Start working up an appetite, Philly!
The South 9th Street Italian Market Festival returns this weekend to fill eight city blocks with food, drink, music, contests, crafts and more in celebration of the nation’s oldest continuously operating outdoor market.
ITALIAN MARKET FESTIVAL FAST FACTS
- The South 9th Street Italian Market Festival runs from May 19-20, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., rain or shine.
- Highlights include an array of food and drink options, artisan vendors and live entertainment.
- The fun spans eight city blocks from Fitzwater to Wharton streets.
- The festival celebrates America’s oldest continuously operating outdoor market.
Come with an empty stomach and enjoy signature Italian Market specialties like freshly made pasta, Italian sausages and cannoli along with authentic Mexican fare, Korean barbecue and more delicacies from the diverse range of eateries that call South 9th Street home.
The festival is one of the city’s most popular events and attracts tens of thousands of people each year. The length of South 9th Street between Fitzwater and Wharton streets will be closed to traffic, allowing festival guests to stroll around the Italian Market with ease.
Dozens of local businesses and eateries that border South 9th Street open their doors and set up under awnings along the street to showcase their offerings.
Local artisans and crafters set up booths between Fitzwater and Christian streets and Washington Avenue and Ellsworth Street for a fine arts and crafts show.
The wildly entertaining greased-pole climbing contest starts at noon on both days of the festival at the piazza on the corner of Montrose Street, while the 9th Annual John Marzano Half Ball Tournament begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday in the schoolyard of Christopher Columbus Charter School on Christian Street between 9th and 10th streets.
There are two main stages for live entertainment: one on Christian Street with an accompanying beer garden and one on Washington Avenue with an accompanying wine garden. Local music acts can also be found entertaining on a smaller stage at Connie’s Ric Rac at Ellsworth Street.
The Spread the Whiz Zone between Federal and Wharton streets offers kid-friendly fun and entertainment for the whole family.
Check out the complete festival map ahead of time to get familiar with the layout and plan a course of action.
Food & Drink
The South 9th Street Italian Market Festival presents a mouthwatering spread that includes a mix of traditional Italian food and cultural fare from around the globe.
Popular spots like Isgro Pastries, Di Bruno Bros., Talluto’s Authentic Italian Food, Blue Corn Mexican Restaurant and Bar, Termini Bros. and many more dish out their specialties all festival long.
Chafing dishes overflow with everything from fresh pasta and homemade meatballs to authentic tacos and grilled Mexican corn.
Save room for dessert! Some of the city’s best cannoli can be found at the festival alongside other delectable Italian pastries.
The 21 and older crowd can wash all the yumminess down with a mug of beer from the beer garden on Christian Street or a glass of wine from the wine garden at Washington Avenue. For a refreshing, non-alcoholic beverage, juice served in a fresh pineapple hits the spot.
Other Festival Highlights
In addition to the fantastic food, festival-goers can find live music, street games, shopping and endless entertainment from start to finish.
Shopping and Music
Artisan vendors and crafters selling handmade artworks, jewelry, ceramics, photography and other covetable goods line South 9th Street between Fitzwater and Christian streets and Washington Avenue and Ellsworth Street. See the full list of vendors here.
Local bands and DJs perform sets at multiple stages set up around the festival. Don’t miss Boss Radio AM Gold Band, The Don’t Call Me Francis Band, Go Go Gadjet and more acts on the main stage at South 9th Street and Washington Avenue, plus more performances where South 9th Street intersects with Carpenter, Christian, Federal and Ellsworth streets.
Check here for the full free live music lineup.
The Procession of Saints
This customary Roman-Catholic tradition takes place every year on the third Sunday of May.
Parishioners carry statues of holy figures from Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi Church — the first Catholic Italian parish in the United States — to St. Paul Catholic Church, pausing at South 9th Street and Washington Avenue for the Blessing of the Market ceremony.
Children who recently received their first holy communion, dressed in white gowns and suits, take part in the traditional procession as well.
Grease Pole, Handball and Fitness Competitions
Take a break from feasting on food for the wildly entertaining grease-pole climbing contest. This Italian tradition isn’t for the faint of heart: It involves scaling a lard-covered, 30-foot pole for prizes— think slabs of meat, cheese, gifts and money — all the way up at the top.
Interested teams can fill out this form and register at the Visitor Center located at 919 S. 9th Street. Viewers can watch the comedy unfold from the ground at the piazza on 9th and Montrose streets.
Over on Christian Street between 9th and 10th streets, guests can watch top players from around the city compete in the 9th Annual John Marzano Half Ball Tournament starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday in the schoolyard of Christopher Columbus Charter School.
Next to the half ball tournament, the Get Fit Zone — presented by Charge Fitness and Wellness — offers free 45-minute cardio, core and stretching workout classes starting at 9 a.m. for attendees who want to get a quick workout in between bites.
Getting There and Staying Over
Attendees should take public transportation to avoid traffic and navigating around road closures. Taking the Broad Street line to either Lombard-South or Ellsworth-Federal and walking to South 9th Street from there makes the most sense.
If driving, consult the map below to find the best places to park.
Use the festival as an excuse for a mini vacation — or staycation! — and book the perk-filled Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package.
This epic festival only happens once a year, so don’t miss out!