Barrio italia: Santiago's new urban style neighbourhood
Settled by immigrant artisans in the 19th century, the Italian quarter is carving out a new reputation for itself, with beautiful furniture and crafts, boutique cafes and antique bargainsIn a quarter known for selling beautiful furniture, Amoble brings design up to date with clean-cut rattan chairs, rustic coffee tables and coal-coloured sofas. More hand-luggage-friendly are the blue ceramic birds and wooden ducks.
Minimalist and modern Blasko sells chunky, locally made ankle boots and shoes displayed on upturned woodchip boxes. Look out for the limited- edition animal-print range.
Stepping into Byrt & Co is like entering a psychedelic dream, but once your eyes have adjusted to the blue-and-white-striped wallpaper you'll find all manner of pretty things. Among the gems are hand-painted crockery, metal antelope wall-hooks and glassware.
El Emporio de Dominga specialises in traditional Chilean crafts in a Creole style, and is stocked with hand-woven blankets, felt trilbies and mate gourds. There's some very smart leatherwork, including wallets and belts decorated with woven geometric designs.
With its mixture of local and imported pieces, Area Design is the most stylish furniture store in the neighbourhood. You'll find statement chairs, studded leather stools and lots of glass bottles. It's a fun place to explore.
Barrio Italia is like an open-air gallery, thanks in part to its antiques stores. These treasure troves sprung up in the 1990s, and are filled to bursting with wobbly stacks of chairs, spilling out onto the pavement. For bargains, explore the hidden corridors behind the shopfronts. Out in the street, men resurrect furniture with sandpaper and paintbrushes as retro music plays on a gramophone. Avenida Italia with Caupolicán. Not open Sundays or Mondays
Galeria de arte Trece supports modern Chilean art by displaying paintings by a different artist each month, and is easily identified by the colourful mural outside. Recent exhibitions include the vibrant cubist creations of Isabel Brinck and nudes by Felipe Achondo. The cafe sells empanadas and Chile's famous torta de mil hojas (a little like millefeuille but with dulce de leche and cream).
Bare brick walls, bistro-style pendant lights and harlequin tiles lend Casa Luz a cool, New York-style vibe. It's also the best place for Saturday lunch, while the long bar serves a mean pisco sour, and the terrace, with its colourful paper lanterns, is straight out of Alice in Wonderland. The owners met in Barcelona, so patatas bravas have made it onto the menu, but otherwise there's locally caught fish - grouper with quinoa risotto or merluza austral (hake) - and an unmissable deconstructed apple strudel.
Lusitano has the best roof terrace in the area. The owner's grandparents came to Chile from Portugal in 1910, and the restaurant pays tribute to his heritage. Fake grass underfoot lends a somewhat surprising Wimbledon vibe, but limited menu hits the spot with old-school dishes such as costillar de cerdo a la Lusitana (pork ribs cooked in honey and mustard). Be sure to save room for a rice pudding, flan or crème brûlée.
Family-run Restaurante y Trattoria Da Noi is one of Barrio Italia's oldest restaurants and has a substantial Italian menu (truffle risotto, pumpkin tortellini). Before tucking into a huge plate of fresh handmade pasta, poke your head into the kitchen to watch the cook in a floury apron flinging pizza dough around. The Da Noi is where, in 1998, a group of friends met to discuss the arrest of Pinochet on London's Harley Street. Angered by the Chilean media's timid coverage of his detainment, the friends decided to found a left-wing newspaper, naming it The Clinic in recognition of the scene of his capture.
The loveliest venue in Barrio Italia for afternoon tea (known in Chile as 'onces'), Café de la Candelaria has dainty doll's-house chairs and tables set around a little fountain in a leafy courtyard. Try the Chilean classic of toast with mashed avocado, followed by passionfruit cheesecake and a steaming pot of tea.
Xoco Por Ti is a brightly painted wooden cabin serving possibly the best hot chocolate ever. Five different types of cocoa (Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Brazilian, Venezuelan and Bolivian) are used in the drinks and the Swiss-Chilean owners (see 'My Barrio Italia', overleaf) also make frappes or ice cream in the summer.
The barrel outside La Ibérica suggests there are good times to be had within. Full of noisy Spaniards eating paella and drinking cerveza, the bar gets very busy at weekends, particularly when Real Madrid are playing.
The Jazz Corner is the place to go for live music and a glass of wine. With long tables for groups and corners for couples, the bar has a good house red, as well as beer and cocktails, to go with its sharing platters. Try the house tabla with cheese, ham, olives and marinated vegetables.
When it opened in June 2013, Carmenere Eco-Hotel became Barrio Italia's first upmarket hotel. This converted 1930s townhouse, which has retained its original parquet floors, has five bedrooms named after Chilean wine valleys: Aconcagua, Maipo, Casablanca, Colchagua and - the best of the bunch - Curico, which opens onto a leafy garden. Wine and cheese tastings are held in the cellar.
If you crave action, Casa Boulder has 250 square metres of climbing walls waiting to be scaled. Sponsored by North Face, it's great for hardcore rock climbers, and there are 90-minute courses for those who fancy learning how to shimmy up a vertical wall.
For authentic Chilean home-cooking, head to bar El Hoyo (on Calle Credito near Santa Isabel). Open Monday to Friday, lunchtimes ONLY, this simple wooden house offers a set menu of homely, traditional dishes, including corn pie, fish stew, and meat and mashed potato with a Chilean salad of tomatoes and onions. The helpings are huge and served with fresh fruit juice, all for just £4.