Little Italy (French: La Petite-Italie; Italian: Piccola Italia) is a neighbourhood in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is centred on Saint Laurent Boulevard between Jean Talon Street and St. Zotique Street in the borough of Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, south of Villeray and Jarry Park.
Little Italy is home to Italian Canadian-owned shops and restaurants, the Jean-Talon Market, as well as the Church of the Madonna della Difesa, built by Italian immigrants from the Campobasso area in Molise to commemorate the apparition of the Virgin Mary in La Difesa, an area of Campobasso.
Little Italy emblem
The Italian presence in Quebec dates to the nineteenth century, when Italians served in the Carignan-Salières Regiment. There were also a few traders and artisans who came mainly from northern Italy. In the nineteenth century, larger scale Italian immigration began to develop. These immigrants were predominantly male farmers from the southern regions. These immigrants, mostly temporary, worked in railways, mines and lumber camps.
In the early twentieth century, the composition of immigrants began to change. It was then characterized by permanent immigrants and family reunification. The majority of immigrants worked in the construction and maintenance of railways (Canadian Pacific Railway and Grand Trunk Railway). Soon they built their own churches and institutions such as the magnificent Church of the Madonna della Difesa.
The largest wave of Italian immigrants arrived with the end of World War II. Between 1946 and 1960, thousands of Italian workers and peasants landed in the Port of Montreal or in the Port of Halifax (famously Pier 21) and proceeded on to Montreal by train (with a majority admitted under the family reunification). A large part of them settled around the Jean Talon Market and the Church of Madonna della Difesa, giving birth to Little Italy.
From 1961 to 1975, immigration had diversified and was characterized by a high proportion of workers in manufacturing and construction. It was after the 1970s that a sharp decline in immigration from Italy occurred.
Since its construction in 1918, this church has been closely associated with the Italian community in Montreal. The parish was established in the 1860s.
The building and its interior decoration, were made in stages by artist Guido Nincheri, whose work was influenced by the structure of a typical Italian parish church from the Renaissance era. The walls and ceilings are painted in bright coloured frescos.
The Jean-Talon Market (known locally as the Mercato) is a public market located in the heart of the Little Italy. This market opened in 1933 and was named after Jean Talon, the second Intendant of New France. It went through numerous renovations in the early 2000s, resulting in most of the market being sheltered, and there is also underground parking. The main entrance was opened in the summer of 2005.