La Boca is proud of its unique traditions.
La Boca is rich in the tourist clichés that define Buenos Aires such as tango dancing in the streets and buildings in bright pastel colours. For this reason my friend and I set aside a full afternoon to experience this touristy port district. However, as we discovered, La Boca has a reputation and not a particularly good one at that. Our ‘host mother’ insisted that we were to stay on the main streets and that we should also leave before 5pm.
Arriving by bus, my first impressions were not entirely positive due to the presence of a huge crane as we entered the area. We advanced into El Caminito, the main pedestrian street, where a statue of the pope waved down benevolently at us from a balcony. Having been out late the night before I needed some refreshment, so we found a nice table outside where I had a ‘café con leche’. This provided an opportunity to soak up the sun and people watch. La Boca certainly has a touristy feel and there were people at the entrance of many bars and cafés hawking for the passing tourist trade. I would gladly have the spent the day watching the world go by, but we had our 5pm deadline to respect.
The majority of the houses have been converted into shops selling textiles along with various tourist souvenirs.
The attitude of the shopkeepers was a little less relaxed than in San Telmo, but it was not over obtrusive either. Another statue of the pope welcomed us into a market, which seemed to cater far more to the local population, and we both noted that the atmosphere here contrasted sharply with the touristy feel outside.
Our Buenos Aires Lonely Planet guide recommended two art galleries- one that was closed and another open but not terribly impressive.
As we were starting to feel hungry, we consulted the LP again and it recommended a nearby restaurant, or at least it seemed nearby on the map. I’m really not how it happened, but we quickly found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, far from the busy tourist centre of El Caminito. Due to all the warnings, I was getting nervous, particularly as our attempts at locating ourselves on the map didn’t seem to indicate that we were getting any closer to the elusive restaurant. However, we eventually turned a corner and there it was right in front of us.
Il Matterello turned out to be a real treat.
Packed with local families and friends, the authentic Italian food was genuinely delicious. My vegetarian cannelloni tasted sublime (I could have been back in one of my favourite local restaurants in Milan). My friend, who had also spent time in Italy, was really quite impressed with her food. We discussed staying for dessert, but it was now already after 5pm and we decided to heed the warnings. Overall, our impression was that La Boca was a working class area that catered heavily to the passing tourist trade. Experience has taught me that areas that draw the tourist hordes often tend to breed street crime, so it was wise to heed the warnings as best we could.
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Getting there: No Subte. Buses 29, 64 and 152
Eating: Il Matterello, Martín Rodríguez 517, Cdad. Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Phone:+54 11 4307-0529