Italians have been living in London, UK 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 2000 was formed, and 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. Other ‘Italian areas’ of London now include Islington,Battersea, and in particular Kensington and Chelsea.
St.Peter’s Italian Church (St.Pietro)
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 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. italianchurch.org.uk