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.

Noor Sunba – Vice-Chair of the Board

Noor Sunba has held various roles with Italian Week since 2019, including Chair of Events and Programming on the Board of Directors. She has over 16 years of experience in event production, logistics and team management, and strategic planning, with highlights including Ottawa 2017 and FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015. Known for her impeccable attention to detail in planning, managing and executing events, Noor is exemplary in her relationship-building across a range of event stakeholders.

Although not of Italian Heritage, Noor is actively engaged in the Italian community and is a supporter of the local Italian businesses in Little Italy and beyond. She is passionate about Italian culture and is currently registered in Italian language school in Ottawa.

Rachel McDonald – Treasurer

Rachel McDonald is a Chartered Professional Accountant and is currently completing her Common Law degree at the University of Ottawa. She has experience providing high-quality accounting, taxation, and business advisory services to corporations, organizations and individuals in a vast array of industries. Rachel has been a resident of Ottawa for the past 10 years, since moving here to complete her Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting. Currently, she volunteers for the Women’s Legal Economic Action Fund (LEAF) Ottawa branch and Pro Bono Students Canada.

Jody Saurette – Secretary of the Board

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.

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

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.

Francesco De Rossi

Francesco was born in Rome, grew up in the Republic of San Marino and holds a degree in law from the university Carlo Bó in Urbino, Italy. He made the move to Canada at 26 years old to further refine his English skills and soon found himself building a successful career in sales at Cintas in western Canada. He has recently settled in Ottawa after transitioning into the management team. His passion for mentoring and leadership extends beyond his career and has included teaching Italian at the Calgary Italian School for several years. Outside of work, Francesco’s passions include tennis, having played competitively in Europe before continuing the sport recreationally in Canada. He looks forward to bringing both his business management and leadership skillset to his contributions on the Italian Week Board.

Flavia Iannetta

Flavia is a Director in PwC’s Digital Operations Consulting practice with over 15 years’ experience in business transformation. As a multilingual Project Management Professional (PMP) she specializes in large-scale transformation in the Federal Public Sector, working with clients in both official languages to enable their organizational strategies. She has extensive experience in operating model design, process improvement and strategic planning with a passion not only for creating and designing but also implementing solutions. She is also a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and a Certified Management Consultant (CMC).

The daughter of Italian immigrants, her background has shaped her curiosity to learn about others and has taught her to prioritise leading with authenticity and embracing people from diverse backgrounds. Consequently she is proud to be a Diversity and Inclusion leader at PwC, leading with respect for others, hard work, and authenticity.

Nina Plummer

Born and raised in Edmonton, being involved in the Italian-Canadian community has always been a very important part of Nina’s life.  She grew up as most Italian-Canadians did in Edmonton: going to Saturday morning Italian classes, volunteering at the Italian parish, and being absolutely smothered by their Nonna but loving it. Nina nurtured her passion for Italian culture and heritage by continuing her studies at University and also her involvement in the Italian community. In 2016 and 2017 she was integral to the planning of the annual Italian festival in Edmonton, which is how she met her now husband who is actually Italian (not Italian-Canadian, but actually born in Italy).

Today she is doing the most adventurous, wild, and unheard-of thing you could ever do in Canada’s National Capital Region: working for the Government of Canada. In her free time, she continues to make her Italian heritage an essential part of her personality: particularly by taking more Italian language courses, dreaming of the next time she can get on a plane to visit her friends and family in “the boot”, and participating in every aspect she can of Ottawa’s Italian community that she can. She loved volunteering for Italian Week Ottawa in 2022 so much, and she’s so excited to become more involved in the planning of future festivals.

Stefani Truant

Stefani Truant is the Artistic Administrator with the National Arts Centre Orchestra where she works in concert programming, with a specific focus on chamber music, new music programming, and commissions. She holds two music degrees, and has served on various juries, including for the JUNO Awards. A proud second generation Italian-Canadian, she grew up in Windsor, ON, and has lived in Ottawa for the last 14 years. She is an avid soccer fan, having played and coached for many years, has volunteered for the Special Olympics, and is known for her tiramisu. Most recently, she served on the board of the Ottawa Arts Council.



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 free time woodworking, reading history, and occasionally gaming.