THIS is London's 'mini Rome', where furious residents are being forced out by £50,000 parking spaces and £350,000 studio flats.
Located just five minutes from the West End, Clerkenwell, or 'Little Italy' used to home nearly 2,000 Italians – but now everything has changed.
The area earned the nickname ‘Little Italy’ over the years and one local described the area as being "almost like an Italian village," which had "been built in the middle of London."
Now, horrified locals fear their once thriving first-generation Italian community will be completely "destroyed" as they witness the previously affordable area rapidly disappear.
Maria Manzi, whose parents migrated to the UK in the late 1940s, told MyLondon: “I remember we had an old lady that lived around the corner from us and she was the interpreter for the whole of Islington.
"She used to go and register the births because nobody knew the language.”
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The church volunteer explained that up until the 1980s, many Italian families, who have been rooted in the community for more than 200 years, were living cramped in one bedroom accommodation.
This location, according to residents, used to be a slum, but now fancy restaurants, bars and theatres are taking over – making life too expensive for a lot of locals.
And Maria emphasised times are tougher with strict new road laws and steep a congestion charge that prevents people accessing central amenities.
“I still come down on Sunday but I have to leave the car halfway [to avoid charges] and sometimes the trains or buses are not running on a Sunday", she said.
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"Then there's a lot of elderly people that can go on the train or the bus, and they would come but obviously they can’t.”
LOSING A 'LIFELINE'
The upcoming expansion of Ultra Low Emission Zones also worries Salvatore Nicolosi.
The 57-year-old moved to Clerkenwell Road from Sicily in 1994, and is terrified of losing fellow Italian locals, who are "like a family and a lifeline".
He said: “It became very difficult [to congregate in the area] when the congestion charge was introduced.
“People stopped coming in [to the area]. It destroyed the community.
"I have no family here, I’d be lost without it.”
Another first generation Italian resident, St Peter’s Parish Priest, Padre Andrea has also been devastated by the number of people being forced out.
He came from Lazio, just south of Rome and has been the local priest for just under a decade.
He said: “It was a big impediment to reach the Church, they [the congregation] have to have a car, and it became expensive.
“It's not the sole reason but it's undeniable that the congestion charge is part of the reason why the community is smaller here.
“It’s no longer free to reach central London like in the past, and even transport is much more complicated,” he said.
“Sunday is the most important day for Italians who want to go to church and sometimes the stations are closed so it makes it very hard to get about.”
“A lot of Italians went back to Italy and some even left London because it’s very expensive.”
People stopped coming in to the area. It destroyed the community."
But he did admit Italian locals are still managing to keep their traditions alive.
“People will line the streets during funerals, and then gather in the church afterwards. It’s very encouraging,” he said.
This comes as thousands of people across the nation are furious at new congestion charge plans and Clean Air Zone fines.
Cambridge residents were outraged at plans to introduce a £5 weekday congestion charge covering most of the city and feel the council is "against motorists".
This "very selfish" fee will add up to a potential £1,300 per year which has sparked fury among motorists amid the cost of living crisis.
In Birmingham more than 48,000 Clean Air Zone fines were scrapped after drivers refused to pay and challenged the scheme.
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For information about congestion charge fines click here.
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