Searching for outdoor parades, food workshops, wine tasting, or massive cultural celebrations? Look no further! Every year, Ottawa’s community of Little Italy plays host to a number of events and festivals designed to highlight both the traditional and modern aspects of its combined Italian/Canadian heritage. Among those held are:
- Italian Week, which concludes with the three-day Ottawa Little Italy Festival celebration
- La Vendemmia, a celebration of the traditional fall grape harvest
Little Italy also participates wholeheartedly in these Ottawa-wide festivals:
- The Tulip Festival
All of these events, hosted right in the centre of the community, bring residents and visitors alike together to celebrate Little Italy’s history and future in a thoroughly unique and entertaining way!
Preston Street is the host of many unique celebrations annually in Little Italy
Italian Week and the Ottawa Little Italy Festival
Settimana Italiana, or Italian Week, in Little Italy takes place in June and runs from the beginning of one weekend to the end of the next, packing the week with Italian-themed events and happenings. It begins with the Feast of St. Anthony on the first weekend, a large procession through the streets in honour of St. Anthony, which culminates in a feast, performances, and live music . The second weekend of Italian Week is known as the Ottawa Little Italy Festival (Olifest, for short), and is a three-day street celebration which sees Preston Street closed to vehicular traffic in order to accommodate the over 125,000 people who flock to the area. It has been running for 36 years now, and is also the host event to the Ottawa Ferarri Festival, the Italian Car Parade, the Preston Street Bike Race and more .
During the Ottawa Little Italy Festival, businesses expand their patios out onto the street, live bands perform, fireworks happen at least one night of the three… Sometimes there are special events, such as this year which saw an extension of the fireworks and special acts in honour of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, but, as Little Italy’s Business Improvement Association executive Lori Mellor describes it, “…this is the biggest and longest street party in the city. The predictability is what people expect every year and look forward to” . The event itself draws both residents and tourists alike from around the world, even in the off-season, to come and celebrate Italian culture with each other in the heart of Ottawa.
The second major festival which takes place every year is known as La Vendemmia– it is one of the many September festivals and fairs in Ottawa
, and its focus is the celebration of the traditional fall grape harvest . It has been running for 15 years now, and also attracts both residents and visitors to the streets of Little Italy with events focussed on cuisine, art, and of course, wine.
La Vendemmia includes the Little Italy Fall Farmers' Market in its celebrations
Some of these events include the Movable Feast, which highlights some of the excellent dining and food options available in the community, the Grape Stomp fundraiser for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, and the Taste of Preston St. Food and Wine Show. As well, there is an art show, farmer’s market, multiple workshops (wine making, etc.), walking tours of art, food, and landmarks, wine judging, cooking demonstrations, and the list goes on! There is something for everyone in this classy and classical festival!
Ottawa Winterlude and Tulip Festival Participant
Little Italy is also an active participant in some of the Ottawa-wide festivals and celebrations which are held every year. During Winterlude in February, ice sculptures line the streets and themed banners fly from streetlights. As well, during the annual Tulip Festival in May, businesses in the community plant thousands of tulips outside their buildings. For both of those events, restaurants also offer special menu items and offerings to complement the goings-on .
Italian traditions infuse Little Italy's festivals and make them truly unique
Mark Your Calendars!
Little Italy is clearly not a destination to be missed! With special events and festivals happening multiple times a year, it is one of Ottawa’s best locations for entertainment and celebrations. If you haven’t already, make sure to add Little Italy to your list of must-see places to visit! If you have already been to any (or many) of Little Italy’s events, what are some of your favourite memories of the festivals? Discovered an unforgettable wine at La Vendemmia? Saw a great musician perform during Italian Week? Tell us in the comments or on Little Italy Ottawa’s Facebook page!