In the early part of the 20th century, many Italians left their homeland and headed to America, the “land of opportunity”. One of the places that many Italian immigrants settled was Toronto. By 1920, most of the Italian population found their homes in downtown Toronto on College Street between Bathurst and Ossington. The area became the center for Toronto’s Italian community and dubbed “Little Italy“. It was, in fact, the starting point for Italian immigrants in Toronto. Although the cultural mapping of the area has changed over the years, the name “Little Italy” has been officially adopted by the local community and business owners to pay tribute to the thousands of Italians who made their journey to Canada and found their new homes in this area.
In the 1950s and 1960s, a new wave of Italian immigrants made their way to Canada. Many Italians began moving out of “Little Italy” and headed northwest to the St. Clair Ave and Dufferin Street area known today as “Corso Italia“. Corso Italia sprang to life with Italian family-owned stores and cafes. During the 1982 World Cup, when Italy took top prize, the streets filled with what was estimated as 500,000 people to celebrate. The streets were flooded with Italian flags and jerseys. As time passed, the area changed, however the remnants of the Italian culture still remains. It is still the most popular place to watch Italia play in World Cup or Euro Cup matches and was also the place to celebrate the 2006 World Cup Championship win.
Celebrations on St. Clair after 2006 World Cup Final.
So, it is no surprise that when summer rolls around, these two areas, that once were predominantly Italian, hold summer street festivals, inspired by the summer feste of Italy. It may not be true to the Italian festivals you may experience in Italy, but it does share one very important thing in common – community. The businesses of these areas open their doors to everyone and the streets come alive with music, dance, and food.
Here are a couple “Italian” summer street festivals in Toronto:
Taste of Little Italy
June 19-21, 2009
Recommend: Sit out on the patio and share a gelato with friends @ Sicilian Sidewalk Cafe before catching The Pino Cea Band as they perform both traditional and contemporary Italian music.
Corso Italia Festival 2009
July 4 & 5, 2009
St. Clair Ave West
Recommend: Grab a gelato from La Paloma Gelateria @ 1357 St Clair Ave W and then make your way to the Corso Italia BIA state @ 1241 St Clair Ave W to see Josephine Biundo perform.