Discovering Italy in Princeton, NJ
by Katherine Freedman
It’s no wonder that Princeton has a sister city in Pettoranello; Princeton abounds with Italian influences from its buildings to its Italian heritage. The University itself was largely built by Italians who migrated from Pettoranello and Isernia; Italian workers helped construct 70 buildings erected on campus between 1902 and 1969. If a trip to Italy this summer is out of your budget, non ti preoccupare – Don’t worry! With a little imagination, you can discover Italy in Princeton. Here is a list of top ten places you can go to live la dolce vita without the hefty airfare.
10. The Princeton University Art Museum – The Princeton University Campus. Though much smaller than Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, the Princeton University Art Museum has no lines and no expensive tickets – admission is free. Classic master paintings by artists such as Guido da Siena, Francesco Traini, and Fra Angelico are truly worth seeing, as well as Baroque works by Pietro da Cortona and Giovanni Battista Gaulli. Be sure not to miss the seventeenth-and-eighteenth-century Italian illustrations in the “Prints and Drawings” collection.
9. The McCarter Theatre – 91 University Place. Let music transport you to Italy; Opera New Jersey hosts performances at the McCarter Theater. Il Trovatore, a tragedy by Verdi about love, lust, and revenge will be performed several times throughout July.
8. The Princeton University French & Italian Department – 303 East Pyne. The department often has events during the school year that are free and open to the public. Recent events have included lectures on Boccaccio’s Decameron and the Bertolucci-Bellocchio generation. For more information: http://www.princeton.edu/fit/newsevents/
7. The Fountain of Freedom – In Scudder Plaza, on the Princeton University Campus. Admittedly, the name Fountain of Freedom sounds about as American as can be. However, if you take off your shoes and wade in, perhaps you can imagine it is the Trevi Fountain, and that you are Silvia or Marcello in La Dolce Vita!
6. The Colonnade - On the western side of Princeton Battlefield State Park, 500 Mercer Road (Princeton Pike). All roads lead to Rome – including Princeton Pike! This colonnade, which can be seen while driving along Princeton Pike, was transported from St. George’s Hall in Philadelphia in 1900. One can’t help but think that this solitary piece of architecture is reminiscent of the Roman ruins. Pick up a panino or salad from D’Angelo Italian Market and have a picnic next to the colonnade, as the sun sets.
5. The Princeton Public Library – 65 Witherspoon Street. This state-of-the-art, 58,000 square foot library has a sizable collection of Italian language books ranging from poetry by the famous modernist poet Ungaretti to Harry Potter translated in Italian. Italian cookbooks, travel guides and movies will allow you to immerse yourself even further in “La Cultura Italiana.” You can even find the Italian magazine, Panorama.
4. Dorothea’s House -120 John Street. This Italian-American cultural institution provides “programs, events and a link from the Princeton of today to the Italian immigrants who settled in Princeton over 100 years ago.” Movie screenings, musical programs, and lectures are some of the many events offered. The house is currently on break for the summer, however, the Fall 2012 class schedule is already posted online. For more information: http://www.dorotheashouse.org/
3. Palmer Square. That is to say, Piazza di Palmer. As there are different characters who hang out in piazzas in Italy, you have a few options here. On a typical afternoon, retired Italian men leisurely pass the hours in piazzas by relaxing, talking to friends, or perhaps playing a game. Try out their carefree lifestyle for an afternoon: simply sit down at a table with some friends and a deck of cards. Or if you would prefer to emulate those sophisticated, glamorous Italians, pick up La Repubblica from the kiosk at Palmer Square, a cappuccino and cornetto from D’Angelo, and find yourself a bench. Don’t forget your shades – the darker the better.
2. The Princeton University Chapel - Princeton University Campus. To see a prime example of Italian influence on the University’s buildings, check out the University’s Chapel. During the early twentieth century, highly skilled Italian stonemasons used Pennsylvania sandstone and Indiana limestone to construct this building.
1. D’Angelo Italian Market - 35 Spring Street. For authentic Italian cuisine, D’Angelo is the place to go. Cool off this summer with a gelato affogato, a scoop of gelato “drowned” in espresso, or try a slice of authentic European style pizza, with that classic brick-oven taste. Those with a penchant for sweets will love the desserts, which include pignoli cookies, cannoli, and tiramisù. To experience the Italian coffee bar tradition, try a cappuccino or latte from the espresso bar!