Myth Uncovered: Why Italian flags are painted in North Beach

North Beach. San Francisco’s Little Italy. Photo: Lembi Buchanan (Dreamstime).

North Beach is one of San Francisco’s most beloved neighborhoods.

It is the city’s “Little Italy” and has historically been home to a large Italian-American population.

The Italian influence on North Beach peaked between the two World Wars when over 60,000 of its residents claimed Italian ancestry and five Italian language newspapers circulated the neighborhood.

By the 1920’s North Beach was predominately Italian with many locals working in the fishing industry.

Famous baseballer Joe DiMaggio grew up in North Beach as the son of a local fisherman. Bank of America Founder Amadeo Giannini also started his business here providing low income loans.

Joe DiMaggio (Left) with his parents Giuseppe and Rosalie DiMaggio. Like many other Sicilian fisherman, Giuseppe chose the San Francisco area, which offered good fishing possibilities and a climate roughly comparable to southern Italy.

This was my first time visiting North Beach. I had never been there before. Nonetheless, from a distance, I felt a visceral attraction to the neighborhood.

The number of telegraph poles painted in the colors of the Italian flag had me thinking, how did this start? And so I went in search of the answer.

While searching for more information, I stumbled upon a very interesting video by Julia Santucci titled “Why Italian flags are painted in North Beach, SF?”.

Here’s what Julia says

“Have you ever strolled through North Beach on a sunny day with a fresh pastry in hand and notice the Italian Flags on every pole? I cannot swear to what I am about to share, however it is a fun story to picture about the older generation Italian seamen. Next time you see a painted flag I hope this story brings a smile to your face.”

or simply hear her from the video below.

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Written by
Joe Battaglia
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