Art and fashion

Barrio Italia’s transformation in the Chilean capital

Once centered around an Italian hat factory in the 1910s, this Santiago neighborhood is now one of the best places in the capital to shop for (and admire) innovative design. 

Monday, October 22, 2012 Category: Tourism - Culture
Design shops and antique vendors cluster around Av. Italia. Photo by Liz Rickles. Design shops and antique vendors cluster around Av. Italia. Photo by Liz Rickles.

With designer and vintage clothing, cutting-edge housewares, charming cafés, and plenty of funky antiques, the neighborhood of Barrio Italia is a must-see spot for any fashionista's visit to the Chilean capital.


But Barrio Italia hasn’t always been at the forefront of hip and cool, and a recent article in the New York Times titled “A Santiago Barrio Recreates Its Image” highlights the fascinating transformation that this trendy section of Chile’s capital has undergone in recent years.


Barrio Italia first established itself in the 1910s when the Girardi family arrived in Santiago from Italy and opened a hat factory. The family subsequently christened the area after their home country, and the area developed into a neighborhood of mostly European immigrants.


“Barrio Italia grew steadily as a middle-class neighborhood for Italian and Spanish immigrants who often ran businesses from the fronts of their homes,” wrote Paula de la Cruz of the New York Times.


When the Girardi family downsized their hat business, many families left Barrio Italia. Furniture workshops and antique warehouses moved in to these unique buildings, that combine residential with business spaces. Many remain in business to this day.


In recent years, designers and galleries have begun popping up in the area, but the industrial aesthetic of Barrio Italia´s roots remains. While the New York Times highlights four stores in its article, the best part of a visit to Barrio Italia is taking your time to meander the tree-lined streets of this creative and historic neighborhood.


An interactive map of Barrio Italia’s shops, restaurants and heritage locations can be found online at BItalia.cl. To reach Barrio Italia, take Metro Line 5 to the Bustamante stop (on Avda. Bilbao), or the Santa Isabel stop (Avda. Santa Isabel) and walk east.


We will be posting photographs of Barrio Italia on our Facebook page this week. 

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