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Columbus Day weekend in NYC: Celebrate Italian American culture

Columbus Day, a day celebrating the arrival of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus to the New World in 1492, was celebrated for the first time by New York City political organization Tammany Hall in 1792. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared it a national holiday.

Although Columbus' history is steeped in controversy, his accomplishments have had an undeniable impact on our nation. “Columbus represents the spirit of discovery and the indomitable spirit of America to triumph over every adversity– the very spirit of America,” says Dr. Joseph Scelsa, founder of the Italian American Museum in Little Italy.

Whether or not you choose to celebrate the man himself, the long Columbus Day weekend is the perfect time to get a taste of New York's Italian American culture, from delicious food to rich history and world-renowned art.

Watch the Columbus Day Parade

Since 1929, the Columbus Citizens Foundation has organized a Columbus Day parade to celebrate the contributions of Italian-Americans to New York City. Today, it's the largest celebration of its kind in the world, and its bands, floats and green, white and red-clad marchers draw almost one million spectators a year. Preceding the parade, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday at the Columbus monument in Columbus Circle, and a mass celebrating his life at 9:30 a.m. Monday at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

When: Monday, Oct. 13, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

Where: Along Fifth Avenue, from 44th Street to 72nd Street. Grandstands will be located between 67th and 69th Streets.

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Immerse yourself in Italian immigrant history

In the the former Banca Stabile, a bank that was once the economic pulse of Little Italy, sits a tribute to the heritage of an Italian American community that has long been shrinking away.

Dr. Joseph Scelsa opened the Italian American Museum on Columbus Day 2008. “We're not trying to revitalize the neighborhood,” he says. “That's not going to happen. We're trying to preserve these treasures– to retain a remembrance of what there once was.”

Visitors will be struck with a completely different view of the streets they just walked in on as they browse historical photographs of the neighborhood's Italian immigrant residents, and look through their musical instruments, prayer cards, traditional Sicilian puppets, letters, poignant newspaper headlines and more. On display just through Columbus Day are photographer Janine Coyne's photgraphs of Naples, Italy, from charming Vespa-filled street scenes to breathtaking seaside vistas.

When: Open Saturday, Oct. 11 and Sunday, Oct.12, 12-5 p.m., and Monday, Oct. 13, 12-6 p.m.

Where: 155 Mulberry St., Manhattan

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Admire Italian art

UNESCO estimates that more than more than 60 percent of the world's art comes from Italy, so why not take some time to admire some of the country's best work, on display right here in NYC? “I Macchiaioli,” an exhibit curated by Christie's adviser Marco Bertoli, showcases famous pieces from an art movement that started in Florence in the mid-1800s, all from private collections.

When: Monday, Oct. 13, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (through Oct. 30)

Where: The Italian Cultural Institute of New York, 686 Park Ave., New York

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Feast at Italian Restaurant Week

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is celebrating Italian American Heritage Month with Italian Restaurant Week. Indulge in your favorite pasta dishes, gelato, pizza and other Italian delights at more than 40 participating local restaurants, with $15-20 lunch and $25-30 dinner specials.

When: Oct. 8-15

Where: Brooklyn

More info:

For information on the Museum's Travel Program, please call Jeannie Russo-Winner at (718) 597-1414

or email:

The IAM is chartered by the University of the State of New York and has a 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS.

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