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The Prescott

The Prescott

The Prescott shares a reputation with The Lafayette House in the Byward Market as the oldest licensed drinking establishment in Ottawa. Originally called The Preston Hotel (it stopped renting rooms in 1978), the establishment was re-baptized The Prescott in 1941 most likely, it is held, in recognition of its status as the last watering hole between Ottawa and the town…

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Premio Italian nel Mondo 2018

Premio Italian nel Mondo 2018

  Life and passionate pursuits deserve celebrating. The Premio all’eccellenza del lavoro e alla cultura Italiana nel Mondo, bestowed upon four honourees at a gala dinner and fundraiser on October 25, 2018, certainly was that – celebration in grand style. This was the 18th edition of the Premio, and third to take place in Toronto, since its inception in New York, in 1994,…

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Centro Arte e Cultura Alberto Di Giovanni in Roccamorice

Centro Arte e Cultura Alberto Di Giovanni in Roccamorice

To honour his hometown of Roccamorice in the mountains of Abruzzo, Alberto Di Giovanni established an exquisite cultural museum in a restored chapel in the heart of the village. The project began about 10 years ago when the municipality was able to fund the reconstruction of the “Baron’s Chapel,” a private chapel of the Barone Giuseppe Zambra.  A tall, square,…

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The Other Italy

The Other Italy

In Canada and the United States, Italians form an ethnic community whose values and traditions represent an alternative to the North American status quo. This particular reality often leads to the assumption, among other North Americans that Italy, unlike Canada or the US – countries composed of plural “national identities” – hosts no minority ethnic communities of its own. Historically,…

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Oregano & Origins: In the Shadow of the Italian Kitchen

Oregano & Origins: In the Shadow of the Italian Kitchen

I learnt to cook so well in Sicily that I will cause the banqueters to bite the dishes and the plates for joy.” – attributed to Alexis of Tarentum, 4th century BC, in Mary Taylor Simeti, Pomp and Sustenance: Twenty-five Centuries of Sicilian Food (1989). “Simplicity…is one of the most fundamental and at the same time most elusive keys to preparing food well……

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Rocky Roads: Northern Italy’s Jewish Heritage

Rocky Roads: Northern Italy’s Jewish Heritage

Mountain Jews in the Italian/Austrian Alps? The Tyrol region is not immediately associated with Jews or Jewish history. Yet surprisingly, the area encompassing the magnificent Dolomite Mountains has had a Jewish presence. In fact, no less breathtaking than the landscape of this UNESCO World Heritage property is the post-Emancipation history of the Jews who passed through this part of the…

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Sicilian Ruins: Resurrecting Poggioreale

Sicilian Ruins: Resurrecting Poggioreale

In a June 2012 editorial in a local Piedmont newspaper on the earthquake in Emilia-Romagna, the editor was careful to express his sympathy for the loss of life and injuries. But he was otherwise on another mission: that earthquakes in Italy do more than just knock down old buildings and towers. He explained that when an earthquake destroys a church…

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Home, Belonging and Identity

My fascination with cultural identity stems from the fact that I grew up immersed in three separate cultures that were often at odds with each other. I was legally Canadian, culturally Italian, and linguistically, a Quebecker. This hyper-awareness surrounding my cultural identity was only compounded when I left Montreal and moved to Newfoundland for graduate school in 2007. Leaving multi-ethnic…

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Where Everybody Knows (How to Spell) My Name

Where Everybody Knows (How to Spell) My Name

Recently, an acquaintance told me that I don’t look “Canadian.” In all fairness, the person who said it to me was not Canadian, and I think it was meant as a compliment. Still, it made me reflect on my cultural identity (as opposed to my national identity), and it made me realize how fluid and dynamic it can be. It’s…

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My Italian-Canadian-American Life in Reverse

My Italian-Canadian-American Life in Reverse

The first I saw of Rome was no different than the last I saw of it three years ago. The persistent chaos at Fiumicino, then at Termini, was familiar and, more importantly, happy. There is no reason for me to feel so instantly at home there or, in truth, almost anywhere on the peninsula. I have never lived there for…

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Italy For Beginners

Italy For Beginners

Can you imagine waking up every morning in a place where nearly every street has a coffee bar or gelato stand? Where you can sit on your balcony and watch the sunrise or set behind a majestic duomo in the distance? Where beauty and culture are at your fingertips? This place could seem like a dream, but for one summer, it became my reality:…

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I Left My Heart in Campania

I Left My Heart in Campania

There is a song, a famous Neapolitan song, that my mother taught me when I was a little girl: Vir 'o mare quant’è bello, Ispira tantu sentimento ... The opening lines of the song, Torna a Surriento, have been made famous by Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and Luciano Pavarotti. They have been enjoyed by thousands and thousands of fans over the…

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How Six Months in Turin Changed My Life

How Six Months in Turin Changed My Life

Italy! Land of delectable food, birthplace of the Renaissance, and home of great design – I believe it is one of the greatest places on Earth. My “soggiorno torinese” began in August 2005, but my journey had actually begun at McGill University, six months earlier with an acceptance letter from Italy for a student exchange. Growing up, I had always…

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Forever Home

I was standing outside the Palermo airport with my brother and sister, soaking in the scorching heat and the magnificent landscape. Sicily has such beauty to offer; from where I was standing, I could have taken any number of pictures that would have been postcard-worthy. I didn’t take any though, because my body was not yet used to the island’s…

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Being or Becoming: Who Am I, Really?

As I sit to write this piece, I am hit by a cosmic, albeit familiar, question: Who am I, really? My identity was never a major concern for me until recently. I’ve always been pretty certain of who I am. I’m Giulia, of course. I had my adolescent identity crisis, but that was part of growing up. Everyone goes through…

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Detective Joe Ricci: One of Vancouver’s Finest

Detective Joe Ricci: One of Vancouver’s Finest

The story of Vancouver police detective Joe Ricci reads like a Mickey Spillane novel: intrigue, shootings, killings, drugs and prostitutes. In the process, he is remembered as a law-enforcement officer who pushed the rules to the limit in order to take down a criminal. The year is 1912, six years following Joe Ricci’s arrival from Falvaterra, a town southeast of…

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Volumes Commemorate Italian Internees

The Community Historical Recognition Program instituted by the Government of Canada is a welcome step in exposing past wrongs and trying to gain new understanding of problematic historical events. As reported in the Summer issue of Accenti, in 2009 the Canadian Government created a program inviting community organizations to submit proposals for projects that acknowledge a dark chapter in Canadian history…

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When Mass Hysteria Leads to Injustice

Revisiting and re-examining difficult episodes from our past allows us to become attuned to the lessons of history that can inform and guide our social policies, laws and practices. In March 2003, I contributed an article entitled “What We Suffer Most Is Memory Itself” in the inaugural edition of Accenti Magazine (accenti.ca/library). At that time, I was completing research for…

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Italian “Enemy Aliens”: How Canada Declared War on Its Own Citizens

Italian “Enemy Aliens”: How Canada Declared War on Its Own Citizens

"Sending civilians to internment camps without trial simply because of ethnic origin was not then, is not now and never will be accepted in a civilized nation that purports to respect the rule of law. On behalf of the government and people of Canada, I offer a full and unqualified apology for the wrongs done to our fellow Canadians of…

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And the Band Plays On…

And the Band Plays On…

Montreal’s oldest Italian organisation, the Order Sons of Italy, is also the city’s oldest Italian band – and they have the photos to prove it! Joe Fratino doesn’t care much for the spotlight. Even as president of the Order of the Sons of Italy, the oldest Italian organization in Montreal, he usually prefers working in the background to ensure that…

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Enrico Tonti: The Most Powerful Man in America

It is widely accepted that the Italian contribution to the exploration of the New World ceased after a brief period of great discoveries. Cristoforo Colombo discovered America in 1492, and Giovanni Caboto landed in Newfoundland in 1497. Amerigo Vespucci explored the east coast of South America: his map was the first to recognize that the lands that the Europeans had…

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De Grassi, the Story Behind the Name

The Degrassi television series, which deals with real-life issues facing its young characters, has enthralled viewers in Canada and 100 other countries for thirty years. The original series, The Kids of Degrassi Street (CBC, 1979) took its name from a street in Toronto’s East End – De Grassi Street. Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High followed. The current edition, called Degrassi: The Next Generation, is now in its…

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Symbol of Resurgence – Montreal’s Casa d’Italia

Symbol of Resurgence – Montreal’s Casa d’Italia

In the mid 1960s the Italian community almost lost the Casa d’Italia landmark. It took great effort and much lobbying to prevent the expropriation and demolition of the Casa, whose lot had been earmarked for the construction of a station for Montreal’s newly created Metro system. This event is reflective of the often tumultuous seventy-five year history of the Casa d’Italia – a witness…

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Stereotypers Beware – Le Donne Briganti Have Your Number

Put away your prejudices, preconceptions and stereotypes. Le Donne Briganti are coming! Made up of women from all walks of Montreal life – lawyers, restaurateurs, conference centre directors and publishing house owners, to name but a few, Le Donne have made it their mission to speak and act out as one against what they feel is the malicious stereotyping of Italians. While…

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Baldassare Forestiere’s Underground Gardens

Baldassare Forestiere’s Underground Gardens

Baldassare Forestiere’s Underground Gardens is a work of art that expresses the conflicted and often bifurcating experience of Italian immigration to America. Under a ten-acre parcel of land in rural north Fresno, California, Baldassare Forestiere (1879-1946) dug over one hundred underground tunnels and rooms where he lived throughout his life. Though Forestiere’s Underground Gardens have become known among a few…

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From Russia Without Love: Letters from the Russian Front – 1942 (Part 1)

On the Luganskaya Front An endless column ahead of me is standing still on the frozen trail to Lugansk. It is a column only in a manner of speaking. It would be better to call it an infinitum of wrecks lined up one behind the other. Wrecks… Everything is decrepit, worn out, perforated, consumed, and dented - a perfect match…

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Home Winemaking: Reviving an Italian Tradition

Ask anyone for his or her impression of homemade wines and the answer most often includes some polite body language followed by one or two descriptives such as "too strong" or "harsh." Such wines are the result of outdated winemaking methods and poor grape selection. The younger generation of Italian Canadians sees little reason to keep the home winemaking tradition…

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La Storia Nascosta

La Storia Nascosta

In the unusual spelling of my family name lies a significant aspect of North American Italian culture. Schembri is the original spelling of my name, as it appears in the birth record of my grandfather in the nineteenth-century municipal record book in Bivona, Sicily.The vulgarization of surnames is, of course, typical among North American immigrants. It happened often for obvious…

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Minister’s Forum on Diversity and Culture

Last April I was privileged to be invited to the Minister's Forum on Diversity and Culture, a two-day affair organized by the Department of Canadian Heritage. The event brought together heritage department functionaries and representatives of the so-called ethnic media, ostensibly with the purpose of initiating a dialogue between the two parties. In plenary sessions and in smaller discussion groups,…

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Interview with Basilio Catania

Basilio Catania was born in Sicily in 1926 and moved to Milan at the age of three. He received a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from the Milan Polytechnical School in 1952. After completing his studies, he taught at both the Milan and Turin Polytechnical Schools and undertook a career in telecommunications research. He holds five US patents for inventions…

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Women’s Night Out

On a cold April Wednesday, when it seemed that winter in Toronto would never end, 145 women left the comfort of home and hearth and ventured out to the Columbus Centre to celebrate "Sacchetti's Women's Night Out." For organizer and originator Jane Sacchetti, this was the ninth successful evening in an annual event that started with a simple idea. She…

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What We Suffer Most Is Memory Itself

What We Suffer Most Is Memory Itself

Some months ago in Toronto, a group of legal scholars gathered to discuss the administration of security in a multicultural society (like Canada) in the aftermath of the horrific events of September 11, 2001. With the introduction before Parliament of Bill C-36, ethnic and racial profiling had burst onto the national agenda and attained renewed prominence. As one participant noted,…

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City of a Perilous Legacy

On June 10, 1940, and in the months following, while Canada was at war against Italy, hundreds of Italian Canadian men across the country were arrested by virtue of the War Measures Act. Terrified men, some as young as eighteen and others in their seventies, were whisked away to internment camps in the Canadian bush to serve a sentence as…

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Interview with Heritage Minister Sheila Copps

ACCENTI: Thank you for agreeing to appear in the inaugural issue of Accenti Magazine. Sheila Copps: No problem. I'm very excited about it. It's wonderful. ACCENTI: You delivered a very emotional address during the ceremony designating Madonna della Difesa Church a national historic site. Do you feel a special attachment to the Italian Canadian community? Sheila Copps: I was taught to speak French by…

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Just How Many Canadians of Italian Origin Are There? …And Where Do They Live?

According to the census conducted in the summer of 2001, Canada's total population was estimated to be 29,639,035. The greatest proportion of Canadians ever (39.42%) reported "Canadian" as their ethnic origin. Canadians of Italian origin account for 4.30% of the population, the eighth largest single group. Vaughn, north of Toronto, is the Canadian city with the greatest proportion of people…

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Of Churches, Frescos and Historic Sites

Of Churches, Frescos and Historic Sites

Last November 30, Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, in a simple but meaningful ceremony, designated Madonna della Difesa Church, in the heart of Montreal's Little Italy, a national historic site. "For the last 80 years, "Copps said, "Madonna della Difesa has been at the centre of the life of Montreal Italians. It has enabled the immigrants arriving from Italy to…

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