Little Italy is a somewhat hilly neighborhood in Downtown San Diego, California that was originally a predominately Italian fishing neighborhood. It has since been gentrified and now Little Italy is a scenic neighborhood composed mostly of Italian restaurants, Italian retail shops, home design stores, art galleries, and residential units.
Little Italy is one of the more active downtown neighborhoods and has frequent festivals and events including a weekly farmers market, also known as the Mercato (the Market, in Italian). The neighborhood has low crime rates when compared with other neighborhoods in Downtown San Diego and is maintained by the Little Italy Neighborhood Association, which looks after trash collection, decorations, and special events.
The majority of events held are related to Italian culture. Most of the events center on and around India street, usually bordered by Grape street to north and Beech Street or Ash Street to the south.
Every Saturday, 8:00am – 2:00pm, on W. Cedar Street; Little Italy hosts the Little Italy Mercato. This Italian farmers’ market features freshly caught fish, vegetables and fruit from local farmers, pastries from local bakeries, flowers and plants from local farms, and art from local artists.
The Saturday before Mardi Gras, there is the Little Italy Carnevale, a Venetian mask event with several vignettes of entertainment and an open house for retail shops and restaurants.
In April, there is ArtWalk, the largest art event in the west coast with over 120,000 people coming to purchase various mediums of art – paintings, photography, jewelry, furniture and more. Also in April, there is Gran Fondo (Big Ride) Colnago San Diego, where over 3,000 bicycle riders from all over the world come to ride throughout “America’s Finest City” in a 32, 53 or 100 mile ride that starts under the Little Italy landmark sign.
In May, the Sicilian American community of San Diego celebrates the Sicilian Festival, the first Italian festival held in Little Italy, launched in 1993. It features Italian and Sicilian entertainment, a cultural pavilion highlighting the contributions of the Italians of San Diego, vendors, and Sicilian cuisine.
In May and again in November, there is the Taste of Little Italy (Spring), where attendees pay to sample food from over 20 participating restaurants and entertainment throughout the community. Proceeds from this event go to the Little Italy Association.
In September, there is the Labor Day Stickball Tournament, where several stickball leagues come to play on the streets of Little Italy. This time honored east coast game is played like baseball, but with some minor tweaks. Every third year the San Diego leagues host a West Coast Invitational where they invite New York and Puerto Rico to play on the streets of San Diego’s Little Italy.
In October, there is the Little Italy Festa, the largest Italian festival outside of New York City, with over 150 Italian food and crafter booths, three stages of entertainment, the Gesso Italiano Street Painting Festival, a stickball exhibition game, bocce ball tournament and beer & wine gardens. Also in October, there is the Bulls of St. Agata Charge Little Italy; this event showcases over 50 Lamborghinis from all over the United States.
In December, there is the Little Italy Christmas Village and Tree Lighting. This event has progressively gotten larger and larger, with Santa Claus riding in on Little Italy Fire Engine #3 kicking off the festivities of music, shopping and bubbly snow flakes for the kids. The neighborhood also showcases a life-sized gingerbread house all month long at Queenstown Public House (New Zealand inspired restaurant), which collects toy donations for local charities around the area each year.
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