Antiques, Decor and Charm in Barrio Italia

Barrio Italia is a heritage site and renovated commercial district combining gastronomy, modish furniture and consumerist popular art. Its blocky website boasts it as an area of “Eventos, Gastronomia Patrimonio y más” (events, food heritage and more), tantalizingly begging the question of just what that “more” is.

Photo by Christina Cavey
Photo by Christina Cavey

The most obvious manifestation of the “más” are shops selling trinkets and home décor. Stretching from Irarrázabal to Avenue Rancagua on several wide, tree-lined streets, Barrio Italia contains a galaxy of stuff for your house including asymmetrical clocks: deep, square-lined sofas and items of antique if unspecific charm. There are also lots of weird, expensive and more or less useless stuff like salt-and-pepper shakers in the shape of naked African women, trendy notebooks and picture frames made out of green foam.

Photo by Christina Cavey
Photo by Christina Cavey

However, it's not all awkwardly stylized modern lampshades and fluorescent cushions. There are loads of antique furniture stores along Avenida Italia to peruse while you sip a vanilla latte. The charmingly unpolished items of furniture spilling out onto the street from numerous antique merchants are redolent of the goods on display at Persa Bio Bio. Stacks of deep brown oak chests and make-up tables are littered with an enchantingly diverse array of eyeglasses, mechanical toys and other things you throw out when your last grandparent dies. Some of the shops contain enough aesthetic knickknacks to deserve the title of museum or gallery. Particularly impressive was a giant china Frisian cow, complete with udders.

Photo by Christina Cavey
Photo by Christina Cavey

As well as being a good place to unload some of your spare luca, it's an area with a rich cultural history and pleasant Sunday afternoon ambience. The architecture respects the traditional by sensitively juxtaposing existing provincial buildings with an injection of cool modernity in the shape of modern objects and art. You can visit the home of Eduardo Frei, now a museum, and take in the San Crescente Parish Church. The latter is a fine example of provincial architecture.

Given the wide range of musical events the area plays host to, Barrio Italia should really come alive. It instead gave the impression of being a bit dead, at least at midday on a Saturday as half the shops were still closed and the streets were short of revelers.

Barrio Italia can be accessed from either Parque Bustamante or Santa Isabel and consists of the streets clustered around Avenida Italia in Providencia.

http://www.barrioitalia.cl/

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