The Italian Connection

Italian studies has a long and and noble pedigree at Swansea University, which is very apt given the city’s rich association with Italy.

Victorian writer Walter Savage Landor famously compared Swansea Bay to the Bay of Naples. But the Italian connection in Swansea doesn’t stop there. 

Like much of south Wales, Swansea saw a big influx of Italian immigrants in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They came either to work in the booming industries such as copper and tinplate, or to make a living in the communities that sprang up as Swansea turned into a major industrial centre and port.   

When it came to finding a way to make a living, cafés and catering were a particular forte. In fact there’s a Forte’s ice cream parlour still overlooking the beach today. Then there are much-loved Swansea institutions such as Joe’s, Verdi’s, Castellamare, the Kardomah cafe, and the Italian catering dynasties such as the Rabaiottis, Sidolis and Fulgonis. Between them they have fed generations of Swansea citizens, and added enormously to the pleasure of living in this city by the sea. 

It isn’t just food either. Here are some more of the links between Swansea and Italy. 

  • Adelina Patti, world-famous opera diva, born into a family of Italian singers, adopted Swansea as her home town and lived there in splendour from 1878 until her death in 1919. The Patti Pavilion, her summer house, was gifted to the city, and was moved from Craig-y-Nos to its current position on the seafront, and has served as a cultural centre ever since.
  • John Charles, born in Swansea in 1931, was the first British football player to move to a foreign club, when he signed for Italian side Juventus in 1957 for a world-record fee. He was the top scorer in his first season in Serie A, Italy’s premier league, learned to speak Italian, and to this day is revered as a hero  in Italy, where he was known as  “Il Buon Gigante – the Gentle Giant”.  
  • Enzo Maccarinelli, former WBO world boxing champion, was born in Swansea in 1980 to Italian parents. He currently holds the European cruiserweight title, having beaten his opponent in 45 seconds.
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