La Jolla groups aim to preserve Italian traditions


Two recently formed La Jolla organizations have joined forces to preserve and promote the heritage of a group of immigrants who have made their mark in the San Diego area throughout much of its history.

The Italia Foundation of La Jolla and the Convivio Society for Italian Humanities are working to protect items and traditions that represent the history of San Diego’s Italian Americans for future generations.

Keeping the history of San Diego’s Italian community alive is important, since all traces of it could quickly disappear unless action is taken soon, said Tom Cesarini, who heads the Convivio Society.

Many Italian families originally settled in San Diego downtown’s Little Italy, he said, but the population has since spread, “and in five to 10 years, you might not notice an Italian presence here at all.”

Working together

Although separate, the two La Jolla groups complement and support each other to coordinate information and events designed to educate the public about Italian culture in the United States and in Italy, said Italia Foundation President Frank Lieggi.

Both organizations were created two years ago, and operate from the same office at 7825 Fay Ave., Suite 200.

The foundation provides online resources for information about Italian language, culture and heritage; and the Convivio Society organizes and takes part in community activities that celebrate Italian culture.

The focus of the Italia Foundation is to create an Internet “portal for everything Italian,” Lieggi said.

The group is building a Web site,

, which will feature a newsletter; community forum, posting of events in Italy and the U.S.; and links to sites specializing in Italian travel, tourism, culinary arts, study abroad, politics and other interests.

Films, festas ahead

The Convivio Society is actively involved in a number of activities promoting Italian culture, including creating Films al Fresco, an outdoor Italian film festival to be held in August at the University of San Diego.

The society also will host an information booth at the 16th annual Italian Festa on Oct. 12 in Little Italy. Part of Italian Heritage Month held each October, the Festa is now the largest single-day Italian event outside of New York City, and this year should attract more than 120,000 people, organizers say.

The Convivio Society recently established the Italian Historical Society of San Diego. It has partnered with UC San Diego to establish the Italian Archives at the university’s Mandeville Special Collections Library.

Preserving the past

The society is soliciting donations of original photographs, documents, manuscripts, books and films to be housed at the library for preservation and research. Cesarini said his group also is looking for a site to establish the Italian Cultural Institute of San Diego.

“We’re considering several locations,” he said. “Our goal is to establish a one-stop shop - a destination for the entire community to learn about Italian history.”

The future center will recount the history of San Diego’s Italians through photographic exhibits and other displays. It will house a reference library, computer lab, historical archives and Italian language school.

Language is an important way to keep interest in Italian culture alive, Cesarini said. To that end, both La Jolla groups offer language classes for children and adults.

Learn Italian

An introduction

- Oct. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.

- 12:15 to1:30 p.m.

- Free

- To register go the


Semester-long class

- Oct. 11 through Feb. 7.

- Fees vary.

- To register, call (888) 485-485-4825 or go to