Renzo Rebagliati is a Peruvian born and based architect and photographer. He discovered his talent with a camera while studying architecture at the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas in Lima. With an eye trained in identifying particular patterns and geometry, during personal travels, he felt inclined to capture the essence of a city through its architectural landscape, and over time, found this work resonated with a larger audience. After honing his skills at the International Center of Photography in New York, he eventually decided to combine these two passions by dedicating himself to photography with an emphasis on architecture.

Most inspired by discovering and sharing new cultures through imagery, he’s traveled around the globe for his work. Renzo lists Cusco, Peru among his favorite places to photograph, and below shares why this city continues to lure him back.

Instagram: @renzorebagliati

What brought you to Cusco?

I’ve been to Cusco many times, and I try to go whenever I can because it’s an hour (or less) flight from Lima. I love the energy you feel as soon as you arrive, and how different it is from Lima despite being so close.

I like that it still has the look of an old city, and the contrast between the Inca and Spanish architecture. I like the city’s light, I suppose because we don’t have it in Lima, and it’s something that, as a photographer, I’m always looking for. Since the city is more than 3,000 meters above sea level, the light is very horizontal. The shadows are long, which gives the impression that everything moves slower.

What does Cusco smell like?

It smells of nature. The cobblestone streets, the rain, the old stone buildings, and also, the fact that it is surrounded by valleys, mountains, forests and ruins intensifies this scent.

What does it taste like?

Serrano bread fresh out of the oven.

Best discovery?

The views. Whenever you open a window, you’ll find a framed landscape, whether it’s of the city in general or of an old building with stones and old wooden windows.

Also the market. It’s become something of a classic in the city to have breakfast at the market, and incidentally leave with some local craft or a typical piece of clothing. Also, the prices are very cheap!

If you had to pick one favorite thing about Cusco, what would it be?

The plaza! It’s the center of everything (and they say that Cusco is the navel of the world), so  the plaza would be the center of the center. Everything happens around the plaza. Sitting on the steps of the cathedral for people watching is a must.

What was your first impression of Cusco?

It’s a very relaxed city. People live at a different pace, you never feel the stress as you might feel in a more modern city. People are always in a good mood and looking to have a good time.

If Cusco had a soundtrack, what songs would it include?

A song that personally reminds me of Cusco is I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons because it has that adrenaline rush you feel when you are about to explore and the emotion of being there, but at the same time, a part that is calm and relaxed once you’ve arrived and time passes slowly.

When traveling to Cusco, you can’t miss____.

Having a beer on any balcony on the plaza, or just sitting on the steps of the plaza and watching people come and go is a common and very relaxing activity in Cusco.

Typical local meal or drink?

Breakfast at Jack’s Café or the Chinese food at Kion. The two restaurants are very close to the plaza, and while you’re there, take the opportunity to see the twelve-angled stone, which Cusco is known for.

Something everyone should know before visiting?

Although the city is small, there are many activities and places to discover in its surroundings, such as the ruins of Saqsayhuaman, which are 15 minutes away, or the Qenqo forest, where you can have a picnic and rest under the trees.

What is most unique about Cusco, something you haven’t seen elsewhere?

It’s energy. Cusco has something special that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. It’s a city that moves at a different pace. It feels very friendly, its people are very proud of their city and they express it through their actions, always making you feel welcome while visiting.

What is your definition of beauty?

Equilibrium. Neither too, much nor too little, finding a balance.