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5 Reasons to go the Italian Market Festival

5 Reasons to go the Italian Market Festival


#1 The Food

If you derive any pleasure from eating food like most of us do, then the Italian Market is for you. Are you looking for pastries fit for a king (or a Pope)? Isgro’s Bakery is a perennial favorite at the Festival, and for good reason. Their cannolis, cookies and minis are the stuff of legend, and you can easily lose yourself trying to figure out what to eat first. Have you ever tried a traditional tomato pie? This cheese-free delicacy traces its roots back to Sicily like most of the Market’s founders, but it is very much at home on a balmy May weekend in South Philly, and you will be too!


#2 The Sports

Like baseball? Then you’ll love watching its South Philly cousin, half ball! Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the John Marzano Half Ball Tournament is a grand send-up of a neighborhood sport that has launched more than a few Major League careers, like Johnny Marz’s. Teams of five players, armed only with a wooden stick and a lot of moxie, will transform Christopher Columbus Charter’s schoolyard into a living tribute to one of Philadelphia’s most popular sportsmen. The tournament is free to watch, and team registration proceeds benefit the John Marzano Wood Bat Scout League for young people in Philadelphia.

#LocalsKnow Tip: The John Marzano Half Ball Tournament starts at 9am on Saturday, May 18th in the schoolyard of Christopher Columbus Charter School, Christian St. between 9th and 10th.


#3 L’albero della cuccagna

Philly may have become world-famous when exuberant sports fans climbed the greased utility poles on South Broad Street during the Eagles’ victory parade, but few observers recognized this time-honored tradition for what it was: an homage to Italy. L’albero della cuccagna [LAL-be-roh del-la coo-CAN-ya] happens in the piazza at 9th and Montrose under the watchful eye of the Italian Market’s own police chief-turned-mayor. It’s a team sport in which groups of athletes race to the top of a 30-foot pole covered in lard to win a basket of meats and cheeses at the top. Part feat of agility and part celebration of simpler times, cuccagna is always a crowd-pleaser.

#LocalsKnow Tip: The Grease Pole Climbing Competition begins at noon on Saturday, May 18th in the piazza at 9th and Montrose Streets.     


#4 the Procession of Saints

For nearly a century, Italian Catholic parishioners have blessed the Market festival with a procession of saintly statues. Today, the Saints are carried from the Church of St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi on Montrose Street to the Civil War-era Church of St. Paul on 10th and Christian streets. As the site of the oldest Italian National Parish (1852), St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi has a long history of bringing the community together for special events.

#LocalsKnow Tip: The Procession starts at 11am on Sunday, May 19th at 714 Montrose Street.


#5 See the Market

If you haven’t visited America’s oldest active open-air market before, now is the time! The Italian Market Festival is often called Philly’s biggest block party, as hundreds of locals turn out to enjoy the warm weather, the delicious food, and a century’s worth of traditions. Walk the streets that Rocky Balboa ran as you drift between artisans selling their wares, a wine garden and beer garden, and live music. And like all of the best street festivals in Philly, admission is free!

#LocalsKnow Tip: The Italian Market Festival takes place on May 18th and 19th from 11am to 6pm on 9th Street, between Fitzwater and Wharton Streets. Parking is available on Christian, Carpenter and Kimball Streets and Washington Avenue.

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