In 1888, the railroad brought in laborers from Italy as an alternative workforce. The terrible work conditions spurred the Italians to leave the railroad project and many remained in Costa Rica. They settled in a government-sponsored colony known as San Vito, in the Southern Pacific region of Costa Rica.
In 1952, there was an influx of Italian immigrants, mainly farmers, who arrived in San Vito armed with tractors and other farm machinery, and began to farm the land intensively and to raise cattle. An Italian organization for agricultural colonization purchased 10,000 hectares of land from the government of Costa Rica.
There is an Italian cultural center in San Vito as well as several Italian restaurants. The Italian language is usually spoken only by the older citizens of San Vito.