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Photo of Albany Italian band

Albany Italian Band

The aim of this website is to offer a kind of cultural map to Italian American communities in California. "Community" here means something specific: a place where Italian immigrants first settled in clusters large enough to be noticeable. In other parts of the United States, such clusters are usually called "Little Italies." They are invariably urban and populated mainly by Italian immigrants from the south of Italy. California boasts several communities that can (or once could) be called "Little Italies," most notably those in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego. But California also saw the establishment of smaller clusters in both rural and urban areas up and down the state: dairy farmers in Marin county and along the coast, winemakers in the Napa Valley, fruit ranchers in the Santa Clara Valley, fishermen in Pittsburg and Santa Cruz and Monterey and San Pedro. This has meant that the variety (in origin and occupation) and the number of Italian communities in this one state has been unique.

Map of CaliforniaIt is this story--of Gold Rush communities in the Sierra foothills, of farming communities in valleys from Santa Clara to Lodi to Napa to Bakersfield, of railroad communities in Weed and Roseville, of miners and quarry workers and scavengers and bankers and store owners and canners traveling across an ocean and then an entire continent to settle a state and initiate much of its commerce--that we wish to convey. And though many of these original communities no longer exist as they once did the sons and daughters of the immigrants having over time moved to outlying areas--the story of their settlement is key to understanding what California has become. So we begin with the communities.

Choose a community from the drop down menu below.