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Italian Neighborhoods & Enclaves


Introduction


  • Little Italy neighborhoods started out of necessity, but today they are a way to preserve and share our Italian American heritage

by Christopher Forte


Like many immigrant groups to the United States, Italians tended to settle in neighborhoods or communities composed of their fellow expats, a place where they can feel safe, comfortable, and at home in a strange new land. As successive generations assimilated into the larger American society around them, gained more acceptance and found more economic opportunity, they felt comfortable leaving these insular, immigrant enclaves and exploring the wider nation outside them.  This, along with other circumstances, some unique to certain areas, like the collapse of the tuna fishing industry on the West Coast, and freeways ripping apart entire Italian communities, and so on, meant that these iconic images of immigrant Americana, made famous by Mob films and documentaries, were almost lost to the pages of history. And perhaps that is only right, because, as explained above, these neighborhoods only existed while their residents felt like outsiders or newcomers to a strange, new country, a feeling that does not exist among their American-born descendants.

In recent years, however, as more and more American-born children of these Italian immigrants regain their lost heritage in a multi-cultural and global society, and as more modern-day Italians visit and move here, as the United States continues its economic and diplomatic ties with Italy, there has been growing interest in preserving and even resurrecting these almost lost Italian immigrant neighborhoods, these "Little Italy's." Across the nation, a Little Italy neighborhood that all but disappeared is being given new life through redevelopment, preservation and marketing campaigns, mainly spearheaded by neighborhood residents themselves. From Little Italy San Diego to the shrinking but still iconic Little Itay in New York's Manhattan, to newly designated Little Italy neighborhoods like in Sacramento and San Jose. These communities are being preserved as places of pride for the American-born descendants of the earlier Italian immigrants, a neighborhood where our unique blend of old Italian and American culture can be maintained and shared with the world. I call it a "Living Museum," a museum display, but one that is full of life and real. 

Below are links to Italian neighborhoods in California. I recommend visiting them. 


  


Little Italy San Diego



Little Italy of Los Angeles (San Pedro)

Little Italy San Jose



North Beach (San Francisco's "Little Italy")



Little Italy Sacramento

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