2 Best Sights in Little Italy, Montreal

Chiesa della Madonna della Difesa

Little Italy

If you look up at the cupola behind the main altar of Little Italy's most famous church, you'll spot Montréal's most infamous piece of ecclesiastical portraiture. Yes, indeed, that lantern-jaw fellow on horseback who looks so pleased with himself is Benito Mussolini, the dictator who led Italy into World War II—on the wrong side. The mural, by Guido Nincheri (1885–1973), was completed long before the war and commemorates the signing of the Lateran Pact with Pope Pius XI, one of Il Duce's few lasting achievements. The controversy shouldn't distract you from the beauties of the rest of the richly decorated church.

Église de la Visitation de la Bienheureuse Vierge Marie

Montréal North

A bit off the beaten tourist path, the oldest church on the island, the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is found in North Montréal. It's not a must-see, but it is worth the trek if you have time and don't mind a little walking through some rather ordinary neighborhoods. The church had its stone walls raised in the 1750s, and the beautifully proportioned Palladian front was added in 1850. Ornamentation  lasted from 1764 until 1837, with stunning results. The altar and the pulpit are as elaborate as wedding cakes but still delicate. The church's most notable treasure is a rendering of the Visitation attributed to Pierre Mignard, a painter at the 17th-century court of Louis XIV. Parkland surrounds the church, and the nearby Îles de la Visitation (reachable by footbridge) make for a very good walk.