If you’d like a taste of Italy without setting foot outside the capital, then you really need to visit Clerkenwell this July. For that’s when the area, which is home to a thriving community of Italian immigrants, plays host to its annual Italian Parade, or, to give it its proper name: The Procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The festival has been taking place for over a hundred years and it has become one of the highlights of the summer in this part of Central London. The event features music, costume, dance alongside the procession itself, but not surprisingly, for a country renowned for its cuisine, it is the food which dominates the celebrations.
A range of stalls along Warner Street offer a dazzling variety of Italian treats, with arancini, prosciutto and cannoli to name but three. So, if you love Italian food then this is definitely the place to be.
The other highlight of the day is the procession itself. Starting and finishing outside St Peter’s Italian Church on Clerkenwell Road, the procession winds its way around the winding streets of Clerkenwell, with an assortment of floats, marching bands, angels and biblical figures to entertain the crowds.
In recent times the parade has been organised by local Clerkenwellian, Peter Bertoncini. Participating in the parade for the first time at the tender age of seven, Bertoncini was immediately bitten by the festival bug, so much so in fact that for the last forty years he has been running the event himself. An interior designer by trade, the Londoner often helps out with the designs for the individual floats as well as coordinating the event himself.
The Italian Parade is part of what is known in Italy as a sagra, a festival of veneration for a patron saint. The Clerkenwell event revolves around nearby St Peter’s Church, which was built in 1863 the form of a Roman basilica. Clerkenwell was once known as Little Italy due to the high number of Italian immigrants who chose to make the area home and St Peter’s has been at the heart of community life in the area for over 100 years. The oldest Italian church in London, the building hosts mass in Italian every Sunday.
More information about the Italian Parade can be found here.
For more great outdoor events in London, please click here.