Hidden London – Little Italy, Clerkenwell, near the City
London has famously become home to people from all over the world. Whether fleeing religious or ethnic persecution or dire economic circumstances, countless migrant communities have formed and settled in this famous city throughout its history.
One such group that has contributed enormously to this city is the Italian community. London has been home to a sizeable Italian community for nearly two centuries now. The most ancient Italian quarter can be found in the western part of the neighbourhood known as Clerkenwell, an area close to London’s financial centre, ‘the City’.
Italian roots in Clerkenwell go back to the early 1800’s. In the early days, the Italian ‘colony’ in this area was mainly employed in trades such as organ grinding, knife grinding, mosaic and terrazzo craftsmanship. From these early days, the Italian community spread into catering and ice cream selling. Italian restaurants, cafes and shops are now a firmly established part of current London.
An Italian family in London in the 1890’s
Whilst people of Italian descent are now spread throughout the capital, there is still a strong Italian presence in Clerkenwell. In fact the focal point of the Italian community in London is still Sunday worship at the Italian church of St Peters in the area. Without doubt, the Processione della Madonna del Carmine, held annually on the first Sunday after July 16th, is Little Italy’s most important event. This event has taken place every year since 1896, except during times of war.
St Peter’s Italian Church, Clerkenwell.
One famous Italian resident of this ‘Little Italy’, was Giuseppe Mazzini, the writer, patriot and revolutionary. Whilst exiled in this country, due to his political activities, he founded a language school in 1841, where you could learn Italian from premises in nearby Hatton Garden, London’s famous jewellery centre.
Here’s a couple of great long-established Italian places that we highly recommend you visit.
Bar Italia: a great authentic 24 hour Italian coffee bar in Soho, 10 minutes walk from the school. www.baritaliasoho.co.uk
Marine Ices: a fantastic ice cream parlour, close to Camden Town and its vibrant street markets. http://www.marineices.co.uk