Italy, Canada and just a little bit of France collide in this little neighbourhood on Saint Laurent Boulevard, in Montreal, Canada. Welcome to Little Italy, where you can stroll arm-in-arm with your amore while breathing in the delicious aroma of pizza and pasta, and where your biggest decision for the day is whether to have your gelato before or after dinner….or both. Montreal has the biggest Italian population outside of Toronto, and Little Italy is where they have been going to celebrate all things Italian since migrants first established the neighbourhood in the 19th Century. The result is a heady mix of trattorias, cafes, parks, churches and markets that have all of Montreal flocking to live la dolce vita and with plenty to do, see and eat, it’s easy to see why.
What to Do
Grab a soccer ball (sorry, football) and head down to Parc Dante on Rue Dante for a kick. This quaint little park has loads of benches perfect for picnics and of course, a bocce ball court so you can try your hand at the traditional Italian game. Nearby delis such as Marche Milano offer Italian smallgoods, cheese and prepared traditional dishes for you to take on your picnic – Chianti optional.
Take a little bit of Italy home with you and visit Jean Talon Market. One of the oldest public markets in Montreal, it’s where Montrealers flock by the thousands to get their taste of fresh, seasonal produce and specialities from Italy and beyond. Adjacent to Little Italy on Henri-Julien Avenue, it offers shoppers fruit and vegetables, artisanal breads and baked goods, cheese, meat, wine, spices and oils. You are guaranteed not to leave hungry.
What to See
Designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2002, the Church of the Madonna della Difesa on Henri-Julien Avenue, is a Catholic church famed for its large cupola and brick façade. Visitors come to see the fresco depicting Mussolini signing the Lateran Accords before WWII.
What to Eat
Where to start? Restaurants, trattorias and cafes abound here, tucked between delis and gelato stops. Here is a selection of some of the best.
La Cornetteria: Offering great breakfast fare, La Cometteria on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, is where you start your day like a true Italian with a café latte and Nutella-filled Italian croissant. It’s also got great cannoli, macarons (originally Italian!) and the famous cronetto.
Caffé San Simeon: On Rue Dante, this café is famed for its coffee. Whether it’s crema or a café latte, you will find the perfect Italian brew
Restaurant Inferno: On Rue Saint-Dominique, Inferno serves homemade Italian market food, with everything made in-house.