By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Located in the countryside of Rio state, Conservatória is one of those places that takes you back to the past, known for its country town feel and coffee farms dating as far back as the nineteenth century. Attracting a predominantly elderly population, the “City of Serenades” is a must-go destination for those into good music, history, and simply relaxing.
Conservatória, a district away from Valença (southern Rio de Janeiro’s state), is 142 kilometers away from Rio’s city. Part of the Coffee Valley, a region concentrating some of the most important coffee farms that are centuries years old, Conservatória stands out as a precious heritage site and is characterized by well preserved colonial architecture.
Once a place where Portuguese settlers used to register the Araris, an indigenous group from the region, “Conservatória dos Índios” – how it was originally called, had its economic apogee during the nineteenth century’s “coffee cycle.” After some ups and downs until the 1980s, Conservatória experienced a strong cultural revival. Today, the district offers a bustling calendar of events and attracts tourists all year round.
When it comes to cultural traditions, one cannot think of Conservatória without thinking of its serenades. Established in 1938, Conservatória’s serenades consist of a group of local guitarists who gather in the streets to play. Like in a musical procession, the musicians attract crowds of visitors and locals as they sing and play folk love songs with the audience, going door to door.
The serenades take place every Friday and Saturday night, but also on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Those who want to experience the liveliest serenades in Conservatória should visit the district during two specific dates: the last Saturday of May, when they celebrate the Serenade Man’s Day; and the last Saturday of August when musicians from all over Brazil gather at the Conservatória.
Other than music, the “Land of Serenades” has a lot more to offer in terms of culture. A favorite program among film loving tourists is the Cine Centímetro, a vintage movie theater inspired by the former Cine Metro Tijuca, a cinema that operated in the neighborhood of Tijuca from the 1940s to the 1970s.
Cine Centímetro contains a single room and is open for visits, and it also screens American musicals from the 1950s and 1960s on Saturdays. Those interested in watching Saturday’s session should arrive early in order to guarantee their tickets.
Despite being a small, countryside district, Conservatória is home to various museums that are worth checking out. One of them is Casa de Cultura, which displays the work by Brazilian visual artist, Luiz Figueiredo.
Located in a sumptuous mansion from the nineteenth century, Casa de Cultura is where Conservatória’s serenades always begin. Once in the district, make sure to also check the Museu da Seresta (the Serenade’s Museum), the Vicente Celestino Museum, and the Silvio Caldas Museum.
Possessing centenary coffee farms and old churches, Conservatória is a great destination for those seeking a historical itinerary. Open for visits, Fazenda Florença coffee farm is one of the most famous.
Founded in 1852, Fazenda Florença preserves its original French neoclassic aesthetics, as well as its impeccable European furniture. Visitors can have a hearty colonial-style coffee or lunch. Visits must be scheduled in advance via telephone (+55 (24)2438-0124). Apart from the Fazenda Florença, other farms worth checking out are Santa Clara, São João da Prosperidade, São Paulo, Taquara, and Veneza.
Other historical attractions from Conservatória includes the Santo Antônio’s church, built in 1868 and situated in the city center; the “Ponte dos Arcos”, a bridge built to connect two railways, and inaugurated in 1884 with the presence of Brazil’s former emperor Dom Pedro II; and “Locomotiva 206”, a locomotive brought from Philadelphia, United States, in the early twentieth century.
As in every countryside town, delicious homemade food can be found in Conservatória. Strongly influenced by Minas Gerais‘ cuisine, Conservatória’s restaurants such as D. João, Gema da Roça, Dó Ré Mi, and Taberna Dom Beto are great options to try the best of the region’s typical cuisine.
To get to Conservatória from Rio de Janeiro, take the Via Dutra highway – enter Piraí and follow until Barra do Piraí, and then take the BR-393 road.