaipava is also famous for its bustling nightlife, including diverse bars, clubs and pubs – like Zapata and Tamboatá – and for the natural attractions from the neighboring districts of Corrêas and Araras.
The main reason why people go up to the mountain range to visit Itaipava, however, is because of its excellent restaurants, ranging from French to Japanese. All tastes can be satisfied in the “Gourmet Valley”, a title Itaipava earned for its high standard culinary scene.
Some of the best restaurants from Itaipava are located at the União-Indústria, the district’s main road. For authentic, soulful Italian food, one should check restaurant Farfarello, specialized in homemade pastas. One of the most traditional in Itaipava, Farfarello offers the best one can have when it comes to Italian cuisine, like ravioli and pizza.
For those who love a good glass of wine, the Chateaux des Montagnes bistro is the right choice. The small bistro stands out for its menu of wines – of all types one can imagine. Among Chateux’ best plates, mostly inspired by the French and Italian cuisines, is the veal’s shin with saffron’s risotto and lemon zest.
At Parrô do Valentim, one can indulge delicious Portuguese food. Traditional codfish and piglet recipes, like the Bacalhau à Guilhermina, Bacalhau do Infante and Leitão à Portuguesa, are some of the restaurant’s highlights. For dessert, Parrô’s Portuguese sweets are a great option, specially the “pastel de nata” (Portuguese egg tart).
Another great option at the União-Indústria road is Camarão em Penca, whose specialty is sea food. The shrimp dishes are their specialty, such as the “Camarão ao Termidor” (flaming whisky shrimp). Also make sure to try the house’s “empada de camarão” (Brazilian shrimp pie).
Apart from the outstanding restaurants, a touristic attraction one cannot miss in Itaipava is the Castelo do Barão (the Baron’s Castle). Erected in the 1920s, the majestic building seems to have come all the way from a Middle Age fairy tale – its facilities are frequently used for weddings, parties, and as the setting for Brazilian soap-operas.
At Castelo do Barão, visitors can have lunch or dinner at its refined bistro, but also have a beer or a coffee at Solar do Castelo, the venue’s bar and restaurant. What’s more, the castle is also a hotel.
When it comes to shopping, Itaipava is also the right place to go: the district has at least four malls (Shopping Vilarejo Itaipava, Shopping Estação Itaipava, Itaipava Shopping and Shopping Arcádia Mall), all of which offer a good variety of stores, cafes and restaurants.
For artisanal, homemade products, visitors can check the “Feirinha de Itaipava” street market, which is situated at the 63rd kilometer of road BR-040. Among the market’s 390 stalls, one can find rustic furniture, clothing and food.
With so many great accommodation options in Itaipava, choosing the right one can be hard. Couples looking for a romantic stay should book it at the Pousada Les Roches lodge, fifteen minutes away from the city center.
Those looking for a relax and tranquil place should pick Pousada Chalés Sainte Monique. Situated inside Itaipava’s city center, the Arcádia Pousada & Lazer is a convenient and considerably more affordable option.
To reach Itaipava by car, one must take the BR-040 road from Rio de Janeiro. By bus, companies Única, Útil and Salutaris operate from Rio to Petrópolis. From the Petrópolis’ bus station, one must take a local bus to Itaipava.