Montreal has one of the largest Italian communities in Canada, and nowhere is the community’s huge influence on the city more obvious than in leafy, park-filled Little Italy. As in Italy itself, food is an integral part of Little Italy’s appeal, and foodies flock to crowded pizzerias, old-school delis, and the vast Jean-Talon Market.
Little Italy, one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods, is heaven for anyone with a soft spot for Italian food, or just good food in general. Montreal’s biggest and best food market, Jean-Talon Market, is a common stop on Montreal food tours, which often include interactions with market vendors and tastings of farm-fresh produce, as well as visits to nearby brewpubs and independent coffee shops. During summer and fall, bike tours are a great way to explore Little Italy as well as surrounding neighborhoods such as the Plateau, Mile-Ex, and Mile End.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Little Italy—and Montreal as a whole—has an excellent and extensive bike path network, making cycling an easy and pleasant way to explore.
- Go with an empty stomach so you can sample the food on offer.
How to Get There
Little Italy is delineated by Rue Jean-Talon, Rue St-Denis, Rue de Bellechasse, and Boulevard St-Laurent. To get there, take the metro (orange line) to Jean-Talon, Rosemont, or Beaubien. The 55 bus, which travels north up Boulevard St-Laurent from downtown Montreal, also passes through Little Italy.
When to Get There
Little Italy shines during summer, when cafés and restaurants set up temporary outdoor terraces, neighborhood parks are packed with picnickers, and the streets around Jean Talon Market fill with stalls and buskers. Come during the week or early on weekend mornings and listen for locals chatting in Italian over their morning espresso.
The History of Montreal’s Italian Community
Though Italians have been in Quebec since as far back as the 17th century, Montreal’s Little Italy really came into its own with two later waves of Italian migrants: the first at the turn of the 20th century, and the second during the aftermath of World War II. Though many people of Italian descent have since moved to the suburbs, Little Italy remains at the center of Italian life in the city. The district is home to the most important Italian Catholic church in the city, the Church of the Madonna della Difesa, and hosts the annual Italian Week festival in August.