Winter 2007





​Where is the Piazza



by Licia Canton



When I was four, I ran away from home on my brand new Graziella. (My father had just emigrated to Canada.) I pedalled all the way to the piazza where zia Imelda spotted me and promptly marched me home. My mother, sister and I would eventually join my father in Montreal, leaving behind my aunt and the little piazza in Cavarzere.


For much of small-town Europe, the piazza remains the central meeting place where people go to see and to be seen, where young and old meet to discuss soccer or politics, where nonne share pastries with grandchildren and lovers sip Prosecco.


​Where is the piazza? That was the question posed by Toronto writer and barrister Darlene Madott during her presentation at Project Vaughan, a conference spear- headed by Vaughan, a conference spear- headed by Vaughan Councillor Tony Carella, and  Elio Costa and Gabriele Scardellato of York University. Madott's presentation revolved around Woodbridge, Ontario, the district in Canada with the greatest proportion of people of Italian origin, according to Statistics Canada. 


The question could well be asked of any place on this continent: in the absence of a town square, where do people go to satisfy the basic need for meaningful human contact? Large cities have their downtowns and their suburban malls, though Little Italies – the caffès on the St. Lawrence Boulevards and College Streets of North America – seem to be places more favourable for human interaction.

  Accenti FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK Where is the Piazza Licia Canton

The profusion of fairs and festivals, fundraising dinners and other events – the “women’s night out,” the spaghettata, the polenta e baccalà, the vendemmia – organized on behalf of this or that good cause, are essentially pretexts to bring people together in their own kind of little piazza, for a weekend or for just one night, the way people have for generations! Yet, as the post-immigration generation, we may be simultaneously attracted and disillusioned by the re-creation of these traditional practices.


We are now in a position to bring people together to discuss such topics as “Italian-Canadian Culture in the New Millennium,” as Paolo Chirumbolo, Franco Gallippi and Vikki Cecchetto did recently at McMaster University in Hamilton. And last October Smaro Kamboureli provided a venue at the University of Guelph to discuss culture in Canada at “TransCanada Two: Literature, Institutions, Citizenship.” It is at gatherings such as these – where ancient and modern cultural practices are discussed and where they often collide – that the seeds of action are planted that will shape our cultural future.


Whereas our ancestors harvested every season, our cultural harvest is decades in the making: future generations will benefit from present-day seeding. We are the makers of tomorrow and, to paraphrase activist and public intellectual Peter Kulchyski – keynote speaker at TransCanada Two – our actions today are our gifts to the generations that follow. We are engaged in a continual process, whether we are aware of it or not, whether we want to or not. We are building a nation. What we produce or buy, what we talk about, what we write about or choose to read, are all small steps in that action of building, of constructing a culture for our children. 


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