Caminhos de Pedra Itinerary
Idealized by Eng. Tarcísio Vasco Michelon and by Arc. Júlio Posenato, the Caminhos de Pedra Itinerary aims at recovering, preserving and spreading the culture brought by the Italian immigrants to the Gaucha Sierra region from 1875 on.
The Itinerary was designed when an architectural collection survey was carried out covering the rural area of the city of Bento Gonçalves, in 1987. They realized that Linha Palmeiro and part of Linha Pedro Salgado, an area basically encompassed by São Pedro District, composed of 7 communities (São Pedro, São Miguel, Barracão, São José da Busa, Cruzeiro, Santo Antonio and Santo Antoninho) had the largest number of old houses, preserved their culture and history, was easily accessed and consequently, had a huge tourism potential, despite all the decadence and negligence it has been through since 1970, when the road connecting Porto Alegre to the north of the state was modified.
This precious material collection, partially neglected and forgotten, required quick action to avert the fate suffered by so many stone, wooden and masonry houses, which ended up collapsing or being demolished. With resources provided by Dall’Onder Hotel, the first 4 houses were restored and started welcoming visitors, while others went through emergency repair. The first tourists coming from São Paulo, brought by CVC, were received at Casa Merlo, Casa Bertarello, Ferraria Ferri and Cantina Strapazzon on May 30, 1992.
The success of this new itinerary cheered up both idealizers and community. On July, 10, 1997, with the assistance of SEBRAE, Associação Caminhos de Pedra was founded, uniting entrepreneurs and sympathizers. Then a comprehensive project was set up, which considered a recovery of the entire cultural heritage, not only in terms of architecture, but which also involved language, folklore, art, manual skills etc. This ambitious project was approved by the State Council of Culture on August 10, 1998 and started looking for resources from local companies through the then recently passed LIC (culture state law – Rio Grande do Sul).
Today, Associação Caminhos de Pedra counts on more than one hundred members and the project, which is considered a pioneer in Brazil in terms of rural and cultural tourism, welcomes an annual average of 60,000 tourists. This itinerary is expanding and presents 15 visiting points (pointed out in red on the map) and 56 external observation points (point out in green on the map).
According to State Law n. 13.177/09, which declared us as Rio Grande do Sul history heritage, this projects encompasses an area covering Caminhos de Pedra to Linha Palmeiro and Linha Pedro Salgado, located in the cities of Bento Gonçalves and Farroupilha, until the limits of Caxias do Sul, going through Caravaggio.
Linha Palmeiro creation
The President of São Pedro do Rio Grande do Sul Province, João Sertório, put engineer Major José Maria da Fontoura Palmeiro, on April 4, 1870, in charge of measuring and marking those territories that he, via Act of May 24, 1870, defined as Conde D’Eu (currently Garibaldi) and Dona Isabel (currently Bento Gonçalves) colonies. A shack was built in each of these areas to provide settlers with shelter. As a tribute, the first territory marked in Dona Isabel Colony was given the name of Linha Palmeiro.
The place which welcomed Major Palmeiro in 1870 and later Italian immigrants from the end of 1875 on, is currently neighborhood Barracão, which represents the origin of Bento Gonçalves and also Caminhos de Pedra entrance route. Linha Palmeiro is one of the largest Italian colonization areas, with 200 lots of 48.4 ha each.
This Linha, which initially was nothing but a crooked trail in the middle of the woods, in an attempt to follow an imaginary straight line that developed quickly, since this was the only link between Colônia Dona Isabel and Colônia Caxias. This trail turned into a way used by the immigrants' carts and later it became a passageway for the first cars and trucks.
Linha Palmeiro prosperity is mentioned in countless reports, such as those written by the Italian Consul for Porto Alegre, Mr. Enrico Perrod, in 1880: “I visited a colony in Linha Palmeiro and in the land of one farmer alone I found all the Italian fruits: chestnuts, apples, pears, oranges, cherries and walnuts, along with coffee, sugarcane and tobacco. “(according Rovílio Costa et alii, 1992, EST, As Colônias italianas Dona Isabel e Conde D’Eu (Dona Isabel and Conde D’Eu Italian colonies), page 21) or Mr. Pascoale Corte, Italian Consul for Porto Alegre, who points out in his 1884 report: “Crossing through a narrow path scrubland, after a four-hour ride on the back of a horse, I got to the limits of Dona Isabel Colony, exactly at the entrance of one of the most populated and deforested areas in the region: Linha Palmeiro. That is where the road that leads to the colony center starts. That is the most picturesque road of all”. (according to Rovílio Costa et alii, op. cit. page 25).
Throughout the stretch beautiful and comfortable buildings were built, out of stone, wood and masonry, as well as several trading companies like hardware shops, saw-mills, mills etc. As they were large lots, normally there were two families per lot, one on each end.
Visitors who enter Caminhos de Pedra through the Shack will go through, then, the same entrance used by the first immigrants, reliving, in a way, the same sensations felt by the people who had just arrived, through the stories told by their descendents. Do not miss this immersion in the history of Italian immigration in Rio Grande do Sul.
Barracão, Origin of Bento Gonçalves
Luigi Petrocchi, Italian Consular Agent in Bento Gonçalves stated in his report, in December, 1905: “The headquarters of the new Dona Isabel colony (currently Bento Gonçalves), was traced in 1875, in a valley between two water bodies, on a low area, next to the immigrants shack, and then called the “white city” due to the tents made of sheets. However, for comfort purposes, the board transferred its management to an elevated place, called Cruzinha, in the middle of a pine wood, 3 Km away.” (according to Rovílio Costa et alii, op. cit. Page 73). In his trip notes, an immigrant called Giuseppe Dall’Acqua described the Shack in 1878: “After one hour and a half walking through the undisturbed woods, through a steep muddy road, with steps, they arrived, after a long slope, to the valley by a river, whose left margin showed three or four rustic buildings (...) and a high one-level and poorly sealed building, with long taquaras (small bamboos) horizontally nailed to the wall, filled with mud and leaves. This almost solitary and nameless place was meant to be the headquarters of Dona Isabel colony, but nobody knew why it had not been chosen as the seat of the future city. That house built out of mud (...) was meant to temporarily give shelter to immigrants and, thus, with time, both the location and the river received the name of Shack”. (Manuscript by Giuseppe Dall’Acqua, 1901, in Rovílio Costa and Arlindo Battistel, 1983, Assim vivem os italianos (This is how Italians live), page 1172).
From 1875 on the Shack started welcoming and temporarily hosting the first groups of immigrants. That was the place where they received their lots, some tools, seeds and some food. This, however, would only take place after a long wait, which could take several months. Settlers were registered and everything they received, including food, tools and especially land, was considered a debt due to the Government, which should be paid within 10 years. Everything was planned so that the place was turned into the seat of Dona Isabel colony, but as soon as 1876, and we do not know the exact reasons for that, the colony seat was transferred to the place where the city of Bento Gonçalves stands today.
Rio Grande do Sul Historical and Cultural Heritage
Thanks to the restoration of houses and tourist visits, these communities developed a cultural movement that gave way for the creation of several initiatives that aim at preserving not only material but also immaterial heritage. Examples of this cultural vitality that is alive throughout the Itinerary are the preservation of the “talian” dialect (typical language spoken by local immigrants), Casa da Memória (House of Memory) and the artistic-cultural groups (Italian dance, flute, musical band, chamber orchestra, choir, and theater), which make regular presentations on special occasions or upon express request made by restaurants that make part of the Itinerary.
Once it concentrates the largest architectural collection of Italian immigration in the rural area and due to the concern towards the preservation of material and immaterial historical heritage, Caminhos de Pedra has been currently called a “living museum”. In 2009 upon an initiative presented by State Rep. Jerônimo Pizzoloto Güerguen, and with the support of IPHAE (State Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage) it was declared Rio Grande do Sul historical and cultural heritage by State Law 13.177/09, passed by the Governor at that time, Yeda Rorato Crusius.