I can vouch for that.

downtown or out of town
in santiago, a day's excursion can take you downtown, uphill, or away from it all.
from plaza italia (metro station baquedano), walk across the mapocho river and up colorful pío nono avenue to la chascona (011-56-2-777-8741), poet pablo neruda's quirky house at the foot of san cristóbal hill. after the tour, catch the funicular railway to the top of the hill for trail walking and views (smog permitting), then go down the other side on a spectacular hanging cable car. from there, walk a few shady blocks to providencia avenue for cafes and shops. add a late afternoon visit to los dominicos, a rustic handicrafts market in las condes district.

lots of impressive museums and architec-ture await in santiago's old downtown. walk through la moneda, the recently reopened presidential palace, stroll through the renovated main square (plaza de armas), and check out the national historical museum (011-56-2-633-0462) and museum of pre-columbian art (011-56-2-695-3851). a few blocks east is santa lucía hill, site of the city's founding in 1541, with winding paths, stone stairways, and views of downtown and the mountains. from the north side, it's a short walk to the museum of fine arts (011-56-2-633-0655), which boasts chilean painting and sculpture. kick back in parque forestal, the riverside park where locals while away their sundays.

still need a way to spend a day? ski areas are 1 1/2 hour's drive to the east; the coast is two hours west. - j.m

santiago sampler