My family didn’t really do vacations. Most of my summers as a child were spent milling about in the sweltering New Delhi heat, avoiding “holiday homework,” and dreaming of being somewhere else.

So I’m pretty lucky to have spent this past holiday week in Europe, exploring two cities I’ve never been to before: Rome and Athens. Despite their different feel, they have surface similarities: Both are urban landscapes pockmarked by the grand remnants of their ancient, overlapping histories—museum-metropolises, if you will, with some really awesome permanent exhibits.

But what really surprised me was how many people in these two cities looked like me: Bangladeshis sold smelly cheeses and jars of olive tapenade at a farmers’ market in Old Rome; Punjabis read Italian newspapers on the train to Bomarzo; Sri Lankans hawked tours outside the Acropolis. But these two cities aren’t London or New York, where English is spoken and streams of migration from South Asia are clearly established. So as I walked through their Little Indias, I wondered: How did these people get here? I don’t know their stories yet, but I’m itching to dig deeper.

Spotted in Rome: A poster advertising Eid celebrations in Bengali. (Tanvi Misra/CityLab)

Reading List:

We’ve got a long list this time around. First up: Brentin Mock wrote about Spike Lee’s contradictory on-screen and off-screen relationship with gentrification. It’s a must-read, in part, because of Lee’s delightful response to Brentin’s queries:

“Spike Lee Is The Reason Why Fort Greene Is Gentrified? Get Da Fuck Outta Here With Da Bullshit.”

Other stories you may have missed: Front porches are making a comeback! A church in Minneapolis is fighting gentrification by the book—the Bible, that is. Baltimore police officers are studying … Plato and Baldwin? The (American) mall is dead, long live the (Latin American) mall. The origin story of the Turducken. On mapping Beirut, the polyglot city.

Here's what else we're reading, watching, and listening to:

In Japan’s public housing complexes, the elderly meet a heartbreaking end. (The New York Times) ¤ The story of a bridge at the Canadian border. (Harper’s Magazine) ¤ Die Hard is “easily one of the best architectural films of the past 25 years.” (BLDGBLOG) ¤ In Hong Kong, you party at dessert cafés instead of bars. (Mic) ¤ “The best neighborhoods I’ve ever lived in have whiting for sale, fried, and crumbs to roll the flesh in, in stinky shops that make fries by the hundreds.”(Catapult) ¤ A portrait of Ziontown, a small Virginia community built on land purchased by a former slave. (Richmond Magazine) ¤ Alvin Ailey dancers perform the pain and isolation of homelessness. (The New York Times)

This week’s audio favorites courtesy of CityLab’s podcast aficionado Gracie McKenzie:

I listened to two great podcast episodes this week about different instances of local organizing in Chicago. The first: This American Life on how Harold Washington, “the greatest politician you’ve probably never heard of” and the city’s first black mayor, was elected. The second is by ESPN’s 30 for 30 about the Wrigleyville community’s fight against night baseball games in Wrigley Field.

What you’re reading:

From Medellín, Colombia, Eamon Johnston recommended:


View from the ground:

@shaunemackinlay captured an evergreen piece of holiday spirit in Halifax, Nova Scotia; @mallory_wanders went in for a long exposure of Pensacola’s neon signs; @kelvintagnipez shot buildings while biking in Hue, Vietnam; @lekurosawa photographed a fire hydrant with seasonal flair.

Show us the view from your city! Tag us on Instagram with the hashtag #citylabontheground. Here’s one of my dispatches from Europe:

If you’d like to share what you’re watching, reading, or streaming, drop me a line at tmisra@theatlantic.com with the subject “cityreads” or tweet it at us with the hashtag #cityreads.

That’s all, folks! See you in two weeks; until then…

Happy trails,

Tanvi

@Tanvim

The Navigator newsletter lands in your inbox every other Friday.
Please forward to other curious urban dwellers!

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    Why Are Little Kids in Japan So Independent?

    In Japan, small children take the subway and run errands alone, no parent in sight. The reason why has more to do with social trust than self-reliance.

  2. Climate Change

    Built-Out Barcelona Makes Space for an Urban Forest

    The city is planning a major green makeover to combat the heat island and create a more welcoming place for humans and animals alike.

  3. How To

    Against Little Free Libraries

    Does that birdhouse filled with paperbacks on your block represent an adorable neighborhood amenity or the “corporatization of literary philanthropy”?

  4. Design

    When Density Isn't Greener

    A new study challenges some widely held assumptions about urban and suburban development.

  5. U.S. Embassy in London
    Design

    America's Passive-Aggressive New Embassy Arrives in London

    Why can’t we let bunkers be bunkers?