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Club Italia Founding Members with Italian Consul Fornichella_edited_edited_edited.png


The Founding of Club Italia in Nelson, New Zealand July 1931 - 1932


In July 1931 Italian Consul Giovanni Formichella visited Nelson. He was the first Consul to visit Nelson and an evening was held at the Velma Rooms in Bridge Street in his honour. Music was provided by the Vitetto Brothers. During the evening a discussion led to a decision to start an Italian club in Nelson. This was officially formed in August 1931 at a meeting attended by 30 Italians and the following officers were elected:

President            Vincenzo Vitetta
Vice President    Agostino Delorenzo
Secretary            Paolo Casa
Treasurer            Francesco Fiatarone
Guardian            Natale  Di Leva
Guardian            Cataldo Sannazaro
Committee         Giuseppe Vitetta
Committee         Francesco Monopoli
Committee         Matteo Monopoli
Committee         Antonio Ercolano

The other founding members were Giuseppe Albano, Antonio Cappiello, Gaetano Cappiello, Olindo Delorenzo, Giuseppe Dipierri, Aniello Esposito, Pasquale Fiatarone, Antonino  Gargiulo, Salvatore  Gargiulo, Angelo Lauria, Michelangelo Lauria, Domenico Meo, Domenico Merlino, Francesco Perrone, Alberto Persico, Cataldo Romano, Giacomo Sannazzaro, Nicolo Sannazzaro, Raffaele Sannazaro and Giovanni Vitetta.

The Club was initially for men only and the following Rules were drawn up according to the Societies Act of 1908 with registration taking place on 30 October 1931.

  • Promote, develop, strengthen friendship and goodwill amongst; members of the Italians in Nelson and other visiting districts, including the people of Nelson

  • Provide suitable clubrooms, to rent or buy

  • Provide playing cards, newspapers and books

  • Establish a benevolent fund for members

  • Buy and sell goods

  • Have social evenings for members and their families

The first clubrooms - rented premises above James Baird in Trafalgar St were officially opened in December 1931 and Regal Consul Cavaliere Formichella was invited for this occasion. As part of the civic reception for the Consul athe above photo with the founding members was taken on the Church steps by F N Jones (1881 - 1962).

Rented rooms and the WWII: 1932 - 1957


In 1932 the club moved to a rented upstairs space in Bridge Street. Vincenzo Vitetto remained as President of the Club until Paul Casa took over for two years in 1938.

During the 1930s Club Italia established its place in the life of Nelson Italians. Activities included casual meetings for drinks, chats and playing cards. Musical groups were formed and social events such as dances and picnics were organised for the families. In October 1934 Club Italia hosted over 1000 Nelsonians at the Majestic Theatre to a screening of Italian films, interspersed with instrumental and vocal items. 


In 1940 Guglielmo (Bill) Monopoli was elected President of Club Italia - a role he held until 1968.

In June 1940 Italy declared war on France and Great Britain and the Club was ordered by the Aliens Authority to suspend activities. In September 1943 the Club was given a month's notice to end the lease on its rooms and the Club went into recess.

Club Italia members pose for a photo in 1937.

1946 - 1967: A Permanent Home is Found and Developed


With the end of WW2 Club Italia could resume activities again, however finding premises was a challenge. On 22 March 1957 a four roomed building on a large section at 9 Trafalgar Street was purchased  ready to re-establish the club.  A year later the four rooms were converted to one room and on 19 July 1958 the official opening was attended by members and their families.

It was not long before a set of indoor bowls and a mat were purchased and the game of bowls became an integral part of club activities for many years.

In 1963 the AGM approved extensions. The work was completed in March 1963 by voluntary labour and included the conversion of a small rear room into a store for selling Italian food products as a fund raiser. Members could purchase Italian products such as pasta, anchovies, olive oil and salami - things not readily available in New Zealand at the time.


As most members were tomato growers, for a number of years, growers each donated a 20lb case of tomatoes each year and these were on sold to raise funds.

1968-1979: Club Italia's 'Good Works', Bowls and the Women's Committee

In 1968, Antonio (Tony) De Lorenzo was Club President, he was followed by Paul Esposito in 1970. Indoor Bowls teams were established, with many winning Nelson Championships.  In 1978 the Club Italia Indoor Bowls team skippered by Johnny Persico with Bill Ferguson, Raffy Buonocore and Don Wadsworth won the New Zealand Fours championship.

In the early 1970s under Paul's leadership club members helped lay foundations for St Josephs Catholic Church in Vanguard St, concreted the entranceway to St Josephs School and glazed the Isel Park glass house.

Tony Romano became President in 1976.  During this time members donated generously to earthquake victims in North and South Italy. In 1977 members contributed towards half the cost of a cottage at Stoke’s Omaia Retirement Village.

A Woman’s committee set up by Mrs Cristina Miccio.

1980 - 1999: 50th Jubilee, Women Gain Full Membership

In 1980 Francie Di Leva took the presidential chair and oversaw the 50th Jubilee in 1981. The milestone was marked with celebrations including a mass and a dinner and dance at the Trafalgar Centre which the Italian Ambassador Giorgio De Andreis attended.

The Italian Roller Skating team attended the World Championship in Nelson in 1983 and were entertained by members.

In 1984 woman became eligible for full membership and in 1985 Dominic Lauria became president followed by Frank Pessione in 1992.

Club activities such as the dances, bowls, picnics, and Christmas parties for children continued. Maria Cameron formed the Italian Singers

Then in 1994 the first woman president Maria Clinton (nee Della Barca) was elected.

The inaugural soccer match held between Club Garibaldi of Wellington and Club Italia of Nelson was held in 1995. The match is now an annual event alternating between Nelson and Wellington, with the Aldo Cuccurullo Memorial trophy presented to the winning team.

In 1996 a striking mural depicting an Italian village was painted by Ren Olykan on the back wall of the Club room. The names of some of the families who helped fund the mural can  be seen in the painting.

The presidency passed to Francie Esposito in 1998 for one year, then Calvi Gargiulo in 1999. Calvi faced some hard decisions during his year - membership was dropping as the older generation passed away and the next generations of Italians were understandably caught up in other activities.


2000-2024: A New Century & Public Pizza Nights


In 2000 there was a move to sell the club rooms, but this was stopped by only two votes when the issue went to a special general meeting. At the following AGM in 2001 a new executive were voted in with Fred Persico as president. The new committee went through a period of consultation and fundraising. Regular events were held to draw existing members back into the Club and to encourage new members to join; Presidents barbeque, Festa alla Italiana (5 course meal).


July 2003 plans were drawn up for transforming the Club's outdoor area. 


In 2006 David Clinton was appointed President of the Club and that year a dinner was held at Trailways for Club Italia's 75th anniversary.

A very successful fundraiser fashion show 'Casa Di Moda" was held in 2008.

In 2011 the Rugby World Cup was held in New Zealand and the Italian Rugby Team was hosted in Nelson - this led to many Italian themed events in Nelson and an increasing number of members of the public had a chance to see inside Club Italia. By the time of the Club's 80th anniversary celebration that year, membership was stronger than ever.


Pasta, prayer & promise: the story of Nelson's Italian community, 1860-2014 by Karen Price and Karen Stade, published in Nelson, NZ in 2015 provides an excellent and comprehensive history of Nelson's Italian families.

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