Shopping for souvenirs in Rio de Janeiro needn't be just about replica Christ statues, Havaianas flip-flops and caipirinha kits. Locally produced arts and handicrafts are available at stores, street markets and makeshift stalls across the city, and the boho-chic neighborhood of Santa Teresa – an enclave of artists, musicians and other artsy types – is easily the best place in town to browse for handicrafts.
A stroll along the main drinking, dining and shopping strip that spans out from Largo do Guimaraes – the lively public square at the heart of the neighborhood – will take visitors past a seemingly endless succession of artists' studios and street vendors.
But a short uphill stroll from here (Follow the tramlines past Hotel Santa Teresa.) leads to a truly unique spot that is a tourist attraction in its own right.
Artist at work at Bonzolandia — Photo courtesy of Dany13
At Atelier Chamego Bonzolandia (more commonly known simply as "Bonzolandia"), local father and son team Getulio and Victor Bonzolandia – much-loved characters in the neighborhood – have set up an outdoor studio based aboard a replica of one of Santa Teresa's distinctive yellow streetcars.
A larger replica sits across the road, and children are welcome to climb aboard, play at driving the vehicle and ringing the little bells. During Carnival and other major events, the tram takes to the road, followed by hordes of delighted children and their parents.
The studio itself is as offbeat and quirky as the neighborhood. The artists use discarded household items and other bits of "trash" to create colorful and very distinctive pieces, which range from free-standing robot and animal sculptures to mounted paintings depicting the "Familia Bonzolandia."
Not all the pieces are for sale, but many are, and any purchases here will be well-invested, as the family is very active in holding community events for local families. And unlike most shopping trips, this is one that will go down well with even the youngest members of the family.
There are no fixed opening hours, but the artists are usually at work at the studio during daylight hours.
Conveniently, the studio is located right in front of Santa Teresa's one and only supermarket, where shoppers can take advantage of the opportunity to stock up on basics or just cool down with an ice-cold beer or water.
It's also just a couple of minutes' walk from the chic Restaurante Aprazivel in one direction, and lively Bar do Bonde and Mike's Haus in the other direction. And the gradual re-introduction of the neighborhood's streetcars means it should soon be possible to jump off the trolley right in front of Bonzolandia itself.