October is Italian-American Heritage & Culture Month! Born from Italian descent, Little Italy would not be the thriving neighborhood it is today without the hard work and dedication of Italian and Sicilian immigrants from nearly 100 years ago. Today, Little Italy has preserved its rich Italian heritage from its charming European piazzas and culturally themed events/farmer’s market to traditional rich Italian flavors. In honor of Italian-American Heritage & Culture Month, we encourage you to stop by some of the Italian landmarks throughout Little Italy and pay tribute to the many contributions of Italians and Italian-Americans around the world.
Lit for the first time in October 2000 at the 7th Annual Little Italy FESTA!, The Little Italy Landmark Sign commemorates the historical neighborhood that was the hub of the world’s tuna fishing and canning industry up until the 1960’s. Nautically themed, the sign represents the immigrant community that came before us. The portholes at the top of the pillars, blue neon lettering and cables that hold the sign up are representational of our rich nautical history. The mosaic tile work on the West represents the San Diego Bay and the industry that help build San Diego’s Little Italy and the East side pillars tell the story of our Italian roots and the history of our community through the families, the church, the elementary school and the homeland.
Enjoy an afternoon stroll through Amici Park. Translating to “Park of Friends,” this multi-use space is not only home to the Little Italy Dog Park, the Amici Park Amphitheater, Little Italy Bocce Ball Courts, the Amici House - home of Convivio, but it is also where you can find Nina Karavasiles’ “A Recipe for Friendship” art installation. Created in 2001, this exhibit includes four tables with checkerboard tablecloths made from Italian glass mosaics, each containing a bronze sculpture of a plate of food – such as stuffed artichokes and marinara sauce– with a recipe for the meal appearing on a plaque next to it for the perfect Italian feast.
Little Italy is honored to celebrate the legacy of Italian legends throughout the neighborhood with sculptures, plaques and piazzas. Take a stroll through the neighborhood and find the many plaques and banners that tell the story of prominent Italian families who have called Little Italy home over the years. For those looking to soak in the scenery, check out our inspiring piazzas dedicated to remarkable Italian immigrants in history.
Honoring the history and early beginnings of Little Italy, the Piazza Pescatore memorializes the tuna industry and honors the more than 6,000 Italian families who immigrated and helped bring national recognition to our neighborhood in the 1970s and 1980s. This piazza is adorned with bronze and classic mosaic tile work by local artists.
In the heart of Little Italy is the Piazza della Famiglia. Dedicated to the past, present, and future families of Little Italy, wander through this 10,000-square-foot European-style piazza and enjoy the old world feel with a modern twist. A beautiful tiled fountain sits at the East side of the piazza and tables and chairs with umbrellas line the cobblestone promenade.
Created in November 2003, the Piazza Basilone honors GySgt John Basilone and the “Boys that Never Came Home” from the wars of the 20th century. This piazza stands as a permanent mark in time, celebrating the lives of the fallen and GySgt Basilone’s heroism and the accolades that he received while serving this county. The American flag, the Italian flag, the Portuguese flag, and the Mexican flag flay at this piazza representing the national origin of the “boys that never came home”.
The Piazza Giannini honors the legacy of the great Italian-American who founded the Bank of Italy, or what we know today as Bank of America. Amadeo Giannini believed in equal access to goods and services for all. This 500 square foot public space features a bust and pedestal and a plaque telling Gianni’s story.
honors the life work of social and political activist, Margaret “Midge” Costanza who served as a top advisor to President Jimmy Carter. The daughter of Sicilian immigrants, Costanza was known for her wit, outspoken manner and commitment to her convictions. She fought for the rights and dignity of all people, particularly women, the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized groups. She had the rare ability to bring together people with different viewpoints to accomplish a shared civic goal, something we could all use a little more of these days.
For a full list of Italian landmarks to check out this month, visit LittleItalySD.com/Explore and be sure to follow us on Instagram @LittleItalySD, Twitter @LittleItalySD and Facebook @LittleItalySD for the latest news and updates about Little Italy.