By Christopher Gomez | Little Italy News
San Diego’s Little Italy is known for its scenic streets, European-style piazzas, Italian charm and — welcoming football players? We’re not taking about soccer, but American football players!
Last month, the San Diego State University (SDSU) Aztec Football team headed to the Little Italy neighborhood to learn about and enjoy Italian culture right in their university’s backyard.
After Coach Rocky Long of the SDSU Aztecs heard that Coach Jim Harbaugh of the University of Michigan was taking his team on a nine-day trip to Italy during their Spring Break, Long thought it would be a good idea to treat his team to a special trip as well.
With a limited budget, the SDSU staff had to get creative. Although the Aztecs didn’t fly all the way to Italy, they got the cultural experience and community bonding in San Diego’s very own taste of the boot-shaped country, which many of them had never explored before.
After traveling just a few miles from the SDSU campus, a sea of white jerseys came flooding onto India Street for a classic photo under the Little Italy sign to kick off the day. The SDSU players were delighted to tour the historic streets and learn about the rich history and culture that came before them.
Coach Long and the Little Italy Association made sure the team got the full experience visiting Our Lady of the Rosary Church, playing bocce ball in Amici Park, listening to live Italian music in Piazza Basilone and more!
The first stop on the historical tour of San Diego’s Little Italy started at one of the oldest monuments in the neighborhood, Our Lady of the Rosary Church, built in 1925.
The team participated in a blessing at the church, then headed to the local neighborhood school, Washington Elementary School, for an art history lesson and to teach the kids some football tips.
After learning of the sophisticated culture and getting some practice in with the kids of Washington Elementary School, the players walked over to Amici Park on W. Date and State streets for some good old fashioned bocce ball with some experienced local Italian players.
Once they finished learning the rules of the century-old game, the team walked over to Piazza Basilone for live Italian music al fresco with the beautiful San Diego harbor in the background.
The Aztecs enjoyed a walking historic tour with Little Italy Tours to round out the day before heading off to lunch.
It wouldn’t be a Little Italy experience without the food — mangia bene! The team split up into five groups and set off to attend lunch at some of the best restaurants in San Diego.
The team dined at some of the most authentic Italian hot spots in the hood, Sorrento Ristorante, Café Zucchero, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto and Mona Lisa Restaurant.
The second straight Mountain West Champions got the full Italian experience just minutes from SDSU!
Come experience some Italian culture just as the Aztecs did in Little Italy and visit. Check out what to do in the neighborhood at littleitalysd.com or follow the neighborhood on Instagram and Twitter @LittleItalySD and Facebook/San Diego Little Italy and share your experience with us.
—Christopher Gomez has been Little Italy’s district manager since 2000. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.