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Farms of Rio de Janeiro's Golden Age of Coffee Are Revitalized to Receive Visitors

05/27/2016 - 11h28

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MARÍLIA MIRAGAIA
SPECIAL ENVOY TO VALE DO CAFÉ (RJ)

A scene, which dates back to the 1990s, surprised the owner of the farm, Núbia Vergara Caffarelli: a group of 40 ladies were walking around the large house and going into the rooms, looking at mirrors, dressing tables, altars and porcelain pieces.

The Cachoeira Grande farm, which was the country home of Ms. Caffarelli's family, is located near Vassouras, in the state of Rio de Janeiro and it was not open to the public – that explains her surprise.

The improvised tour - idealized by Núbia's 80-year-old aunt, Magdalena, made Ms. Caffarelli realize the place's historical value as well as its business potential.

After that, as she had done before with the house's rooms for those 40 ladies, Aunt Magdalena began to organize small excursions to the farm. Nearly 15 years later, the visits became official. And they include typical food, such as cheese bread, sweets and coffee.

Following the Caffarellis' example, other farm owners in the region began to take interest in the project to receive visitors in their farms — most of the farms were coffee plantations. Coffee was grown in the Rio de Janeiro part of the Paraíba River valley and it was Brazil's main export during the imperial era (from 1822 to 1889).

That was beginning of the touristic identity of Vale do Café, which today is comprised of 15 cities in the region, all in Rio de Janeiro state.

At the end of 2015, the group started to make improvements to the visitation structure. A type of on-duty system makes ten farms take turns to guarantee that there will be at least one historical house open to the public every day.

Other initiatives include tours with theater plays and special meals.

PAST AND PRESENT

Today the area known as Vale do Café produces very little coffee in fact. As the resources of the soil in the area were almost completely used and slavery was abolished (nearly all the labor working on the farms was comprised of slaves), production began to decline and never recovered.

The historical collection, however, impresses the tourists. In the Cachoeira Grande farm, for example, there are objects like a chandelier that belonged to the Schönbrunn palace, in Vienna, Austria, and other pieces of furniture made in 18th, 19th and 20th centuries that were acquired in auctions and antique stores.

The Paraízo farm in Rio das Flores has been kept by the same family for one hundred years.

The two-floor main house was one of the first homes to use gas lighting in the country and its tour begins with the view of a magnificent wooden staircase and paintings that imitate marble on the walls.

Some of the farms invested in hotel facilities to attract more tourists. In these farms, the surroundings of the main house received attractions such as swimming pools, tennis courts and playrooms for children.

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO

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