Little Italy

Fresh from China Town we head to the neighbouring district of Little Italy.

Once known for its large population of Italian Americans today the evocative neighbourhood holds only a handful of Italian stores and restaurants.

It has some well known neighbours, to the west by Tribeca and Soho, on the south by Chinatown, on the east by the Bowery and Lower East Side, and on the north by Nolita.

It might be small but it packs a lot into a few blocks including colourful artwork and this traditional / kitsch cigar shop complete with Pope and Native American Indian wood carving.

Mass immigration from Italy during the 1880’s led to large settlements of Italian immigrants in lower Manhattan and in 1910 Little Italy was home to almost 10,000 Italians, all bringing their food, language and culture vividly to life in its streets.

They also brought with them less desirable influences including organised crime and the Mafia.

These days the district is a shadow of its former self with its neighbour China Town rapidly expanding to takeover where gelaterias and authentic Italian restaurants once thrived.

But you can still see the red and white checked table clothes lining the streets and grab yourself a cannoli or traditional pastry.

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It is still a fascinating place to visit, still full of little details including this Italian flag coloured water hydrant.

You can also spot colourful wall art in hidden corners if you slow down and take a look.

Little Italy was the location of the fictional Corleone crime family vividly bought to life in the novel The Godfather and the three movies based on it.

Tenement buildings, once home to the immigrants who settled the area still line the narrow streets.

Below is the John Jovino Gun Shop. It has the dubious honour of being the oldest gun shop in New York City, it also claims to be the oldest in all of America.

Founded in 1911, most of its customers are in law enforcement.

Even though its heyday is over, in the sunlight, watching the older men lounge in the shade, you are still transported back to the early days of Little Italy where optimistic men and women from the old world made the bustling streets of NYC their new home.

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