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When in Liverpool... Peter Grant pays a visit to Little Italy A little bit of Italian magic A little bit of Italian magic.

IT was an integral part of Liverpool's heritage.

Little Italy comprised Gerard Street, Hunter Street, Circus Street, Christian Street and Clare Street.

It developed at the beginning of the 19th century when there was a vast migration of Europeans to a new world: one of prosperity and one away from their own international origins.

Liverpool was accepted as the 'gateway to the world.'

Many carried on to the States while a number of others stayed. And slowly but surely the area became a thriving and warm-hearted cultural centre of the city.

Historian Terry Cooke, whose book, Little Italy: The History of Liverpool's Italian Community, details its growth, says: "The Italian community left an enduring and extensive impact on the city.

"There were plenty of colourful characters and many had distinct trades to offer the communities.

"Despite the many difficulties which confronted them, the settlers demonstrated tremendous courage and determination.

"The courage to leave their homeland in search of a better life and the determination through hard work and enterprise to provide a secure future for their families.

"When they settled in the cluster of tiny cobbled streets off Scotland Road, they 'endowed' the community with all the traditions of Italy."

The Italians introduced their own artistic craftsmanship and their colourful religious processions and their unique community spirit."

Terry, was instrumental in helping erect a commemorative plaque to recognise the monumental contribution which the Italian residents had made to the heritage of the city.

SueWoodward, former ECHO journalist and now MD of Granada and regional affairs, says our Little Liverpool series has made her want to delve even more into her own family's roots.

"I want to know more about Little Italy's Podesta family as I think I might be related," she says.

John Podesta was among the early Italian settlers and soon after arriving set up his own business.

He opened a fish and chip shop at 14 Currie Street. They opened two more shops. The family were also involved in the ice cream trade .

Sue continues: "I, like most Liverpool people, am fascinated with nostalgia and it is clear our city's heritage is built upon such communities as Little Italy."

Former ECHO journalist and now Radio Merseyside broadcaster, Linda McDermott, is president of the Vauxhall History and Heritage Group and Trust and is hugely interested in the history of Little Italy.

Linda says: "Obviously the Irish influence is far and away the most profound on Liverpool's development.

"But's sometimes forgotten that other nationalities like the Welsh and the Italians also played a part in producing what we now know as the 'Liverpool character'.

"The Italians were based principally in the Gerard Street area of the city and were such a vibrant community.

"They were people to whom families meant everything.

"They produced very fine singers and sportsmen, too, came from the ranks of these families, none more famous than the legendary boxer Dom Volante who was featured in the ECHO.

"The Italians were famous for their ice cream shops and chip shops and to this day there are people who say no-one can make ice cream like the Liverpool-Italian families. The Italians are one of the strands that bind the rich tapestry of Liverpool life."

Here are just a few of the many names associated with little Italy: Bartolomeri, Chiappe, D'Annunzio, Fusco, Guzzoni and Volante..."

Ron Formby, of Scottie Press, says: "I have been working on promoting Little Italy, Ireland and Wales for the Tourism in Vauxhall Project.

"It is now on the Scottie Press website and I would love to hear from ECHO readers.

"Tourism in Vauxhall intends to present a visionary interpretation of our history to secure a future for the area."

"The Scottie Press has been highlighting the Little Liverpool communities of the Scotland Road and Vauxhall areas for more than 35 years."

So what do the members of the Little Italy families think of their heritage?

Ray Baccino, was born in Rose Gardens off Scotland Road and attended St Joseph's School.

Both his grandfather and father were highly-skilled marble workers who worked on the Liver Building ad Port of Liverpool Building.

He says: "Both the Italians and the Irish were of the Catholic faith and inter marriages were not uncommon.

"My mother used to tell us about the traditional Italian weddings where onlookers threw sugar almonds over the bride and groom."

And Ray recalls some of the characters with a hearty laugh and says.

"There was a well-known delicatessen in Springfield Street known locally as Jimmy Romeo's though the proprietor's real name was Vincenzo Imundi.

"He was an accomplished musician who occasionally taught music to some of the youngsters in the locality.

"He was also a very strong man capable of picking up 250Ilb bag of sugar . . . by his ears."

Frank Innelli, now of Liverpool 13, says: "My family came over from Italy in the 1890s residing at 63 Gerard Street."

"I can remember when my grandmother Louisa used to invite the entire family to the house on a Sunday afternoon for a traditional Italian meal.

"We would all be seated around a very large table (the Minghella and Colletta families included) and my grandmother would have lengths of macaroni hanging up until she was ready to serve it.

"My father who served in the armed forces during the second world war knew all the boxers from the area and was a life-long friend of the famous Dom Volante .

"My father was an exceptionally good dancer and on one occasion in the 1930s when he was at the Liverpool Stadium with Dom he was persuaded to get into the boxing room and give an exhibition of... the charleston dance."

Ged Fagan, worked on the film Gardens of Stone, about Gerard Gardens, says the legacy of Little Italy lives on.

"The film focuses on that sense of international community - it must have been a great place to have been around."

CAPTION(S):

ENTERPRISING: The Podesta family were among the first of the Italian settlers in Liverpool.' RAGING BULL: The famous boxer Dom Valante' STREET LIFE: Circus Street in 1927, a densely populated area' OLD LOOK: Clare Street in 1927 - home of the card schools' HISTORIAN: Terry Cooke Little Italy expert' HISTORIC: Gerard Street meets Bennett Street in the 1900s' CITY LOOK: Bustling Little Italy as featured in Terry Cooke's book (Bluecoat Press)' MUSICAL YOUTH: Billie and Amie Bolland and Angel Austine Innelli - The Bollands. This musical trio played on the streets of Liverpool Italy at the turn of the century' PLAQUE: One of the early tributes to Little Italy' NEW MOVE: Ray Baccino whose family arrived from Genoa in the 1980s.' Part 3 Little Italy' RAGING BULL: The famous boxer Dom Valante' STREET LIFE: Circus Street in 1927, a densely populated area' OLD LOOK: Clare Street in 1927 - home of the card schools' HISTORIC: Gerard Street meets Bennett Street in the 1900s' MUSICAL YOUTH: Billie and Amie Bolland and Angel Austine Innelli - The Bollands. This musical trio played on the streets of Liverpool Italy at the turn of the century' PLAQUE: One of the early tributes to Little Italy
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 28, 2006
Words:1183
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