Bustling little Curicó, founded in 1743, is the only town of any significance in the Mataquito Valley. An agro-industrial centre servicing the surrounding vineyards, it suffered badly in the 2010 earthquake but a construction boom is currently under way. While Curicó has little to hold your interest for more than a few hours, it is the gateway for excursions to both nearby wineries and Parque Nacional Radal Siete Tazas.

Curicó is built around one of the most beautiful central plazas in Chile, luxuriantly planted with sixty giant Canary Island palms. Standing in their shade, on the northern side of the square, is a highly ornate, dark-green wrought-iron bandstand, constructed in a New Orleans style in 1904, while close by an elaborate fountain features a cast-iron replica of The Three Graces. In contrast to these rather fanciful civic commissions, the memorial to Toqui Lautaro – the Mapuche chief at whose hands Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia came to a grisly end – is a raw and powerful work, carved out of an ancient tree trunk.

Standing on the northwest corner of the square, the Iglesia La Matriz makes for a curious sight, its grand Neoclassical facade giving way to a spacious and modern brick interior.

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