Around 70km west of Gramado and 37km north of Nova Petrópolis is CAXIAS DO SUL , Rio Grande do Sul's third-largest city. Italian immigrants arrived in Caxias (as the city is known) in 1875, but the only obvious indication of the city's ethnic origins is its adegas, now huge companies or cooperatives that produce some of the state's poorest wine. If you're interested in the history of the region, the Museu Casa de Pedra (Tues– Sun 8.30am–5.30pm) at Rua Matteo Gianella 531 is well worth a look. Housed in a late nineteenth-century stone farmhouse, it contains agricultural implements, old photographs and other artefacts relating to the first Italian immigrants. The most important festival in Caxias is the Festa Nacional da Uva , a two-week celebration of Italian traditions, local industry and wine production. The event is held in February and March (in even-numbered years) at the Parque Exposições Centenário, on the outskirts of the city.
Caxias is a major transport centre and buses run to towns throughout Rio Grande do Sul, and to states to the north, from the rodoviária (Tel:54/3218-3000), seven blocks east of Praça Rui Barbosa. There's also an airport (Tel:54/3901-1219), 4km south of the city centre, with flights to Porto Alegre and São Paulo.
You'll find the tourist office (daily 9am–5pm; Tel:0800-541-1875) on the main square, Praça Dante Alighieri, along with several inexpensive hotels including the Alfred, Rua Sinimbu 2266 (Tel:54/3221-8655, Web: www.alfredhoteis.com.br ; R$71-120), which is particularly good value. There are plenty of more expensive options, the best being the Reynolds International, Rua Dr Montaury 1441 (Tel:54/3223-5844, Web: www.reynolds.com.br ; R$181-260), a small luxury hotel.
For authentic – and inexpensive – northern Italian food , try Zanottoo, Rua Visconde de Pelotas (closed Sun evening) and, in particular, La Vindima, Av. Júlio de Castilhos 962 (closed Sun and all Jan), both good for country-style chicken and polenta dishes.