On Sunday, October 27, over 150,000 visitors flocked to Leichhardt for the annual Norton Street Italian Festa, which this year included the official announcement: Norton Street will be renamed Little Italy.
Now in its 33rd year, Norton Street Festa unites people of all backgrounds for a taste of the Italian language and culture.
The principal sponsor of the festival was Inner West Council (IWC), with CO.AS.IT. as platinum sponsor.
This year, the festival included a voting poll, where locals could have their say on which specific zone should be renamed Little Italy and what Italian symbols might be included in the proposed mural at Harold Hawkins Court.
Mayor Darcy Byrne took to the stage to publicly announce the IWC’s initiative.
“Council has voted for my proposal to officially rename central Leichhardt as Little Italy,” Byrne said.
“Today we are consulting the community on this proposal.
“Get behind the recognition of the birthplace of Italo-Australia.”
Results of the poll showed a decisive leaning toward naming Norton Street Little Italy, with suggested symbols to be considered in the mural the traditional plate of pasta, pizza, other foods and wine, or even portraits of some of the 2006 FIFA World Cup football champions.
This year Festa had a special visit from The Hon. Anthony Albanese MP, Leader of the Opposition and Member for Grayndler.
“Norton Street Italian Festa is a great celebration of the Italian community and in particular of the Italian community that is based around the inner west of Sydney,” Albanese said.
“It is a great day to showcase Italian culture.”
Albanese also expressed his support of the Little Italy initiative.
This support was echoed by other speakers on the day including Jamie Parker MP Member for Balmain, and Senator Francesco Giacobbe OAM, who represents Oceania in the Italian Senate.
Festa was also the perfect opportunity to officially welcome the new Italian Consul General Andrea De Felip, who arrived in Australia only days ago.
The CO.AS.IT. team were out in full force, promoting Italian language, culture, community and aged care services in NSW.
The CO.AS.IT. stall entertained kids with free face painting and arts and crafts, while adults were enticed with a free Italian lesson.
The stall also included the 10,000 Italian Roses Project, through which CO.AS.IT. is promoting breast screening in the Italian community in New South Wales.
The CO.AS.IT. stage featured stars from The Voice: Chris Ninni and Claudia Migliaccio, who flew in from Adelaide and delighted the crowds with performances in both English and Italian.
Grace Rizzo, Arturo Toscani, and Mathew Dal Cin added to the Italian flavour with some Italian classics, operas and Neapolitan songs, not to mention an authentic performance by Sydney Italian choir Coro D’Abruzzo, and a tarantella performance by VDC Academy.
But the performance which attracted the largest audience of the day came from the students of the Italian Bilingual School (IBS), who performed the anthems in both English and Italian.
General Manager of CO.AS.IT. Thomas Camporeale wrapped up the day’s formalities with his speech recognising CO.AS.IT.’s long-standing relationship with Leichhardt.
“CO.AS.IT. has been part of Norton Street since 1998,” Camporeale said.
“Norton Street has long been the emotional and physical centre of the Italian community in Sydney and is universally recognised as the heart of Little Italy.
“It was the first stop for many of the post war Italian migrants who disembarked in Sydney.
“They either established roots here and created a thriving community or used it as the stepping stone to look for work elsewhere.
“The first Norton Street Italian Festa was organised in 1986 by the Capuchin Priests at St Fiacres Church in Leichhardt, to replicate the religious festivals of Italy.
“For this and many other reasons we show our support to the Mayor’s efforts to have Leichhardt officially recognised as Little Italy.”
Further steps are expected to be taken in the future to ensure that Haberfield is also symbolically recognised as an important place for the Italian community.