Flags representing each of Italy’s 20 regions fly above the former Piazza DiMaggio, renamed Piazza Italia di Chicago, at 1434 W. Taylor St.
The Little Italy Chicago Neighborhood Association held an official name change ceremony May 22 to honor Italian immigrants who sought better lives for themselves and their families by coming to the community.
Thomas Botzios, the Italian consul general in Chicago, said in a keynote speech that the flags are “a meaningful way to celebrate our country and our community. Italians have always proved what being an Italian means: it means hard working, desire of integration in a new reality, preserving memories of our traditions and origins. It was a process not always smooth and easy. What Italians made and realized was not granted for free. It has always been achieved through sacrifice.”
In blessing the piazza, the Rev. Richard N. Fragomeni, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, prayed that “all who meet here find … friendship and a community of love.”
Descendants of immigrants to Little Italy/Taylor Street, newer neighborhood residents, and longtime local businesspeople presented the flags
Josephine Fiore and Paula D’Angelo unveiled a commemorative plaque. Fiore, who turned 99 on May 14, has lived in her family’s Taylor Street building her entire life. D’Angelo supports Italian cultural efforts and is the widow of community activist Oscar D’Angelo, who helped establish the piazza in 1999.
On June 5, marchers took down the flags for one day to display them on Italian Unity Day in a Mass and march that concluded at the piazza.
The piazza is the former site of a statue of baseball star Joe DiMaggio, erected at the plaza in 1999. The statue has been in storage since 2019 when the now-closed National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame removed it. The former museum is being converted into a hotel.
A related event occurred June 1 at the Little Italy Library when historian Carlo Vaniglia talked about the history of Italian Unity Day, Festa della Republica, June 2, 1946, when Italians voted to become a republic rather than a monarchy.
Italian culture will take center stage again in the community at the Little Italy Festa on Taylor Street Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 11 through 14.