This paper articulates John Dewey’s socio-political and historical influence upon the foundation and evolution of the world-renowned Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. It proposes that the pedagogical depth, influence and endurance of the Italian project are grounded in Dewey’s philosophies of education, aesthetics and democracy. An analysis of scholarly and original sources outlines the socio-political climate in post World War II Italy, the work undertaken by several progressive Italian educators and the Italian translations of Dewey’s work during this period to reveal new insights about Dewey’s enduring influence on the pedagogical values which underpin the Reggio Emilia educational approach. In so doing, it acknowledges the direct Deweyan influence on the work of Italian reformers Borghi, Codignola, Malaguzzi and Ciari and on the developing Reggio Emilia project. This revelation of Dewey’s progressive values as interpreted by educators in Reggio Emilia offers inspiration to educators in contemporary early childhood contexts, to researchers and to students of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education.