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Barrio Italia: A haven for foodies & design in Santiago

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Barrio Italia: A haven for foodies & design in Santiago

It is not surprising that with a name like ‘Barrio Italia’ (Italian Neighborhood) this corner of Chile is filled with designers and chefs!

Chile has many immigrant influences, and one of the most stylish – and delicious – of those were the Italians. Famed for its Italian roots, excellent cafes and design shops, Barrio Italia in Santiago is an epicurean delight as well as a feast for the eyes…

Discover the vibrant barrio Italia, by Amanda Barnes for The Squeeze (photo copyright Amanda Barnes)

The origin of the name comes from some of the first settlers here. The Italian Girardi family came to Santiago and opened a hat factory in the area in 1905. As their industry grew, many other Italian families moved in, followed by Spanish families too. The neighborhood grew and the European expats began to set up shops in front of their houses, as they typically did back at home.

The area became known as the ‘Italian neighborhood’ (or barrio in Spanish) and a large street in the middle of the district was named Avenida, Italia alongside the large art-deco theatre, Teatro Italia.

Nowadays the neighborhood has few Italians left, although the legacy remains with unique design shops, many antique stores and cute cafés.

Although the large Girardi hat factory has closed, there are many other places to buy handmade hats in Barrio Italia, and shoes, clothes, jewelry, perfumed soaps, leather goods, handbags… and so much more! The list is endless.

Antiques line the streetThis is the best-known place for small and independent design shops in the city. There are many galleries of shops that are like mini-worlds of design: step through just one door from the street, and it opens up into a dozen shops hidden inside. You’ll find many new and exciting Chilean designers here, and it is a great spot for unique and bespoke design pieces.

Furniture and accessory stores are also important in the neighborhood – both old and new! While Barrio Italia is packed with contemporary designers, it is also full to the brim with antiques. If you visit Caupolicán street (between Girardi and Condell) you will find the road filled with antiques and recycled furniture, as well as vinyl records, old photos and books.

Recommended visits:

Amoble in Barrio Italia, The Squeeze MagazineEstacion Italia, Avenida Italia 1439
One of the largest galleries in Barrio Italia, the Estacion Italia has over 50 boutique shops inside selling design wear, jewelry, handmade soaps, stationary and children’s clothes.

Amoble, Avenida Italia 1372
Selling colorful, custom-made pieces of furniture and home decorations, this is one of the most popular contemporary furniture stores in the neighborhood.
The perfect accompaniment to a shopping trip is a café. And Barrio Italia is full of them! When you need a spot to rest your legs tired from shopping, there are many cafes and small restaurants to relax in and refuel. Most cafés have a great assortment of ground coffee and loose-leaf tea, as well as fresh juices made from Chile’s many different types of fruit. But the highlight of visiting a café in Barrio Italia is the sweet treats: pastries, cakes, tarts and ice creams. This neighborhood is ideal for anyone with a sweet tooth!

If you are looking for something more filling, then there are some great restaurants a little further south. There are – of course – Italian restaurants here as well as Spanish-influenced tapas bars, Peruvian cuisine, Sushi bars, and traditional Chilean eateries.

Recommended visits:

A taste of tapas at Ruca Bar, The Squeeze MagazineXoco Por Ti ‘Chocolate Bar’, Avenida Italia 1634
If you are a chocoholic, this is the place for you! This pretty café has 5 daily different hot chocolates from around South America (Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, and Bolivia), excellent croissants and indulgent chocolate ice cream.

Ruca Bar, Avenida Condell 868
This restaurant and bar has a long list of cocktails and a short list of imaginative tapas. The menu might be small but the flavor is big! Try pulled pork mini-burgers, or salmon tartar with avocado cream.

Every day of the week is a nice time to visit Barrio Italia. It is a quiet neighborhood that is enjoyable to visit on foot or by bicycle. Weekends are busier with locals meeting for drinks on their days off work, but there is always a buzz in the barrio. At least twice a year (April and July normally) there are different festivals in Barrio Italia with live music, dance, tastings and special activities.

Details:
Barrio Italia is centered around Avenida Italia between the Providencia and Ñuñoa neighborhoods. You can take the metro to Santa Isabel and walk to Avenida Italia, which is 4 blocks away. If you are taking a taxi or car, go to Santa Isabel on the corner of Avenida Italia to start.  For more information visit www.barrioitalia.cl

Amanda Barnes

Amanda Barnes

Amanda Barnes is a British journalist who has been living in the Southern Hemisphere for the last six years, has tried over 500 Malbecs, eaten over 600 Chilean oysters and still has a functioning liver and kidneys (as far as she knows).
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