Capitán Pastene: Little Italy in southern Chile

Located amid the forests of the Nahuelbuta Mountains in the Araucanía Region, this town of Italian immigrants has over time become an emergent tourist destination.

The gastronomy enchants who visit the place thanks to its unparalleled combination of European and American flavors
The gastronomy enchants who visit the place thanks to its unparalleled combination of European and American flavors

The story holds that 500 kilometers south of Santiago in the municipality of Lumaco, close to 23 Italian families arrived from the northern region of Emilia Romagna on carts pulled by oxen. Despite the fact that the lands were not suitable for agriculture and the climate was rainy, the colonists managed to form their own town in 1907: the Colonia Nueva Italia (New Italy Colony), today known as Capitán Pastene.

A century later the area — named in honor of a Genovese admiral who explored southern Chile — enchants with its beautiful landscape and undeniable cultural mix from the coexistence of Chileans, Italians, and Mapuches. You just need to read the names of its broad dirt streets, with names like Dante, Garibaldi, Lautaro and Caupolicán, or else the European-style architecture.

Pasta, hams and merkén

The streets and predominant architecture in the area are not the only examples of this interculturalism. The gastronomy, which in recent times has become a veritable engine of the area’s development, enchants all those who visit the place thanks to its unparalleled combination of European and American flavors.

The trattoria Pastas Covili knows this very well and years ago it adapted traditional Italian cuisine to the flavors of Araucanía, such as merkén (a kind of smoked curry), hazelnuts, and pine nuts: big chocolate raviolis in merkén pasta and hazelnut sauce. The address? Pedro Montt 928.

The other option is the restaurant L’Emiliano, an establishment with a family atmosphere waited on by its owners, José Flores Cabalieri and his wife Genny Fulgeri Venturelli, where they not only offer pastas, but also meats and delicious desserts. It located in Pedro Montt 755.

But the route of the flavors in this Italian colony does not end here. Another of the traditional delicacies is on Dante Street: the prosciutto ham factories, large companies that have come along way to become what they are today.

Montecorone, one of the businesses known for making the best prosciutto in town, offers sausage lovers products with a local identity and unique recipes, such as sweet prosciutto smoked with the wood of fruit trees and another one with merkén. It is located on the corner of Petro Montt and Coccibuasso.

How can you reach this veritable jewel in southern Chile? By land from the capital Santiago you need to follow Highway 5 and in Los Angeles take the road to Negrete, Renaico, Angol, Los Sauces and Lumaco, where the main access road to the town is located.

Lodging can be found in Albergo Nuova Italia (5645-753904), where it is recommended that you make your reservation in advance.

This post is also available in Spanish