Lygon Street is a place where we meet and eat together in stylish outdoor cafes and restaurants. We promenade along the wide, leafy street past Victorian terraces and shops, all built on a human scale. The shopping is special, not like everywhere else; the entertainment surprising and the atmosphere inspiring.
The Lygon Street precinct, located in the heart of Carlton, extends from Queensberry Street in the south to Elgin Street in the north. This area represents the heart of the retail and restaurant strip in Carlton. North of Grattan Street, Lygon Street is dominated by daytime uses, with clothing, footwear and accessories, cafes, and bookshops catering for the local and student populations, as well as the regional shopping market. This precinct spills into Elgin Street. South of Grattan Street is generally dominated by more formal dining, and while this area is generally open for lunch trade, it comes alive at night. This area caters extensively for the regional and national tourist markets.
Melbourne has a very strong Italian heritage, which dates back to the first settlement. Large numbers of Italians started arriving from the gold rush era of the mid nineteenth century, but the heritage of these migrants has largely been lost or absorbed into mainstream Australian culture. However, in the post-war era, a pro-European immigration stance by the Australian government saw 170,000 Italians migrate to Australia between 1951-1960. It is no exaggeration to say that these migrants changed the face of Australia – and Melbourne – forever.
Italians formed extensive clubs and societies, started up business, and generally took to their new life with gusto. Lygon Street was the focal point for Italian activity in the post war years, and many businesses that sprang up in the 1950s and 1960s still operate. By the late 1950s, the Italian character was the most dominant theme in Lygon Street, as other migrant groups such as the Jewish community migrated south to Caulfield, Prahran and South Yarra, and to other suburban areas. By 1960, the Lygon Street strip was home to almost 50 Italian-owned shops. The Italian tradition has remained the dominant theme in Lygon Street to the present day, resisting layers of new activity, and new influxes of students and gentrified residents. Second and third generation Italians still come to Lygon Street for events, food and other activities, and many of the famous business names are still operating out of the same premises.