Italians to celebrate important anniversary Saturday at Tivoli Circle

Mar 26, 2022 436

The American-Italian Federation of the Southeast will celebrate the 99th birthday of Italy’s Air Force as well as the 95th Anniversary of the historic transatlantic flight of renowned Italian aviator Francesco de Pinedo Saturday, March 26 at 10 a.m. at Tivoli Circle, commonly known as Lee Circle. Accompanied by a navigator and a fuel man, de Pinedo began a four continent flight from Rome and landed a seaplane on the Mississippi River at Canal Street on March 29, 1927 – a full two months before aviator Charles Lindberg crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

Thousands of Italians, the majority of Sicilian descent, lined the Mississippi River to greet de Pinedo. In 1925 de Pinedo had previously flown to Australia, China and India. The Italian government bestowed upon him the title “Lord of the Distances.”

De Pinedo chose to stop in New Orleans during his U.S. tour to boost the spirits of the Sicilians who had migrated to the city predominately during the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Their poor English-speaking skills and swarthy complexion made them victims of discrimination by the more sophisticated citizens of French and Spanish descent. Thousands of individuals of Sicilian heritage came to the city because of economic hardship, plagues and famine. Once in New Orleans, the new arrivals found work as farmers on plantations or as stevedores on the wharves.

So many Sicilians settled in the lower French Quarter that the neighborhood became known as “Little Palermo.” More than 100,000 citizens of Sicilian descent were thought to be living in metro New Orleans by the 1920’s.

In 1924 half of all corner grocery stores in Louisiana were owned by former Sicilian immigrants who often resided “above the store.” Important family names from the first wave of Sicilian merchants include Zuppardo, Rouse, LaNasa, Schiro, Panzeca, LaRoca, Zito, Cabrini and Serio.

In 1810 city planner Barthelemy Lafon selected the name Tivoli Place for the site at the intersection of Howard and St. Charles avenues to make a New Orleans connection with the world famous Tivoli Gardens, built over Roman ruins in ancient times. Lafon had originally named the entire Lower Garden District “Place de Tivoli” and chose to name the cross streets in honor of Greek Muses including Thalia, Melpomene and Terpsichore.

After General Robert E. Lee’s death, supporters of Lee approached city leaders in 1877 regarding the possibility of honoring Lee at Tivoli Place. City officials allowed the Lee Monument Association use of the land (only) to erect a towering likeness of Lee. A dedication ceremony was held on February 27, 1884. Almost 150 years later Mayor Mitch Landrieu ordered the removal of the statue in 2017 and the City Council subsequently passed an ordinance recognizing the land as Tivoli Place.

A city-appointed renaming commission which reviewed street names with possible connections to slavery identified Tivoli Circle as the legal name for the street at the Howard-St Charles intersection. Following a lawsuit (Case # 2021-8053) filed in New Orleans Civil District Court by the American-Italian Federation of the Southeast, on December 1, 2021 Assistant City Attorney Michael Laughlin acknowledged “that Tivoli Circle is the name of the street commonly referred to as Lee Circle.” Federation officials hope that the city will begin referring to the intersection by its legal name in all official maps and other documents.

Saturday’s ceremony will honor the 95th landing of de Pinedo in New Orleans and also mark the 99th Anniversary of the Italian Air Force. Plans are already underway with the government of Italy to celebrate the Air Force’s 100th Anniversary next year. Italy’s Regia Aeromautica (Royal Air Force) was founded on March 28, 1923 as an independent service by King Vittorio Emanuele III of the Kingdom of Italy.

This week’s event will include a display of 10 images which tell the story of de Pinedo’s “Four Continents Flight.” Some images depict de Pinedo’s March 29, 1927 landing in New Orleans. A painting of de Pinedo’s plane landing in Brazil hangs in the lobby of the New Orleans Lakefront Airport. Pinedo died during an attempted non-stop flight between New York and Bagdad in 1933. His long-range flying boat trips in the 1920’s demonstrated the feasibility of global air travel, according to Wikipedia.

The American-Italian Federation of the Southeast has advocated turning Tivoli Circle into a Blue Star and Gold Star Memorial. April 5th is Gold Star Wives Day. The Gold Star program was founded in 1945 to aid wives of World War II soldiers killed in action. Today is aids the spouses of active military with a military cause of death.

At 10:30 am Federation President Charles Marsala will talk about de Pinedo’s 60,000 mile journey across four continents, his landing in New Orleans, and the Gold Star Memorial vision of the Federation.

For more information contact Marsala at 650-333-8212 or 

SOURCE: American Italians & Sicilians of the South & West

You may be interested