PARICATUBA, Brazil (AP) — If Hollywood were to set a psychological thriller in the Amazon rainforest, the haunting Paricatuba Ruins would be the perfect backdrop.
Massive root structures poke through the foundations of the once-stately neo-classical edifice, across the Rio Negro from the jungle metropolis of Manaus, one of the cities set to host World Cup matches.
Tourists arriving for soccer's premier event are unlikely to stumble upon the ruins. There is virtually no signage pointing toward the site. It can be reached only by boat or by car for those who cross a new bridge spanning the Rio Negro and endure an hour-long ride over bumpy dirt roads.
Those living near Paricatuba, however, hope the jungle enshrouded villa will attract the more adventurous travelers among the 52,000 or so foreigners expected to descend Manaus for the matches featuring the U.S., England, Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Cameroon, Portugal and Honduras.
Tree trunks braid around crumbling bricks and shards of fancy tile work. Pythons and iguanas make their homes in the carpet of waist-high brush.
It was built in 1898 at the height of the region's rubber boom, which briefly transformed Manaus into one of the richest cities in the world. The sprawling villa was initially intended to house the Italian immigrants who arrived to work in the rubber trade.
The building's decline over the next century mirrored that of Manaus, which after the rubber boom went bust, slipped into a long period of decadence and decay.
After the Italian migration dried up, the villa housed an art school run by French priests. Then it became a penitentiary. Then a leper colony, before simply being abandoned to the tropical elements.
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