Boston’s North End in Black and White

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Hanover Street, North End

Big news: after years of filling this blog with my iPhone photos, I’ve upgraded to my first DSLR!  I am now the proud owner of a Nikon D5100 and a Tamron 17-50 lens, the latter a recommendation from my wonderful photographer friend Ed.

The camera body retails for $496.95 without the kit lens (I bought it used “like new” from Amazon for $439 with shipping), the lens for $499 (I bought it used “like new” from Amazon for $400.49 with shipping).

Also bought: UV filter ($12.68), polarizer filter ($8.05), camera cleaning kit ($9.99) and a 32 GB memory card ($23.98).

Manual Shooting

On of my friends is a champion of shooting in manual, and has insisted from the beginning that I only shoot in manual, figuring out the cryptic combinations of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to deliver the best exposure possible.  He would flip out if he saw me clandestinely shift the camera into auto!

It’s a bit frustrating, especially after being so used to shooting everything on my iPhone, but I’m getting better at it.  And the camera and the lens really are wonderful.  Here are some pictures that I took in the North End yesterday.

North End

The North End

Most people who visit Boston say that the North End is their favorite neighborhood.  It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in Boston and while it was prime real estate around the time of the American Revolution, it went into decline and became host to various ethnic minorities — the free blacks, the Irish around the time of the famine, the Portuguese, Eastern European Jews.  In the mid-19th century, the Italians came — and they’ve never left.

North End Signs

The North End today is fantastically picturesque and still home to many Italians.  Will that always be the case?  I doubt it.  The North End is relatively cheap compared to other downtown neighborhoods (in part because the apartments are so tiny), so it’s becoming increasingly yuppified with fancy boutiques and yoga studios.

But for now, the North End is a wonderfully Italian place.  Hanover Street is the main drag and it’s filled with more Italian restaurants and cafes than you can count.

Signs in the North End

It always surprises me that Boston is so strict about nightlife — you can’t get alcohol anywhere after 2 AM, the T shuts down at 12:30 AM, and happy hour is actually prohibited — yet cigar lounges abound.  The North End is home to a few of them, complete with giant cigar signs.

Peace Garden

I timed my visit a little early this year — the Boston area has had a long, late winter, so very few trees are blooming, even though it’s mid-April.  This one, on top of St. Leonard’s Peace Garden, was a glorious exception!

Cafe Vittoria

Best place to sit and grab a drink or dessert?  Caffe Vittoria on Hanover Street.  I love this cafe.  While most Italian-style cafes are cheesy, this one is the real deal.  And their cappuccino is the best in Boston.

Mamma Maria

The North End is home to dozens of Italian restaurants — some are great; some are tourist traps.  But if you’re looking for a really nice (and pricey) meal, Mamma Maria, pictured above, always seems to top all the critics’ lists.

My personal recommendations?  Pizzeria Regina for great pizza and a nice atmosphere, Caffe Pompeii for a low-key cheapish experience, Taranta for Italian-Peruvian fusion, and Neptune Oyster for amazing seafood (think cold oysters and a hot lobster roll).


Italian attitude reigns.

Paul Revere's Door

That’s not just an old door — that’s Paul Revere’s door.  He is by far the most famous resident of the North End, and his house is a popular stop on the Freedom Trail.

Paul Revere Statue

Here he is commemorated while gesturing in the direction of the Old North Church.  “One if by land, two if by sea” refers to the lanterns that were lit in the Old North Church — two lanterns signified that the British Army was invading by sea.  I found out recently that they were only lit like that for less than a minute, so not as to arouse the suspicion of the British.

Paul Revere and William Dawes, Revere’s partner and an unsung hero if there ever was one, rode to every Middlesex village and farm warning the colonists to prepare as a militia.

North End Goodies

After strolling around and taking in the history, pick up some Italian goodies at one of the many shops in town.  This was taken at Modern Pastry, the place with the absolute best cannolis in Boston.  (Do NOT go to rival Mike’s Pastry diagonally across the street.  Modern is so much better!)

And that’s my new camera!  I’m really looking forward to taking it around the world.


Where to Stay in Boston: Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation

Best Time to Visit Boston

40+ Things To Do In Boston At Night

Which North End picture is your favorite?

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23 thoughts on “Boston’s North End in Black and White”

  1. Hi Kate,

    Congratulations on taking the plunge into DSLR territory. I got my Nikon two years ago and have never regretted it (except maybe the impact on my wallet as I buy new lens, etc).

    Loved your piece on the North End and the gorgeous photos. I too am a huge fan of Caffe Vittoria, while my favourite restaurant, Daily Catch, is just across the road.

    I’ve got a DSLR trick/hint for you (but don’t tell Mario): if you are struggling with the settings, flip into auto, take a shot, then go to the preview screen, hit the up button and it will show you all the settings for that shot. You can then improvise around them ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hope you are enjoying the rest of your time in Boston.


  2. Funny you just bought a DSLR, I’m thinking of selling mine! I’ve grown tired of carrying it around because of its bulkiness and weight. I’m thinking of getting a high-quality NEX camera for more versatility. Looking forward to seeing your photos, though!

  3. The italian attitude one is my absolute favourite. I need to make my way to Boston some time soon!

    By the way, congrats on the DSLR plunge – I’ve had mine for over a year and hardly ever get anything right in manual mode. I should get myself a savvy photographer as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I love Caffe Vittoria! Already looking forward to my next visit to Boston and a cappuccino there ๐Ÿ™‚ Gorgeous photos lady–well done for shooting in manual!

  5. I love the photo of the coffee (might also have something to do with a current caffeine craving, hmmm)! They are all lovely photos!

    I’ve been wondering about a DSLR lately, but I just feel like the expense is too great and I know my skills are not good enough to do it justice! Maybe one day, but for now, I love my little point and shoot – it fits in a tiny handbag and it seems to so far serve me well!

    Happy snapping!

  6. The second and fourth pictures are my favourites here. I don’t think I actually made it to the North End….at least I don’t think I did? Fenway, Back Bay, the Harbor and downtown (around Tremont St) are where I spent most of my time – I don’t think any of those are North End, and wish I’d have gone now!

    Beautiful photos, and a reminder of how great Boston is in this troubling time for the city.

  7. So funny- I just purchased my first DSLR as well! I got the Nikon D3100, with the standard lens and a 55-200mm lens. I’m just loving it so far! Am writing a post with the first shots I take soon! Most on auto mode though! Good for you for attempting Manual mode right away!

  8. These photos are fantastic, the choice to do them in black and white was genius because it really let the landscape and the beauty of some of the architecture shine through.

  9. As a dweller of suburbia Boston, I must agree, MODERN IS SO MUCH BETTER. Love the blog and that you’re from my area makes me feel connected to you in some way… like living vicariously through a neighbor. :} Thank you!

  10. One of my all time favorite places! The North End is a must see (and must eat) location. I only wish my stay in Boston had been longer so I had a chance to eat at more of the delicious North End restaurants!

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