San Francisco, Calif., is a great walking city, especially
during the "shoulder season" -- the months of October and November and the months
of February and March. It's also a great dining city. You can combine the best
of both by walking around North Beach, San
Francisco's "Little Italy."
Walking North Beach
It's easy to get a workout walking around San Francisco. The
famously hilly streets and the large beckoning waterfront, coupled with the
abysmal parking availability and difficulty of driving here make walking an
attractive alternative for both fitness and practicality. But a walk around North Beach
is more about cafes and history than fitness. The main arterial is Columbus Avenue,
which cuts across the general north-south and east-west street
grid at a 45-degree angle from downtown at its southeast terminus to near the
waterfront at its northwest end. Venture out on the various side streets such
as Green, Vallejo, and Union, for culinary and
architectural delights, returning to Columbus,
and you'll do a good job of covering the area. Include a side trip up Telegraph
Hill, and you'll add some cardiovascular work as well.
On the north side of the square, on Filbert St., is the Saints Peter and Paul
Church. Noted for its striking Gothic (e.g., the spires) and Romanesque (e.g.,
the entry arch) architecture, the church was designed by Charles Fantoni and built in 1922-24. The relief sculptures of an
angel, eagle, bull, and lion on the façade represent the evangelists. Interior
attractions include a sculpted version of Leonardo da
Vinci's "The Last Supper."
Retrace your steps to the base of the hill and take Kearny Street south for a few blocks
until it terminates on Vallejo.
Turn right, then take the next left onto Romolo Place.
Romolo terminates on Broadway, where you'll find The
Beat Museum on the corner facing Broadway. Open 10-7 daily, this eclectic
collection chronicles the Beat Movement and its denizens.
Continue west on Broadway (that's a right turn if leaving The Beat Museum)
to the corner of Columbus, where you can't miss
the Condor Club, America's
first topless bar (opened 1965). Turn left on Columbus to visit City Lights Bookstore, the
famous shop and Beat Generation publishing enterprise established in 1953 by
poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Retrace your steps northwest on Columbus,
crossing Broadway, then take your next (angled) right on Grant Avenue. Follow Grant to the corner
where you'll want to stop for an authentic cappuccino at Café Trieste. From the
sidewalk of this historic café, you can enjoy views of the St. Francis of Assisi shrine just across
the street. Walk past it on Vallejo
to return to Columbus Avenue.
To reach Washington
Square, take the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
into the city and disembark at the Powell
Street station. Walk 0.3 miles northeast on Market
to 3rd Street.
Catch the 30 Stockton MUNI bus toward Divisadero and
Chestnut. Disembark at Columbus and Union and walk north across the square to the church.
Please read more in Part 3.
Sally O'Neal is an inveterate walker and hiker who made her home in the San
Francisco Bay Area from 1979 to 1985 and visits the area frequently. She writes weekly for Sportsmansguide.com.