As a lifelong Chicagoan, I’d always felt this kind of connection to the city of Boston. The two cities share some similarities: both are known as hard-working; have diverse ethnic populations; and, among other things, are home to baseball teams with losing records of historic proportions (though the Boston team remedied that situation earlier this century). When I made my first trip to Boston back in 2010, the connection I’d always sensed was validated. I felt at home in Boston, especially in the North End, the city’s famous Italian neighborhood. I remember thinking at that time how much the North End reminded me of my neighborhood, Chicago’s Little Italy, when I was growing up. The Italian shops and restaurants gave me that warm, familiar feeling, but it was the people that made me nostalgic. There in the North End still lived Italian people and they could be heard speaking Italian on the street and in the shops. That was a thing of the past in my neighborhood. While the North End still retained much of its character and the Italian heritage had been preserved, sadly, the opposite had happened over the years in Chicago’s Little Italy. My neighborhood isn’t the same now as it was when I was growing up – and definitely not the same as when my parents were growing up there. For these reasons, my first few minutes in the North End in 2010 brought me to tears. We were walking down Hanover Street and the cutest old man was sitting out in front of one of the shops. As we passed, he offered a smile and a bright buon giorno. My heart melted from the nostalgia and my eyes welled up with tears. At that moment, I thought to myself, “I hope this place never changes.”
I’m fresh off my second visit to Boston, a trip during which I spent a considerable amount of time in the North End. I’m in no position to declare one way or another if the neighborhood has changed, but I can say that it’s as charming and lovely as the first time I visited. I was able to get an even better feel for the neighborhood this time around since I was staying at a Flipkey apartment in the middle of the North End. The optimal location allowed me easy access to the myriad shops, restaurants, and historic sites (the Freedom Trail runs through the North End). The real reason I chose to stay in the North End, though, was to have one more chance to remember what life was like for me growing up in my own Italian-American neighborhood.
I accomplished my goal and fell even more in love with the North End. I mean, there are two restaurants that have my kids’ names (Lucia and Anthony) and one is even named after me! But seriously, staying with Flipkey in the North End was the best thing I could have done during my trip to Boston. Not only did I eat well and get my “old neighborhood” fix, I also was well-positioned to easily explore other parts of Boston. I walked to and from places like Beacon Hill and the Public Garden. The Haymarket “T” stop is only a few minutes away by foot, so I had no problem taking the subway to Cambridge and Logan Airport. It’s also worth mentioning that I stayed in the North End by myself – no friends, no family. I felt completely safe walking all over during the day and when I went out at night to other areas of the city, I used Uber to get back and forth.
I’m kind of getting used to this solo travel thing and I had the best time on my own in Boston. I’m grateful for the one-on-one time I got to spend with the North End and, I didn’t think it was possible, I am even more in love with it now.
My apartment stay was sponsored by Flipkey but the North End wooed me all on its own.