Edinburgh World Heritage

Little Italy

By the early 1900s the Grassmarket was home to so many Italian immigrants it became known as ‘Little Italy’…

Image from Edinburgh Libraries, discover more at www.capitalcollections.org.uk

The tradition amongst old Italians was that the first immigrant to settle was an Italian organ-grinder, who arrived in Edinburgh in about 1882 from the town of Picinisco. Certainly by 1885 the census shows many names such as Antonio Perillo, Saliatore Maggarillo, Giacomo Aregenzi, Vincenzo Pacell, Michelo De Pelocito, Donato Perillo, Gevioni Baldo and Alexander Antonella

The most popular jobs were musician and ice cream seller, both of which could be peddled in the streets. The ice cream was served direct from the barrows with shouts of "Gelati, ecco un poco’, and so to locals they became known as the 'Hokey Pokey men'.

Toni Capaldi , who moved to Edinburgh in 1915 recalled: “…the Grassmarket was so full of Italian immigrants it was called ‘Little Italy’. One woman used to go around with a hurdy gurdy with a little monkey, and one with a little bird – a sparrow or something- that was used to pick out a card for telling people’s fortunes. One of these daft things but it used to collect money and that’s how they lived a lot of them, by playing accordions and that.”

Story hosted by: Mama's Pizza www.grassmarket.net

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