16:00 — 17:30
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The name Lawrence Grassi evokes images of exploration in the Rocky Mountains. We will examine the myths and true story of a private man, immigrant, miner, climber, and guide and connect his story to the wider narrative of Italian Immigration to Canada.


Lawrence Grassi was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. A working-class man of humble Italian origins who worked as a labourer and a coal miner for most of his life, Grassi had a deep passion for the Rocky Mountains. He was famous in the region for his commitment as a guide, a mountain climber, and a builder of greatly admired hiking trails. Today, in or near Canmore, his name graces a mountain, two lakes, and a school, and he is commemorated at Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park.

In Lawrence Grassi: From Piedmont to the Rocky Mountains, Elio Costa and Gabriele Scardellato uncover the deeply private man behind this legend, from his birth in the small Italian village of Falmenta to his long and inspirational career in Canada. Using previously unexamined family letters and extensive information on Grassi’s cohort of Italian immigrants, the authors reconstruct his personal and professional life, correcting myths and connecting his story to the long history of Italian immigration to Canada. The definitive biography of this Canadian mountain hero, Lawrence Grassi will be essential reading for those interested in the history of immigration, sport, and the Rocky Mountains.

Elio Costa

Gabriele Scardellato


This biography of the Bow Valley’s famous Italian-Canadian alpinist and trail builder was produced as a collaborative effort by two authors whose research interests differed considerably. Elio Costa is a professor emeritus in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at York University and has taught Italian throughout his academic life, with a specialization in Medieval literature, specifically Dante, but with an interest in contemporary Italian culture and cinema. the late Gabriele Scardellato was an associate professor and the Mariano A. Elia Chair in Italian-Canadian Studies at York University; he was is a historian by training, and a specialist in Italian-Canadian history and Canadian cultural diversity.

What they have in common are our cultural roots and our immigrant background: they are both immigrants from Italy who arrived at a relatively young age in Canada as part of this country’s mass importation of European labour post World War II.  As colleagues and friends, they share a conviction that there is a place in academia for what often has been defined pejoratively as immigrant cultures, or worse, “Ethnic Studies.”.  They came to the subject by different routes, but with a fundamental common cultural and personal interest.

On Grassi and Canmore, Costa stated, “[Grassi] represents the spirit of the community because he gave himself to the community,” he said, pointing to the well-used trail he built to Grassi Lakes as an example. “Canmore still breathes the spirit of Grassi in many ways. He represents the coal-mining past and he represents this community’s spirit.”


February 10
16:00 - 17:30
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Canmore Museum
(403) 678-2462
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