I was at university when I went to Harvard for the first time. I was attending a summer course in Rhode Island and one day I went on a bike trip with some schoolmates, under the shining sun. I remember thinking that the island was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been. Little villages by the sea, white beaches, pastel-coloured houses and boats, many boats, swinging quietly on the blue water.
Newport & Clam Chowder
fter a glorious afternoon we stopped in Newport Harbour and had dinner in one of the picturesque restaurants with lanterns hanging from the ceiling and candles on the tables, and the moonlight reflecting in the dark sea surface.
That’s where I had my first clam chowder. I didn’t know what clam chowder was, but I liked the name and decided I’d have it. It was a cream fish soup, I was told by the waiter. And it came in a bread shell with some green salad on side. I loved the colour – it was salmon pink – and the creamy consistency, and it was warm and delicious. I had never liked soups, but after my New England clam chowder I started eating them. Onion soup in France, pumpkin soup with boiled spelt and creamy cheese in Italy, bread soup with speck in Tyrol.
Boston & Harvard
Then we went to Boston. I was eager to visit the city, but group travels have limits I wasn’t aware of back then. So I found myself hopping on an off the bus without really seeing the suburbs, without absorbing their atmosphere or digesting my feelings.
When I visited Boston and Harvard again, years later, it was October. Trees were covered in red, brown, saffron and orange leaves. The train that took me from NYC to Boston passed by small towns by the lake, silent woods and the typical landscape that I associated with my favourite children’s books, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables (I imagined Canada was similar to New England) and An Old-fashioned Girl.
Old & New
One of the best ways to explore Boston and learn about its rich history is to follow the so-called Freedom Trail. There are websites where you can find all the information you need; I will just tell you how it felt to be there. I was with a special person and we shared the passion for walking around for hours, just enjoying the sunny weekend. We took the train to Cambridge, a lively suburb packed with cafés, bookshops and houses where students live. Under a shining sun, we went through the gates of Harvard University, where trees were red and gold. It was so quiet and peaceful in there.
We were in the mood for cultural activities, so we reached the Museum of Fine Arts and spent hours admiring painting and statues, absorbing beauty. The air was so warm that we decided to have lunch under a maple tree in Boston public gardens, before heading to the bustling Quincy Market and the city center. Skyscrapers and brick houses, green spaces and crowded cafés. Boston is a charming combination of old and new, business and culture.
My Boston Moments
In Beacon Hill we looked for Newbury street, with its shops, art galleries and cafés, brownstones, brick sidewalks, cobblestone streets, and gas lamps. I found myself daydreaming of living in one of those houses. They are so elegant with their bow windows and country chic interiors.
I sat on a bench and stared at the sunset light playing on the lake. I thought of Countess Olenska holding her parasol in a park in Boston, in one of my favourite stories ever: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. And in the evening, we went to the harbour and discovered yet another face of Boston, among the old lanes and sailors’ houses. Then we had lobster soup in a old-style restaurant by the sea with a charming, unpretentious atmosphere. Boston is a city that exists both in the modern and in the old literary world, partly European and partly American. That’s what I love about it.