Intense and full of life, this vibrant city welcomes everyone. The diverse and talented locals know just how lucky they are, and they love to share their city.
TEXT: Fabián Scabuzzo | PHOTOS: Santiago Vellini
A miracle of city planning, Rosario became an Argentinean power in commerce, industry and soybeans, all without a founder. It’s not ashamed of a past spiced with Mafiosi and houses of ill repute (some things are just bound to happen in Sicilian-influenced port towns), nor of its present, full of typically Latin American contrasts and beautiful European architecture. Everyone will tell you about the Monumento a la Bandera, a giant construction commemorating the country’s sky-colored flag, designed and first flown here, but Rosario is more than its history: this city is a heady cocktail of great ideas and whimsical follies, of unbridled passions and times of conflict, of great visionaries and small-minded critics.
Costantino, The Provocative
In Rosario, the descendants of Italian and Spanish immigrants predominate. Last names are the biggest clue. Everyone seems to have an immigrant grandparent from whom they inherited a penchant for pizza, pasta, lentil stew or mondongo, especially in the winter. And it’s why artist Nicola Costantino grew up speaking Italian at home.
Costantino caused a famous uproar in the 1990s with a woman’s jacket made out of latex resembling human skin, dotted with male nipples and topped with a collar crafted from real hair. Displayed on a mannequin in a shop window in the middle of Peatonal Córdoba, this artistic gesture was purposefully introduced outside of a museum as part of her Peletería Humana (Human Furriery) collection.
Costantino has turned Latin American art history upside down with her exquisite, subtle and stark oeuvre. She has incorporated animal carcasses into her work; she even used her own body fat to produce a fancy soap for one piece. And at the 2013 Venice Biennale, Costantino’s exhibit got under the skin – metaphorically speaking – of Argentina’s most famous First Lady, Evita Perón.
Nicola Costantino, Antonio Berni and Lucio Fontana are the three most internationally famous artists from Rosario, thanks to their experimentation with new forms of art challenging people’s preconceptions. You can see these and other great artists at the city’s two large public art museums: the prestigious Museo Castagnino in Parque Independencia and the MACRO, dedicated to contemporary art and located in former grain silos on the bank of the Río Paraná.
Grandinetti, The Homebody
Everyman-turned-Almodóvar-muse Darío Grandinetti is the kind of person you might run into on the street and greet warmly. You could make small talk and admit to admiring his achievements in film and the theater. In fact, it’s not uncommon to spot him at El Cairo, the city’s most famous bar and a hangout for artists, writers and journalists. Grandinetti got his start locally in the thriving independent theater scene, a movement that has long played a significant role in Rosario’s cultural panorama, and he later made it big in Buenos Aires – like so many others. But Grandinetti comes home often, he admits, because he misses “the scent of the river.”
Over the past 30 years, the city has been tearing down the walls and gates obscuring the river and getting rid of the port equipment, the cranes and rails. By moving port activity to the north and south of the city, an enormous terrace on the Paraná has been opened, crowned by the Centro Cultural Parque de España. And here’s an insider tip: check out the restaurants along the banks that serving boga, surubi and dorado, fish fresh from the river grilled to perfection. No wonder folks like Grandinetti get homesick.
But back to the performing arts: Rosario has a circuit of at least 20 small theater and music venues, as well as a handful of lovely larger spaces, like El Círculo, a luxurious opera house founded in 1904. This gem of a theater hosts all kind of performances and art, including a museum of Eduardo Barnes’s religious works, housed in the catacombs below the building.
Rosario is home to some great art: check out contemporary pieces at MACRO,
housed in former grain silos on the banks of the Paraná.
Páez, The Life of the Party
Rosario and Fito Páez are inextricably linked. In fact, their identities are so intertwined that they’re basically one and the same. Rosario gave the musician everything and then took everything away as the Ciudad de pobres corazones (City of Poor Hearts), with the deaths of his beloved grandmother and his aunt who raised him. But there are no losses that can’t be cured by love. Today, Páez sings, “It does me so much good / I can’t explain it / wandering around Rosario / right next to the Paraná.”
And we follow his lead to Pichincha, the old cabaret neighborhood, now transformed into the hippest part of town. Bars with live music, restaurants for all budgets, broad sidewalks where you can sit at a table and have a beer, art galleries, antique shops and designer clothing stores. On weekends, busy fairs selling used clothing, folk art, crafts and antiques are the perfect excuse to wander around all day long.
Madame Safó, the most luxurious brothel in the 1920s with clients like Carlos Gardel and Prince Umberto of Savoy, still stands, but today, it’s a hotel that rents rooms by the hour. One of the newer attractions in the neighborhood is Beatles Memo, the first theme pub in South America dedicated to The Beatles, with an enviable collection of objects from the English quartet.
When Páez directed the 2007 film ¿De quién es el portaligas?, he made 1980s Rosario the star, giving plenty of screen time to the magnificent Palacio Fuentes and a few of the pool bars tucked away here and there. And speaking of bars, musicians and friends of Páez tend to frequent El Diablito, a cocktail bar with plenty of vibe that used to be a seedy whiskey joint.
Messi, The Legend
“My childhood in Rosario was spectacular. All my best friends are still there, even though I left at a young age. It’s my city. I love that place. I love going back to Rosario,” says Lionel Messi, his eyes shining. And he means it. Just look at his latest soccer shoe from Adidas: the mirosar10 is high-tech footwear that speaks to the legend’s city of origin. The left sole has a map of the area that highlights Messi’s home and the Batallón 121 field where he used to play with his friends. This spot will be the site of the city’s upcoming Museo del Fútbol, a project initiated by Messi himself, who ranks with Che Guevara as one of Rosario’s two most famous sons.
To get a better feel for the city’s atmosphere, head to the Santa María pizzeria, which has the best pizza in town (according to local consensus). If you’re an architecture buff, pay a visit to the government building of the Centro Municipal Distrito Sur, designed by Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza.
On the southern border of the historic downtown area, Avenida Pellegrini is home to some of the best ice-cream parlors in the country. It’s also the perfect place to sample the famous local specialty known as “El Carlito” (grilled ham and cheese with ketchup). Continue on to Parque Independencia, and you’ll find Club Newell’s Old Boys stadium, where Messi played in the junior leagues until age 11 and the pro club boasted Diego Maradona in 1993.
The city’s other major soccer club is Rosario Central, which faces off against Newell’s in the oldest “classic” match in the country, a rivalry with more than 100 years of history. The Rosario Central stadium is in the northern part of the city, practically on the banks of the Río Paraná, and has two famous fans: Fito Páez and Dario Grandinetti.
On a final note, according to Roberto Fontanarrosa, the city’s most famous writer, you’ll find Argentina’s most beautiful women in Rosario. “You can’t turn around to look at a lady on Peatonal Córdoba because you’ll miss out. You’ll miss out on the one in front of you.” in
Daily flights to Buenos Aires from Santiago, Lima and Miami. Five flights a week from Guayaquil, followed by ground transportation to Rosario.
For more information, visit lan.com
Four flights a week to Rosario from São Paulo.
For more information, visit tam.com.br
Esplendor Savoy Rosario
San Lorenzo 1022
Pullman City Center Rosario
Av.Oroño & Circunvalación
Barisit House Hotel
Museums & Galleries
Av. Pellegrini 2202
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Rosario (MACRO)
Estanislao López 2250
(Av. Oroño y el Río Paraná)
Museo de Arte Sacro
Laprida 1235 (Subsuelo Teatro El Círculo)
Centro Cultural Parque de España
Sarmiento y el Río Paraná
Dining & Bars
Sarmiento & Santa Fe
Av. Oroño 107 bis & Güemes
Pizzería Santa María