Laidback and pedestrian-friendly Little Italy is a magnificent showcase of thriving European customs and an innovative drinking and dining scene. Little Italy was once the lifeblood of San Diego’s tuna fishing industry. It attracted immigrant Italian and Portuguese families, many of whom set up business and restaurants. Today their traditions flourish around piazzas and alongside modern bars, cafés and restaurants.
At the heart of the neighborhood is the elegant Piazza della Famiglia, a square framed by pavement cafés. Sit by the piazza’s Little Italy Fountain and watch locals coming and going. Sample delicious gelatos, pizzas, Maine lobster rolls and tacos at the Little Italy Food Hall.
Stroll through the neon-lit Little Italy Landmark Sign to India Street and find authentic Italian restaurants and fast food joints. Note the artwork on the sign’s pillars, which portrays the community’s fishing and culinary heritage. Nearby Kettner Boulevard is the place to hop between brewpubs, delicatessens, wine bars and restaurants owned by celebrity chefs.
Plan your visit on a Saturday for the Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market. With over 200 gourmet food, fresh produce and handicraft traders, this is San Diego County’s biggest farmers market. Chefs convene at the Little Italy Wednesday Market to stock up on fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat and fish.
For an insight into the history of the city’s fire department, browse displays of antique rescue equipment and vehicles at the Firehouse Museum. Attend a service at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, notable for its interior frescoes and stained-glass windows.
Make your way to the Waterfront Park to relax on lush lawns, have fun in interactive fountains and enjoy picnics with bay views. Here, the Maritime Museum of San Diego has historic ships and boat tours. Play bocce and attend the Little Italy Summer Film Festival at Amici Park.
Little Italy occupies the northernmost corner of Downtown San Diego. It’s just a 10-minute drive from San Diego International Airport and easy to reach by public buses and trolleys.