The traditional owners of Leichhardt are the Cadigal people and the Wangal people. It is believed that they inhabited the area from South Head to Petersham and stretching along the southern shore of the Parramatta River from Petersham to Rosehill. The Aboriginal populations inhabited this area for an estimated 10,000 years before the arrival of Europeans. Explorer Ludwig Leichhardt was given the honour of having this newly colonized area named after him. Leichhardt arrived in Sydney in 1841 and began extensively cataloguing his discoveries as he travelled through the Hunter River valley region. He returned to Sydney in 1846 before heading off on an exploration of the Swan River. The Swan River exploration was to be his last. He disappeared on this exploration, and the mystery of what happened to him and his party was never solved.
Leichhardt from the beginning tended to attract a largely Italian population, which led to its nickname of Little Italy. Many of these immigrants were quite skilled in the arts and included singing teachers, music professors and sculptors. In Sydney's colonial days, those who possessed these highly coveted skills would have been assured of a certain amount of social standing. As time passed, employment opportunities became more diverse. Residents of Leichhardt were as likely to be fishmongers or greengrocers as they were to be artists or musicians.
By the mid-1900s, Leichhardt was clearly identifiable as Italian in nature. Many of its shops and businesses were run by Australians of Italian descent, recent Italian immigrants or had an Italian theme. One of the first Italian coffee shops in Sydney was opened in Leichhardt in 1956, and the suburb was the first in Australia to feature al fresco dining.
Leichhardt, located just 5 kilometres west of Sydney's CBD retains its colourful Italian heritage today. The trendy suburb features fashionable dining outlets, luxury retailers and the Italian restaurants and shops for which it has long been known. Those in search of genuine Italian salamis, pastries or olive oils can find them here along with the art for which the neighbourhood first became known. Tickle your taste buds with handmade pastas and fresh gelatos, or walk along the foreshore for a stroll in Balmain's Gladstone Park. Still home to numerous artists and creative workers, Leichhardt supports and encourages their efforts. Mural art in particular is popular, and artist studios and commercial galleries are spread throughout the area.
If freshly ground coffee, crispy biscotti and cream-filled cannoli isn't your style, Leichhardt is also home to numerous Italian festivals, including the Norton Street Italian Fiesta, which takes place in the heart of Little Italy. Visitors can browse market stalls while their kids can enjoy a variety of carnival festivities. The Norton Street Italian Fiesta also features dances concerts and the best pizza in Sydney. Buon Appetito -- A Taste of Sicily is just as popular as the Italian Fiesta. A walking tour, Buon Appetito allows participants to join a cooking demonstration, enjoy an authentic Sicilian lunch with wine and learn about the history of the suburb.
Visitors can reach Leichhardt by Sydney Buses and City Rail as well as by private car or taxi via several main roads, including Parramatta Road and Norton Street.
photo credit: Leichhardt, Sydney, Australia. 6.10 AM, 23/09/09 via photopin (license)