Some 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Praia do Rosa, Laguna, founded in 1676, is Santa Catarina’s second-oldest town. While few of its churches, mansions, and public buildings date back that far, the well-preserved historic center (facing a lagoon) makes an interesting stop if you’re on your way south.
Although the modern part of town (gazing out at the open Atlantic) has become a popular seaside resort, Laguna’s beaches aren’t that spectacular. Its vibrant street Carnaval, however, is quite a festive affair.
With its cobblestoned streets, faded pastel buildings, and typical Portuguese colonial architecture, Laguna’s small historic center is more quaint and atmospheric than stunning. On the main square, Praça Vidal Ramos, the late-17th-century Igreja Santo Antônio dos Anjos is one of Santa Catarina’s oldest surviving baroque churches.
The praça also shelters the Casa de Anita (tel. 48/3646-2542, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, R$1), an early 18th-century house devoted to Anita Garibaldi, the wife of the legendary father of Italian unification, Giuseppe Garibaldi. The two met and fell in love in 1839 when Garibaldi was working as a mercenary during Brazil’s Guerra dos Farrapos, a conflict that pitted republicans against monarchists. Anita didn’t live in the colonial house—her godparents did—but she was married here.
Inside, old photos of Laguna mingle with trivial personal effects such as the revolutionary’s hairbrush. Less interesting is the Museu Anita Garibaldi, located in the former city hall and jail.
The town’s main beach, Praia do Mar Grossa is nice enough, but quite urbanized. You’re better off taking a 10-minute boat trip followed by a 17-kilometer (10.5-mile) drive along a dirt road (you’ll need a car) to the more untamed dunes and beaches around Farol Santa Marta, a small town built around a 19th-century lighthouse rumored to be the third highest in the Americas. Although the scenery is impressive, strong currents make swimming in the open sea dangerous.
Accommodations and Food
Most hotels and restaurants—which tend towards basic and nondescript—are located near the beach at Mar Grosso. The shiny, new Hotel Marina Sul (Rua Engenheiro Sá Rocha 225, tel. 48/3647-2555, www.marinasulhotel.com.br, R$50–120 d) is modern, spacious, and somewhat reminiscent of a recently inaugurated airport terminal. While lacking in personality, rooms are very large and well appointed, and overall this hotel is a good bargain.
Arrastão (Av. Sen Gallotti 629, tel. 48/3637-0418, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. and 6:30–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Sun.; 11 a.m.–4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.–midnight daily Dec.–Feb., R$20–30) is a good place for large portions of unpretentious fish and seafood dishes such as camarão tropical, breaded shrimp served with rice, french fries, and salad.
Getting to Laguna
By bus, Santo Anjo (tel. 48/3224-9001) provides regular service from Florianópolis. By car, Laguna is 124 kilometers (77 miles) south of Florianópolis along the BR-101.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition