The Italians In London

It surprised us when we first learned of the Italian presence in the UK, particularly the Italians in London, Liverpool and Glasgow, but we've since realized that the British Isles would have been a very desirable destination; it's a far shorter journey than crossing the oceans to Australia or the Americas.

Juliana de Angelis has written an interesting article on the subject titled Italian London:

Italians have been coming to live in London for hundreds of years, including Canaletto, the famous Renaissance artist whose works can be seen in the National Gallery and Buckingham Palace. In the first half of the 19th century, there was an influx of political refugees into London. By 1854 London's first Italian community of about 2,000 was formed in Clerkenwell. Many opened businesses in the catering industry, or worked as artisans, street vendors or street musicians.There is still a large Italian community in Clerkenwell, and this area is also home to the Italian Church, St. Peters, which holds Italian events and youth clubs for the Italian community. It is also the area of London that has most of the original Italian businesses, shops and cafes.

When Italian immigrants formed the first Italian community in London over 150 years ago, they had no official church of their own, and used to attend prayer at the Royal Sardinian Chapel at Lincoln's Inn Fields. The 1st Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Wiseman, invited St.Vincent Pallotti to establish an Italian Church in London. Helping in the task were Fr. Raffaele Melia, the Italian chaplin to the Sardinian Church, and Fr. Giuseppe Faa' di Bruno, a priest from Turin. By 1853, enough funds had been raised to buy a site for the Italian Church of St. Peter's in London's 'Little Italy'. St.Peter's opened in 1863, and, at that time, was the only church in Roman Basilican style. It remains an important focal point for the Italian community in London, and many regularly attend prayers and mass, as well as celebrating important events in the church's calendar.

Other 'Italian areas' of London now include Islington, Battersea, and, in particular, Kensington and Chelsea.

About the Author:
Juliana de Angelis is a travel writer about Italy... read more articles, travel guides and information about Italy, its people and culture at her website:
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When reading about Italians in London, several other famous names came to mind:

  • Giovanni Caboto, a navigator from Genoa, relocated his family to the UK in 1484, and, under his Anglicized name of John Cabot, laid claim to the mainland of Canada in 1497 on behalf of the British Crown.

  • The Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi sought funding from his British mother's family in London, and sent the first wireless messages from the Isle of Wight across the English Channel in 1899.

Famous Britons with Italian ancestry include:

Dominic and Anthony Minghella (film directors)
Jim Capaldi (rock musician - Traffic)
Anita Roddick (Body Shop entrepreneur)

and the following actors:

Jason Connery
Tom Conti
Timothy Dalton
Claire Forlani
Christopher Lee
Cherie Lunghi
Alfred Molina
Greta Scacchi
Mark Strong
Peter Ustinov