A project has been launched to establish the culture and history of long-established Italian families here. There are now more than 10,000 members of the so-called Irlandiani, – the Italians in Ireland - and while many came here during the boom Celtic Tiger years, this influential community in Ireland can trace its roots back to Christopher Columbas.
Other Italians of note include Charles Bianconi, who set up Ireland’s first public transport system in the 1800s; and the National Gallery’s chief conservator, Sergio Benedetti, who discovered The Taking of Christ, a lost masterpiece by Caravaggio in the Jesuits’ house of studies on Leeson Street in the 1990s.
“We want to explore and document the many ways in which they have contributed to Irish culture and society over the years,” says Dr Deirdre Nuttall, an independent researcher who is working on the project for the National Folklore Collection.
"We know that there are many families of Italian origin who are descended from people who arrived in the first half of the 20th century, and also from families who came to Ireland earlier, and that these families have many remarkable stories to tell. Our intention is to record and archive these stories, and they will form part of the National Folklore Collection."
Dr Nutall has already begun to speak with Italians anxious to tell their story. “It is early days yet, but already lots of people have been getting in touch. The Italian community here has a long history. All sorts of people came here in the 19th century, many of them highly skilled in the building trade who worked on churches and grand houses.”
Some came even earlier, among them the famous laFrancini brothers, of Swiss-Italian origin who produced stunning stucco work in Irish mansions, including Carton House in Kildare and Iveagh House in Dublin, now the Department of Foreign Affairs.
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