HistoryIn the late 1880s, economic and political problems in Italy drove out flocks of people to New York City. Fleeing deteriorating conditions, families from Sicily and Naples found refuge in the rapidly growing Lower Manhattan. The tenements along Mulberry Street and Mott Street supported most of the recent arrivals from Southern Italy. It only took a few years for these bustling thoroughfares to collectively earn the name of Little Italy. Historic records indicate that more than 10,000 Italian immigrants once lived in this small ethnic neighbourhood, which only occupied a few blocks. Space in the Lower East Side was certainly precious at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the most famous accounts of Little Italy were told by Jacob Riis, a journalist who exposed the conditions in many of NYC's slums. Besides pointing out the unpleasant living conditions in the neighbourhood, this photographer was pleasantly surprised by the authentic culture that's been preserved by the residents. In its heyday, Little Italy closely resembled Sicilian and Neapolitan villages. Merchants, vendors, craftsmen and other hard-working individuals roamed the dense streets of the district for decades. The 1920s marked a major demographic decline of Little Italy as the residents moved out to more affluent areas in New York City and the surrounding suburbs. A small portion of the neighbourhood has been preserved, but most of it has been gradually swallowed by Chinatown.
Sightseeing and HighlightsAuthentic cuisine is without a doubt the biggest attraction in modern Little Italy. The narrow streets of this neighbourhood are lined with independent restaurants, cafes and eateries that specialize in regional Italian food. From pizzas and paninis to scampi and oysters, you'll find plenty of delicious treats in Little Italy. After enjoying the true taste of Sicily, Tuscany, Naples and other regions, you should visit the Italian American Museum. This museum hosts exhibits about the history of Italians in New York and the United States. Passports, travel documents, photographs and other original resources highlight the struggles and achievements of Americans with Italian heritage. The most important annual event in Little Italy is the San Gennaro Feast, which was first celebrated in 1926. Throughout the years, this festival evolved from a religious observation into an exciting street fair that appeals to diverse crowds. Colourful decorations, amusement park-style attractions, street vendors and entertainers make the Feast of San Gennaro one of the premier festivals in the Big Apple.
Location and TransportationServed by the B and D lines of the New York City subway, the Grand Street station offers convenient access to Little Italy. Additional subway service is available at the Canal Street station, which has several entrances and exits spanning several blocks. After exiting this busy underground subway stop, you'll need to go through Chinatown to reach the heart of Little Italy. Multiple Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) buses stop in both of these historic neighbourhoods. Most of the streets in these parts of Lower Manhattan are relatively narrow, and they have one-way traffic patterns. If you're driving to Little Italy, it's best to find a parking garage just south of Canal Street. Parallel parking spots in Manhattan's ethnic enclaves tend to be limited during the day.
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