For the 16 years I've owned Baltimore, I've been a tireless booster not just of the Baltimore region generally, but of the downtown, in particular, which has rightfully received ongoing national and international attention for its rebirth. Its transformation from a grimy smokestack town in the 1970s is not only a big tourism draw but is also now wooing back residents from the suburbs to its historic, rehabbed neighborhoods.
And finally, I have put my money where my mouth is, moving back to the city myself last month. In fact, I moved back to the neighborhood where I grew up: Little Italy.
The old 'hood has moved up in the world since I left 41 years ago: There are swank apartment buildings and condos like the historic Canal Street Malt House I have now settled into and lots of upscale restaurants. But I've noticed in the past few weeks that it hasn't lost any of the old charm I remember from my childhood, when I lived at 408 High St., just three blocks from my present home. You can still experience the rich culture of the old country at places like Piedigrotta, Carminantonio and Bruna Iannaccone's storied bakery and pastry shop on Bank Street. And when you walk out your front door, it's the same close-knit neighborhood, with the same wonderful people.
Instead of the long hike in the car from suburbia to revisit my favorite culinary haunts, I can now walk a block and a half to Sabatino's or Della Notte, where I not only enjoy terrific food but where I can also reconnect with the families of my childhood. (I run into 20 old acquaintances every day just walking around Little Italy!)
Why didn't I think of this before? When I lived in a gated community in Baltimore County, I felt like I had to make an appointment to see my own neighbors. Better yet, I'm just spitting distance from two of my favorite distractions, Camden Yards and Geppi's Entertainment Museum (which, I should note, was named by The Sun as one of the 100 Things We Love About Baltimore—nominated by world-famous pediatric neurologist Dr. Ben Carson, no less).
Actually, a lot of my old friends got smart even before I did and have moved back to the city. So if you've toyed with the idea of giving up the relative blandness of suburbia, there's never been a better time to make the move.