Largo do Boticário

You cross water to get there. In a city that’s buried its rivers, like the Fleet or the Bièvre or some many others, there’s magic in a bridge over open water, the brook powering away down its valley and into a tunnel somewhere out of sight, where it will call the course of the roads downhill and down to the bay where it meets the sea.

The Largo do Boticário was the place of Rio’s first apothecary—the clue’s in the way that the syllables line up. There must be a good reason why it was here, far from the centre and shadowed by mountains—Christ-topped Corcovado on one side, another thread of the serra behind. To me it’s a mystery.


Set back from the road and the tunnel, it’s a forgotten-looking corner of the city, where even the police car light flash apathetically, as the mountain peels away the pastel paint and claws back its territory.

Closer to the houses, it smelled of black beans. A baksheesh-hungry whistle beckoned me inwards, into the tenement, to see the garden. I remember not looking at the rooms: there was tarpaulin over the windows, or was for privacy and separating the room out? I concentrated instead on the moss over the azulejos and the steps that led off up the mountain. I got to the eagle’s column, as the trees were thickening, the far thunder was starting, and a butterfly flitted about my legs. It was time.
















2 Responses to Largo do Boticário

  1. Interesting! Dramatic scene with thunder to boot.Your shots are gorgeous, Rob! Are all of the buildings abandoned? The tile work and sculptures are amazing. When will the restoration start? Any signs? The little pink one is my favorite. T.

    • Rob Packer says:

      Thanks, Theodora! Glad you enjoyed the photos!
      The place is beautiful, but on the verge of turning back into forest. I’m not sure how abandoned it *really* is: there are people living in some or all of the buildings (owning, renting, squatting, I don’t know).
      As for restoration, soon I hope, but don’t count on it. The worst though would be if they were bought up and turned into a luxury hotel. (Lack of space for a pool can only be a good thing)

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