A Look Back: Little Italy Montreal

Angie Spitalieri Ianiro, Publisher Angie Spitalieri Ianiro, Publisher

We hope you are enjoying your summer! We are especially excited because – it’s festival time! If your church or community is celebrating a festival this summer, please share with us. 

Please enjoy this article about Montreal’s Little Italy from July 2019. If you are interested in writing for us, please reach out. You can write as often as your schedule allows. To learn more, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please check out our online version of La Gazzetta. We encourage you to purchase your subscription today. Please visit our site at www.lagazzettaitaliana.com. We always appreciate your feedback. 

We are headed across the border in this month’s Little Italy feature. With the second-largest Italian population in Canada (behind Toronto), Montreal, Quebec’s Little Italy is a neighborhood full of history, food, espresso, and, well, Italians! 

Quebec’s Italian presence dates to the 19th century when Italians served in the Carignan-Salières Regiment. 

Most of the temporary immigrants during this time worked in mines, railways and lumber camps. In the early 20th century, permanent immigrants emerged working in construction and railway maintenance. As the number increased, these immigrants began to build their own churches and institutions, most notably the Church of Madonna della Difesa. The largest wave of Italian immigrants arrived with the end of WWII, most landing in the Port of Montreal and eventually settling around the Jean Taylor Market, a farmer’s market opened in 1933, and the Church of Madonna della Difesa, giving birth to Montreal’s Little Italy. 

The heart of Montreal’s Little Italy is the Church of Madonna della Difesa, a large, gorgeous piece of architecture built in 1919. The church features the rare fresco of Pius IX and Mussolini next to each other. Built by immigrants from Molise to commemorate the apparition of the Madonna in La Difesa, Casacalenda, Molise, the church was designed by Roch Montbriant and Canadian artist Guido Nincheri who also painted many of the church’s famous frescoes. 

Today, Little Italy Montreal lures lovers of all things Italian with its pizza, high quality cheeses and breads, espresso, wine, and more. With fine Italian dining, beautiful parks, Italian Canadian-owned shops, and of course the beautiful church, this area of Montreal offers visitors a great taste of Italia.