Self-Guided Tour of North End/Little Italy
Boston’s North End/Little Italy neighbor is famous for its delicious food as well as its colorful history and we at Free Tours By Foot Boston have put together a quick, self -guided walking tour of North End/Little Italy and some of its most interesting sites.
Entering the Northend/Little Italy Neighborhood from Salem St. the first site you will see on the corner of Salem St. and Cross St. (50 Salem St.) is an Irish Pub (yes an Irish pub on the edge of Little Italy) called Goodie Glover’s.
Named for Good Wife Ann Glover, who was an Irish slave captured by Oliver Cromwell and shipped off to Barbados during the occupation of Ireland in the 1650s. In 1680, she came to Boston and was employed as a housekeeper by John Goodwin. In the summer of 1688, four out of the five Goodwin children became sick. The doctor concluded “nothing but a hellish witchcraft was at the origin of these maladies.” The diagnosis was confirmed by one of her charges, 13yr.-old Martha Goodwin, by claiming she fell ill right after an argument with Ann. Accused by the Rev. Cotton Mather (pastor of the Old North Church) in 1688 of being a witch, she was the last woman hanged in Boston for the “crime” of witchcraft.
On November 16, 1988, the Boston City Council recognized Ann Glover and the injustice done to here and proclaimed Nov. 16, as Goody Glover Day.
As you travel down Salem St., stop in at Ernesto’s Pizza at 69 Salem St. Opened in 1984, they make huge slices with homemade dough and sauce made on site. To save both money and space in your belly, you can ask them to cut the slice in two.
Traveling down Salem St. you will come to the corner of Parmenter St. and Salem St. At 105 Salem St. is Polcaris Coffee, an old school Italian Market that has been in business since 1932 offering dozens varieties of coffee beans as well as spices, Italian Ice and other treats. Walking into this market is like stepping out of a time machine to the 1930’s. Not much has changed in here. Worth popping in and the staff there are the best.
Across the street from Polcari’s at 100 Salem St. you will see the New Spin Laundry. The New Spin Laundry was used as the bank that was robbed by Ben Afflect’s character Doug MacRay in the Movie “The Town.” It never was a bank, but looks like it could have been at one time.
Travel down Parmenter St. step into Coconuts at 28 Parmenter St. This chocolate shop is one of the newer businesses in the neighborhood and has artisan chocolates, gourmet nut mixes and other chocolate treats.
Follow Parmenter St (a short walk) to the other main street of Little Italy, Hanover Street. There is where you will find Galleria Umberto’s, 289 Hanover St. This is a little hole in the wall place that you could easily walk past and not notice. If you like pizza (and who doesn’t), you must go inside. The thick slice Sicilian pizza at Umberto’s is what this place is known for. Also, they only make a certain amount of pizzas every day and once they sell out they close their doors for the day. They are usually closed by 2:30 pm. Definitely one of Boston’s best pizza places. Try and get there before lunch-time as the line can be quite long at 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm and the service is a little slow. A must try if you are looking for Great Pizza. Note: They are closed for the entire month of July.
After leaving Umberto look across Hanover St. and you will see the famous Mike’s Pastry at 300 Hanover. Known for their multi-flavors of cannoli, they are good stop for dessert. The Boston Cream Pie (the official dessert of Massachusetts) is wicked good.
Take your baked goods to go and walk down Hanover St. (about a block) to Paul Revere Statue/Paul Revere Mall (The Prado). There you will see the famous Paul Revere Statue and you can sit in the Prado and enjoy your baked goods in the shadow your next stop the Old North Church. On the way to the Prado you will walk by the First Roman Catholic Church in Boston, that was built by Italian immigrants (1873).
The Old North Church, the oldest Church building Boston (1723) is officially known as Christ Church. Made famous for Paul Revere’s “Midnight Ride’ where on April 18, 1775, 23 yr.-old, Robert Newell hang two lanterns from the steeple of the Old North Church as a warning that British Soldiers were heading by sea (the Charles River) to Lexington and Concord to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams who were hiding in Lexington, and to confiscate a store of arms in Concord. The lantern warning and Paul Revere’s famous ride set the stage for the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 “the shot heard round the world.”
The church is free to enter (a small donation is appreciated) and they have a great staff that will explain the events of that night of April 18th, 1775.
After you exit the Old North Church, walk up Hull St. to one of our favorite sites in the Boston, the Skinny House. At 44 Hull St. this is Boston’s skinniest house. Built shortly after the Civil War it was built as a spite house. It was built by Joseph Eustus, a boat-builder on land left to the family by their dad. While one Joe was away, the other family members built a few large houses on the inherited property leaving the returning brother Joe only a sliver of land where he built the skinny house. The house was built to not only block sunlight but ruin the other family member’s view of the Boston Harbor (spite!). It available today for vacation rentals.
The best way to view the Skinny House is from the stairs of Copps’ Hill Burial Ground (1632) Boston’s second oldest burial ground. There you can visit the graves of the famous puritan ministers Cotton and Increase Mather, Shem Drowne (who made the grasshopper weather-vain on top of Faneuil Hall and the Old North Church), Robert Newman, Prince Hahl to name just a few.