The Giglio Boys: Italian Williamsburg

Jun 03, 2022

Hello everyone, I promise my long awaited post on ethnic specific food will arrive soon. I just had something quite delicious (perhaps Italian), but I need to do more “on site” research in advance.

Regardless, I’ve decided to make up for my missed posts by discussing the remaining enclaves.

Out of all, Italian Williamsburg is almost certainly the oldest. Beginning with the 1860’s, Southern Italians arrived in New York City in droves, forming communities all over the metropolitan area. In the case of Williamsburg, immigrants from the city of Nola were the primary Italian group to establish its own Little Italy.

In truth, the history of Northside is quite plain. Italians worked in factories at first, passing on their traditions and language to their children. Due to its age, however, the community overtime became more and more Americanized, leading to assimilation and the decline of Italian identity, supplanted with Italian-American heritage.

This process of Americanization was joined by often talked about gentrification, coming into force in the late 90’s. Since then, the community has shrunk considerably, due to old age and moving out.

One enduring tradition, which has yet to be diminished by the aforementioned phenomena, is that of the Giglio festival. Known as the fest of Lilies (Giglio means Lily), the celebration stemmed from the feast of Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese Catholic much celebrated in Southern Italy.

Each year, the local church of Mount Carmel hosts the festival, bringing back many former residents into the city to help with carrying a three ton statue (its weird) around the neighborhood. If you are in the City during the second week of August, I recommend going.

Look forward for another blog post tomorrow!

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