Leichhardt, NSW: a slice of Italy

Situated west of Sydney’s CBD (central business district), Leichhardt is an Italian-heavy suburb. It borders Haberfield to the east, Lilyfield to the north, and Balmain sits to its west. Two weeks ago, I visited this community for the first time. I recall doing a short course where I asked Fani, my Italian classmate, where she stays. In Leichhardt? No, she answered with a smile. I know Leichhardt’s where all the Italians live, but I stay in Pyrmont. I learned that Fani was short for Stefani. She was slightly older than me. We also spoke about the usage of ‘ciao’ in Italian. Later on, I gave her some tips on the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). It’s a shame she didn’t take stock of my pointers as I’m in the know about that evaluation. I guess I should’ve mentioned my memories of the Test to her. Since then, I have written at length about my IELTS experience. I sat the exam as a teen for the first and only time.

Pyrmont Bridge

Norton Street and The Forum

Once again, I took a bus from the CBD. The bus wound through city streets before rolling along Parramatta Road. We were on the artery for fifteen minutes before being deposited to Norton Street, Leichhardt’s main thoroughfare. Upon alighting, we had a look at The Forum, which was near the mouth of the suburb. The ‘galleried walkaway’ takes you from present-day Leichhardt to the sights of Italy. The structure was built as a nod to the Mediterranean piazza. Shops and galleries used to line the courtyard which residential flats and terraces overlooked. It was a fresh concept and added a touch of history.  

We noticed that business was particularly bad here, with many boarded-up spaces and closed-down shops. Practically all the eateries, from the Thai place to the pizza stop, were gone. I believe there was only one diner that was operating. One store had a long space, but I doubt it was bucking the downward trend. A sports retailer right at the front was struggling, too. That’s just the stores; the units were almost universally empty, save for a few. We were sure that none of those remnants were tenants; they should all be the flat owners. The pandemic has clearly had this outlet by its tentacles.   

Market!

We took another bus in search of an unnamed mall that my companion has visited. Marketplace Leichhardt is on corner Marion and Flood Streets. It has a small food court, where we had our lunch. Tummies refilled; we had a look at Strandbags. I saw this bag that was forty percent off, down to $90. It was a larger pack that had a laptop sleeve. Having just bought a grey pack from their Roselands store, I decided against the purchase. Along the way, we passed by Woolworths. Signs along the centre proclaimed that MarketPlace has recently celebrated forty years as a pillar of Leichhardt. There are over sixty independent shops across its breadth, spread over two levels.

We had a quick look at Jeanswest but left shortly thereafter as they didn’t have any sales going on. We then entered Target. Despite being out of the way, the store did not stock the long sleeve tee which I bought at Eastgardens just a few weeks ago. With all their stock, heavy overheads, and the wages of employees, the future was looking grim for this Target store. I almost felt sorry for the pretenders working there. The mall had an Aldi and I intended to do the groceries there. However, I was searching for the library which was a distance away from MarketPlace. So, we ended up taking the bus back to Norton Street. The repository was actually located in The Forum. Though only occupying one half of the first floor, the library was fairly big. The fiction area was exhaustive and housed both big and fledgling authors. They also had a decent-sized DVD section.

Coles boy


Before browsing the lib, we headed to Norton Plaza. We had a look at Howard’s Storage World, where the prices are always inflated. We bought some bread from the bakery. Finally, we got some fettucine boscaiola. Upon consuming the pasta at home, our verdict was that it wasn’t that good. The dish didn’t even come with white sauce. There was a lot of room for improvement. After our trip to the lib, we had a look around. Most of the places were overpriced. We then had our supper at this Asian joint. It wasn’t Michelin stars, but it wasn’t bad either. After dining in, we balked at going back to Aldi and decided to do the groceries at Coles instead. This was our main shop for the week. Upon checking out, I surmised that our total would’ve been at least fifteen percent cheaper at Aldi.

Landmark

Leichhardt Oval is the home of the Wests Tigers of the National Rugby League. Though the stadium is actually located in nearby Lilyfield, the Tigers represent Sydney’s Inner West suburbs, which include Leichhardt. The ground is a popular choice for teams of various sporting codes, given its proximity to the city and public transport. The field is easily accessible via tram, bus, or bike. The Oval has a proud heritage that goes as far back as 1934, when the outfit was known as the Balmain Tigers. With a capacity of 20,000, the stadium boasts a record attendance of 23,000 in 1981. The A-league’s Sydney FC also call the pitch as home.

Italia

Though just five kilometres from the CBD, Leichhardt distinguishes itself for its village feel and Italian influence. The suburb has the three main supermarts: Woolworths, Coles, and. Aldi. There is a library for book lovers. It even has an overlooked Target. Dozens of small businesses and food stops populate its length. Aside from these, two food courts vie for your dollar. I noticed that while many shops were closed, others operated on a takeaway basis only. While Leichhardt lacks a train station, numerous buses transport people to nearby suburbs and the city. On the downside, the two malls are a fair distance apart. In some ways, Leichhardt reminded me of Balmain even though it is more complete. Ultimately, Leichhardt’s strategic location, Italian flavour, and a rich sporting history are its biggest drawcards.

Leichhardt Oval
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