Launched in 2013, the biennial festival is gearing up for its third – and most anticipated – year, at its new venue of the George Brown Botanic Gardens.
Despite its short lifespan and isolated location, the Darwin Italian Festival has rapidly become one of Australia’s most popular cultural events.
In 2015, the festival won the national MEA Award for Best Public Event of the Year and saw around 22,000 people flock to Civic Park for a day of la dolce vita.
Italian Festival Association President, Maria Randazzo, owes the festival’s success its diverse and inclusive nature.
“What draws so many numbers are the aspects of Italian culture, food and fashion that are so widely dispersed and hence resonate with most people around the world,” Ms Randazzo said.
“Also, the quality and attention to detail in all aspects of the festival’s delivery has been a noticeable and exemplary element of each event so far.”
The festival was established by a group of dedicated volunteers from Darwin’s Italian community, as a way of recognising and promoting their history, heritage, culture and traditions.
“Without these passionate volunteers, who devote their own personal time to this event, we would not be able to create such a high-calibre festival for the community to experience,” Ms Randazzo said.
The festival also serves as a tribute to the many Italian migrants who have settled in Darwin over the years and contributed immensely to the community, particularly in the construction and business sectors.
While many of the Northern Territory’s Italian migrants arrived between the 1950s and 1970s, they’re now being joined by a new wave of skilled migrants who have revitalised the Italian culture in Darwin while learning a thing or two from their predecessors along the way.
“What characterises Italians is their genuine effort to assimilate and integrate into their new ‘homes-away-from-home’," Ms Randazzo explained.
"This festival is one way of letting the general community be assimilated and integrated into the local Italian community, albeit for just one day."
The festival captures the true essence of the Belpaese through mouth-watering authentic Italian dishes, jaw-dropping artwork, and exhilarating entertainment for the entire family, including performances by Cosima De Vito and beloved comedian James Liotta.
The event also allows local Italian businesses to showcase their products and services, while a photo wall featuring families throughout the decades will narrate the rich history of the Italian community in the area.
In 2015, the festival became not only a fun day out, but also a charitable event with the introduction of the Trevi Fountain replica.
“In keeping with the Trevi Fountain’s tradition in Rome of donating daily collections to charity, we thought we would do the same here in Darwin,” Ms Randazzo explained.
The last festival’s proceeds went to Sids n' Kids and Alzheimer's NT, and this year they will be donated to the Cancer Council (NT) and the Leukaemia Foundation.
Many of the Italian culinary delights on offer aren’t sold at a set price, and a gold-coin donation will buy you a delicious sample of la cucina italiana, with all proceeds going to the communities in Central Italy which were devastated by last year’s earthquakes.
A free community event in which any money spent goes to a good cause is bound to be a success, especially when combined with the spectacular worlds of Italian art, history, culture and traditions.
The Darwin Italian Festival has proved that the city is capable of holding a cultural event like no other, and is helping to put the Top End at the forefront when it comes to Australian tourist destinations.
After all, a taste of Italy is enough to tantalise anybody.