A plaque honouring Sheffield’s Italian heritage is to be unveiled in the ‘Little Italy’ area of the city.
The sign – which will read Little Italy in the heart of Sheffield – is dedicated to Italian immigrants who settled in the West Bar area of Sheffield between 1860 and 1905. It has been organised by the West Bar Italians, a group of about 100 Sheffielders who descended from these old Italian families.
Leonard Franchetti, aged 73, said: “We’re so proud of our families and the influence they had.
“They came to Sheffield and opened ice cream shops, cafes, restaurants and became pottery makers – they were an integral part of Sheffield’s development.
“This plaque is to be unveiled by a representative of the Italian consul, in proud recognition of the contribution our families made to the city’s history and heritage.”
Leonard and his wife Brenda moved to Northumberland in the 1970s, where they remain, although Leonard says he comes back to Sheffield every chance he gets and is proud to be involved with the West Bar Italian group.
He said: “Over the last nine years, the group has grown to over 100 members, descendents of some of Sheffield’s oldest Italian families - the Granellis, the Buccieris, the Reboris and the Spinas.
“We come together to reminisce over what it was like growing up in that vibrant community – our grandparents and great-grandparents were all such characters!”
Rosita Granelli is the great-grandaughter of Luigi Granelli, who moved to Sheffield in the 1870s with his brother and started their, now famous, ice cream business. Rosita, the last of the Granellis, still runs the family’s sweet shop on Broad Street.
She said: “The old Italian community was so staunch and together and I’ve always thought it’s a pity there is nothing in the West Bar area to remember them by.
“I’m extremely proud of my family’s Italian roots and will be attending the plaque unveiling on September 19 for my grandfather, Luigi.”
Leonard revealed his grandfather spoke very little of Italy when he was growing up, meaning Leonard knew hardly anything about his grandfather’s homeland and the family he left behind.
He said: “His attitude was that he’d chosen to come to this country and he should learn the language and fit in, not be thinking of the country he’d left behind.
“I knew my family came from Santa Maria Oliveto, between Rome and Naples. In 1999, I travelled there to research my family tree.
“While I was there I stopped at a market to buy some cheese from a lady who asked me about my visit. As I told her about my family and that I was there to research my grandfather, Michael Franchetti, her face changed.
“It turned out my grandfather was also her grandfather – I had stumbled across my first cousin.
“We keep in touch and I visit my family there often now. It’s a huge family!”
The plaque will be unveiled on Thursday, September 19 at 11am. It is to be set in the stonework outside St Vincent’s Church, between Solly Street and Hollis Croft.
Leonard said: “That area of the city is run-down now, but there’s talk of it being revamped and office buildings being erected there, which would be wonderful.
“That part of the city has such a vibrant and important history and it will be great to see it brought back to life
“And no matter what becomes of the area next, the plaque will always be there, standing as a reminder of what came before it.”