Travelers in Rio de Janeiro owe some of the city's most charming places to stay to people separated by generations, yet with very important traits in common: vision and love for the very special neighborhood that is Santa Teresa.
Rio's elite avidly built mansions on the area's many chácaras after 1850, when yellow fever arrived in Rio and, in the words of Hilda Machado, author of Laurinda Santos Lobo: mecenas, artistas e outros marginais em Santa Teresa, "Santa Teresa became the great metaphor of health" thanks to its clean air and unspoiled setting high above the city.
The neighborhood would be all the more attractive after the inauguration of the bonde, or tram, connecting it to central Rio via tracks running on the 18th-century Lapa Arches.
Later, artists would turn Belle Époque constructions into their homes and studios; and recently Santa has seen a wave of restorations and the opening of places to stay, restaurants and bars with great looks and atmosphere.
Santa's bondinho, or tram, will only be back in 2014 - new, safer. Bus routes are available, and it's not that expensive to get around Rio by taxi. The best places to stay in Santa also offer transfers.
Located on a property which used to be a coffee farm, the hotel with extraordinary views has suites designed with noble natural materials and decorated with outstanding art and furniture.
Le Spa; the Térèze Restaurant, serving fine contemporary cuisine; Bar dos Descasados, a lounge with romantic ambience, and a pool with a lounge of its own and some of the best sunset parties in Rio are some of the amenities at the luxurious hotel.
2. Mama Ruisa
Rio looks like an antique print seen from the heights of Mama Ruisa, French-Brazilian charm encapsulated in a historical property with lush gardens.
Each one of the seven suites is uniquely decorated with drawings and photographs which highlight the architectural features such as French doors and balconies.
3. Casa Amarelo
Portuguese, English, Spanish, French and Italian are spoken at this hotel under multi-cultural ownership and management. It has nine roomy, well-appointed suites with garden or city views.
6. Quinta Azul
A luxury pousada opened in early 2012, Quinta Azul had its facade and other original architectural features carefully restored by owners Yewweng Ho and Gordon Lewis: the house is 120 years old.
Queen-size beds with 400-thread cotton sheets in the beautifully appointed 13 suites, well-kept gardens with mature trees and broad views from several vantage points are some of the perks at the pousada.
7. Quinta Rosa
Quinta Azul's sister pousada offer from two-night to long-term stays in upscale apartments, some of which have terraces.
All apartments include use of the pool, gardens, parking area and Wi-Fi internet.
The cozy and elegant atmosphere of a 1932 home persists at Guesthouse Bianca, with only three rooms for guests. The rest of the property consists of one pleasant common area after another: a kitchen, dining room, terrace and gardens with tropical fruit trees such as guava and mango and lots of orchids and bromeliads.
Take an 1888 Victorian mansion and meticulously convert it into a B&B with only seven suites and guest rooms. Villa Laurinda is as close as it gets to life in bucolic Santa Teresa in the 19th century - but with contemporary touches introduced by your hosts, artists Dias & Riedweg, such as very sleek furniture in the pousada's lounge.
10. Casa Cool Beans
The design, the location, the hosts and staff, even the dog - it's all truly cool at this casa that invites you to make yourself at home in Santa Teresa.
Renovations keep the suites up-to-date and fresh; the swimming pool, sun deck and lounge areas are great amenities.