Located across the harbor from Charlestown and East Boston, the North End stuffs a lot of cannoli— and over 100 restaurants into less than a mile radius. The sheer number of Italian restaurants also represents the Italian-American residents in the neighborhood known as “Little Italy.” In fact, this Italian enclave is considered the oldest and most iconic immigrant neighborhood in Boston.
The Italian connection began in 1912, when three immigrants opened a pasta factory, Prince Macaroni, to fulfill the culinary needs of the neighborhood. But that’s not how the story begins.
The North End started as a home to the New Guinea slaves and English Puritans. As American Revolution colonists such as Paul Revere journeyed to Boston, it was home to Irish and Jewish immigrants. At the turn of the 17th century, a mass immigration of Italian families from Genoa arrived in search of religious freedom.
The North End was considered the perfect location. Its proximity to the waterfront and downtown markets enabled transatlantic commerce, bringing a global mix of cultures that filled the area. The Italian culture has since remained strong and multiplied. But the home of Paul Revere is still a tourist attraction and part of the North End history. Tours of his house offer a glimpse into life here in the 1800s. And in addition to Paul Revere’s home, the Old North Church, built in the 1700s, is a worthy spot to stand in and envision it as part of the American Revolutionary War.
To honor its historic connections, during the summer, several annual festivals and activities take place in the North End. Because Italian culture makes up 90 percent of its population, the festivals celebrate Italian culture and heritage.
According to the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, “an estimated 22.7 million people visited Boston in 2019” most of who end up in the North End. Being separated by Highway 93 from the rest of Boston, this “Little Italy” has proudly continued as a tight-knit community.
Ready to visit? Here is a list of the most popular festivals and events taking place this summer in the North End.
#1-Saint Agrippina Feast, August 4-7
Pray to Saint Agrippina for protection against harmful diseases and evil spirits during this festival’s ceremony on Thursday from 7-11pm. Look forward to a Prince tribute on Friday as well as a tug-of-war event on Sunday. Crowd favorites such as fresh shellfish and fried calamari will be available for purchase.
#2-Madonna Della Cava Feast, August 12-14
This year marks the 103rd anniversary of the Feast of the Madonna Della Cava in the North End. The Feast of Madonna Della Cava reflects the same festival held in Pietraperzia, an Italian commune in Sicily. There is a cloth banner bearing Madonna’s photo and it’s carried throughout the parade. This feast will also include entertainment from ‘70s disco-funk group, Booty Vortex and Joey Canzano.
#3-Modern Pastry, Sundays at 7pm
Modern Pastry, located at 257 Hanover St., will host Stand-Up events every Sunday at 7pm. Local and visiting comedians will entertain patrons in the underground restaurant at this location.
#4-A Feast for Saint Lucia, August 25-26
Saint Lucia is known as the saint who preserves the “light in our eyes” and is also known as the saint who can aid the visually impaired. This event includes a candlelight procession on Thursday at 10:30pm, with food available to purchase from local chefs, as well as an open-air piazza available all weekend long!
#5-City Winery Boston
The City Winery is located at 80 Beverly Street and hosts concerts and comedy shows. This summer, look forward to Hey 19-Steely Dan Tribute, Just Fine-A Tribute to Mary J. Blige, and Rhett Miller (of the old 97’s). Tickets may be purchased Here
Whether you’re a resident of the city or visiting Boston for a quick weekend, the “Little Italy” community is a great place to visit and get a taste of the authentic Italian cuisines, culture, and lifestyle within the North End. With its plethora of events and festivals taking place this summer, you are sure to have a memorable time.
- Boston Events