One of São Paulo’s most traditional Italian neighbourhoods, Bela Vista, or “Bexiga” as it is affectionately known, is located in the Séborough to the south-west of Centro. Bustling Avenida Paulista is the main thoroughfare along its western boundary, lined with upmarket shopping malls and restaurants, with the neighbourhood extending east towards the São Paulo Cathedral.
Bela Vista has one of the largest Italian communities outside of Italy and is home to a great selection of authentic restaurants and delicatessens selling imported and fresh produce. Aside from its Italian culture, the neighbourhood is also renowned for its theatres and live music bars where local bands are often showcased. Teatro Sergio Cardoso is one of its most famous performing arts venues, together with the Teatro Bibi Ferreira and Maria Della Costa. Teatro Abril hosts big Broadway-style musicals, while the Vai-Vai Samba School on Rua São Vicente is one of the oldest in São Paulo. Bela Vista is also home to one of Latin America’s most celebrated collections of artwork at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, as well as the cultural centre at Our Lady Achiropita Roman Catholic Church which organises Italian food fairs and religious street processions throughout the year.
Subway stations along Avenida Paulista and Avenida da Liberdade offer easy access to Bela Vista and connect the neighbourhood to the rest of São Paulo. Public buses also travel along its streets, particularly along the main thoroughfares of Avenida Brigadeiro Luis Antonio and Viaduto Armando Puglisi.
Originally settled by African-Brazilians, Bela Vista began to attract Europeans towards the end of the 19th century, including Spaniards, Germans, English, French and Belgians. It was the Italian community which flourished during the early 20th century and made their cultural mark on the area.