The New Orleans Italian community and the Piazza d’Italia.
Mayor Moon Landrieu and Joseph Maselli view a model of the Piazza d’Italia. The Piazza is located adjacent to the American Italian Renaissance Foundation Museum and Library on South Peters Street.
Photo courtesy of Louisiana Division/City Archives, New Orleans Public Library
Italians have always played a large role in our local history and have contributed traditions and cuisine that are now synonymous with New Orleans itself, such as St. Joseph Day altars and the muffuletta. In 1973, city officials decided to pay public tribute to the New Orleans Italian community, and on March 19, 1978, the Piazza d’Italia was opened.
Designed by prominent architect Charles Moore, the Piazza was met with strong opinions, both positive and negative, but architects and critics were quick to praise it as an early monument of postmodern urban design. Incorporating all five classical orders of architecture – Doric, Ionic, Tuscan, Corinthian and composite – with each order represented by a different material, the Piazza is reminiscent of a traditional Italian piazza. Water is featured predominantly, via fountains and a pool in the
shape of Italy that forms the
base of the Piazza.
Hopes for development of the land around the Piazza were not immediately realized, and the Piazza swiftly fell to ruin during the 1980s. The marble began to erode, fountains bent and broke, and architectural components became a quick cash commodity for thieves. The early 1990s brought a lot of vocal criticism, and various deals with hotel groups in which the Piazza would be refurbished were considered. Finally, a 2002 agreement with Lowe’s hotel restored it to its intended glory. It was rededicated on March 31, 2004, during which New Orleans dignitaries threw Italian-American Federation doubloons into the fountain for good luck.