One of the best things about London is that when you take a trip there you don’t just get to go to the English capital, you get to visit countries from all over the world. Thanks to the hundreds of people who live there, London is one of the most diverse cities you’re likely to see in the world.
A particularly strong cultural vibe that is threaded through London’s streets is from Italy, there are a huge amount of restaurants, cafes, classes and people in the city that all bring authentic Italian flavour to the Big Smoke. Not only this but there are events like parades that bring the city to life and celebrate the thriving community that is living and growing in the city.
If you’re a big fan of Italian culture and fancy a weekend break to London, you’ll be pleased to know that you can do both quite easily. We’ve listed some great Italian sights and activities that you can take part in that are perfect if you’re an Italian living in London or if you’re just a massive fan of this beautiful, boot-shaped part of Europe.
Whatever the case, we’re certain that you’re all going to be big fans of the activities that are waiting for you to enjoy them in the city.
London’s Italian parade
Each year, Clerkenwell hosts a procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is more commonly known as London’s Italian parade.
In earlier years, Clerkenwell and the surrounding areas of Saffron Hill, Hatton Garden and Rosebery Avenue were where the main throng of Italians were living in the city. It was from here that the Italian influence began to thrive and expand into other parts of London, but this has remained something of an epicentre for this culture.
At one time, Clerkenwell was referred to as London’s Little Italy and around 12,000 Italians were living in this and other areas around the 10th century. It is St Peter’s church that became the main hub of Italian life, as it was the first basilica-style church built in the UK and now it’s the starting point of the parade every year.
What can you see when you go to the parade? The colours of the Italian flag are everywhere and in the air you can smell polenta and cured sausages from streets away. Thousands of people come to see this procession every year to cheer on the parade patrons who wear festive costumes to help celebrate.
Anyone is welcome to this celebration of London’s Italian heritage and culture, and it’s a great way for you to learn more about the authentic influence on the city.
Now, on to some of the places where you can try Italian food and beverages for yourself – get ready to have your tastebuds tempted.
Terroni of Clerkenwell
This is the oldest Italian deli in the entirety of England and has been serving London’s Italian community for years. It’s situated right next to St Peter’s church, so you’ll be able to find it easily if you’ve come to watch the annual parade.
It was founded in 1878 and you’d be hard pushed to find an Italian in the city who hasn’t been to it at least once. Although most are regular customers due to the high quality of everything that’s on offer.
We would highly recommend the cannoli, which are delicious sweet pastry tubes filled with anything from fresh cream to chocolate or cheesecake mixtures. They’re a lovely snack to have with espresso or to take out and eat while you’re walking around exploring the area.
E. Pelicci is another one of the oldest Italian institutions in London and has been a family-run business for years – you’ll come for both the food and the warm family atmosphere.
The cafe is a grade II-listed building on Bethnal Green and is run by Nevio, who is the grandson of the original owner and founder Priamo. One of the most popular dishes is the legendary spaghetti bolognese, which is a favourite with locals and celebrities alike. The have a photo album of the celebrities who come through the doors both for a flying visit and on a regular basis.
Make sure you bring your appetite when you come here, as the portions are great and you’re sure to want to try everything on the menu.
One of the most popular exports from Italy has to be the country’s ice cream, which is why there are lots of places to find it in the city, thanks to London’s flourishing Italian scene.
However, those who are foodies know that gelato is truly the best frozen dessert from Italy and one of the best places to get it is from Gelupo on Archer Street. Here is where you’ll find a decadent selection of gelati, granita and sorbet, which are made fresh every day. There are several flavours to choose from and all of them are delicious – you’re going to be spoiled for choice!
It’s a great place to stop at if you’ve had dinner and would like to try somewhere different for dessert. Otherwise, we recommend that you pop in here on a sunny day, nothing breaks the heat better than a scoop of gelato from Gelupo.
This is where lovers of football will find the heart of Juventus fans in London, as this is known as the club’s unofficial base in the city.
Of course, London is well known for having lots of excellent pubs to watch the football live but this is the only place that you’re going to have the authentic Italian atmosphere to go along with the game. Like most Italian things, this place is full of lively atmosphere, we dare say that even if you aren’t a football fan, you’re guaranteed a fun night out here.
What’s even better is that it’s really easy to find, as it’s located close to Tottenham Court Road, so you can easily end up here after a full day of sightseeing in central London. Don’t forget that once the game is over, you’re right in the middle of Soho, so you can continue a night of partying into the wee hours if you feel like celebrating!
Bocca di Lupo
Another great place to try in the Soho area is Bocca di Lupo, which is one of the more recent Italian influences in the city.
This restaurant has received several awards and accolades for its honest and unfussy Italian food that is as close as you’re going to get to eating food in Italy itself. The surroundings of the restaurant are glamourous and refined but the food is rustic and delicious, making it a perfect blend for romantic dinners or big family events.
It’s a family business and proudly calls itself a trattoria at heart, which promotes its warm and welcoming space. Most of the ingredients are made on-site, including the gelati, pasta, breads and sausages, and all of the rest, including the wine and meat are sourced from Italy itself.
Some highlights on the menu include fritto misto alla piemontese, which includes lamb chop, sweetbreads and pear, and the gnocchi with spicy sausage ragu. There is a huge range of seafood to be enjoyed here too; really, you can’t go wrong when you eat here.