In the years since Italian Week was established in 1977, Ottawa has changed dramatically. As we move further away from a community-oriented focus in our modern world, our Italian culture brings us together. Celebrating our culture creates a positive framework for dialogue.

Italian culture is traditionally gregarious and boisterous, warm and generous, proud and family-focused; but it is also modern and stylish, appealing, and magnetic. Our vision is to create shared experiences to remind Italian-Canadians who remain entrenched in their Italian culture to celebrate their heritage; to hold space for Italians who are new to Canada to feel at home; to give Italian-Canadians who are no longer culturally Italian a chance to express themselves; and to invite Canadians with no Italian heritage to experience what it means to be Italian for a moment.

Coming to Italian Week feels like going to Nonna’s house for dinner. It feels like coming home. Come be Italian with us!


Italian Week began in 1975 under the leadership of St. Anthony’s Church and the University of Ottawa’s Languages Department, as a week of Italian radio programming with small satellite events throughout the community. 

Based upon this success and with the support of the Italian community, the festival was incorporated in 1977. This traditional event is one of Ottawa’s most iconic annual festivals. 

Settimana Italiana – Italian Week is a registered non-profit organization that is operated by a team of employees and a volunteer Board of Directors from the local community. We develop and deliver the annual ten-day program through a combination of grants, sponsorships, in-kind contributions, and ticket sales, to ensure a range of free and reasonably-priced ticketed events. The festival is an important symbol of the Italian-Canadian community’s collective identity, and we take pride in showcasing all aspects of our Italian heritage. 


Lydia Di Francesco – Chair of the Board

Lydia Di Francesco is a second-generation Italian-Canadian and is the CEO of Fit + Healthy 365. She holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Ottawa. Lydia is a regular TV guest expert on CTV and Rogers TV and has been published in national and local magazines. Lydia has been an Ottawa resident for the past 20 years with involvement in many community organizations, including being on the Italian Week Board for the past 3 years. Lydia employs her skills in strategy, relationship building, community development, and logistical organization to oversee the execution of the festival.

Rachel McDonald – Treasurer

Rachel McDonald is a Chartered Professional Accountant working as a Senior Accountant Tomlinson Group of Companies. She has experience providing high-quality accounting, taxation, and business advisory services to corporations, organizations and individuals in a vast array of industries. Rachel holds a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) in Accounting from the University of Ottawa. She has previously volunteered as Finance Chair for the uOttawa Relay for Life in support of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Erica Principe – Secretary

Erica is a dynamic and driven marketing and communications professional with 3 years of experience in the field. She doubles as a full-time marketing and communications officer at the Telfer School of Management and a part-time PR student at the University of Ottawa. Her area of interest includes social media, content creation, digital marketing, events, and project management. Erica, a third-generation Italian-Canadian, started volunteering with Italian Week Ottawa in 2019 in a marketing communications capacity to help promote the festival and its events on social media. She is passionate about her heritage and all it embodies leading her to continue working with the festival and to officially join the board this year as its Secretary. She holds a diploma in Public Relations from Algonquin College and is one semester away from completing her Honours Bachelor of Arts with Specialization in Public Relations.

Brunella Buscicchio

Brunella Buscicchio was born in Naples, grew up in Potenza, Italy, and recently immigrated to Canada. She holds a Master’s degree for Curators in Contemporary Arts and Architecture Museums from La Sapienza University in Rome. Passionate about Italy’s art and culture, Brunella’s recent work has included installation projects by Italian artists in partnership with the Ottawa Art Gallery, the Italian Embassy in Ottawa and the Italian Cultural Institute in Toronto. She worked for a decade at Incontri Internazionali d’Arte, a historic art association in Rome, where she met and worked with many international artists and critics. She has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pisa. Brunella has many interests, including cinema and literature, and she loves cooking traditional Italian recipes.

Tony Mariani

Tony Mariani has been involved in the Italian community for over 20 years, including being President of Italian Week from 2016-2017. He is the President of Mar Gard Builders Limited who specializes in commercial construction both locally and internationally. Tony has an outstanding track record in all aspects of business growth and management, from promotion and sales to financial control and team leadership. He has handled all aspects of general business management with responsibilities ranging from strategic planning to performance evaluation.

Jody Saurette

Jody Saurette is a life-long Ottawa resident with a passion for Italian culture, especially Italian cuisine. He is currently an Applications Analyst for TD Bank and is a Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class in the Naval Reserve currently serving as Coxswain of HMCS CARLETON here in Ottawa. He has served in the Naval Reserve for 29 years.

Cassie Wang

Cassie Wang began her career in public accounting, she brings extensive experience in strategic finance, internal audit, and M&A for companies in various growth phases. She serves as a director of the Italian Week Board of Directors to help with the planned growth. When Cassie first came to Canada, she stayed in an Italian home and fell in love with the culture, people, and food.

Jessie Zapata Crookall

Jessie Zapata Crookall is a highly skilled Training & Programming Specialist. Currently, she is working with Baffinland Iron Mines to create and improve training & development programs on Baffin Island with a keen eye on safety and leadership development. Prior to relocating to Ottawa, Jessie planned, organized, and coordinated high profile events along with weekly programming for over a decade. Additionally, she led multiple groups and created multicultural programming for Macalester College Admissions, advising the Board of Trustees, and contributing to the creation of Macalester’s Department of Multicultural life. She has lent her expertise to several clubs and non-profits to successfully execute events and cultural programming requiring exceptional attention to detail, creativity, and resourcefulness. Growing up in the most diverse city of the United States, Houston, Texas, Jessie’s passion about working with a variety of cultural groups comes honestly. Engaging with people from all over the world is something that she treasures and enjoys. Jessie deeply feels that recognizing diversity, sharing our traditions, and celebrating heritage is vital to strengthening our community while allowing space for our most authentic selves.


Shannon Whidden – Executive Director

Shannon Whidden is an Ottawa resident and arts administration professional. Over 20 years in the field, he has produced performances in the top venues in Canada, as well as the 2010 Olympiad in Vancouver. As Orchestra Manager for the National Arts Centre, he has led tours across Canada and across the pacific, and has successfully led 4 recording projects for full orchestra. Shannon is passionate about nurturing a strong arts community in the National Capital Region, and is thrilled to have the opportunity to do so through his work with Italian Week Ottawa. When not planning or executing Festival performances, Shannon spends his time woodworking, reading history, and occasionally gaming.