Friday, October 11, 2013

A Fairy Tale City

It took some days to warm up to Ferrara, our next stop.  Largely because it was either raining, had just rained or was about to rain. And it was cold.  Ferrara like Parma is not on the American tourist agenda.  We wanted to spend more time in Emilia Romagna and wanted a Goldilocks city.  Not too big nor too small, with lots to see in the town and surrounds.  Ferrara met this need. 
Castello Estense
Not only did it have a REAL 15th century castle…built by an Este Duke (Lucrezia Borgia married into the Este family)… the castle still has a moat filled with water! The ceilings are filled with Renaissance frescos of sports and pagents, sadly a spider web of gauze patches covered them because of cracks caused by the big earthquake (5.9) last year. We took the English tour led by a lovely (they appear to all be lovely) young Italian woman so passionate about sharing her love of the City and its history.  Included in the tour was a visit to the dungeons which were used even during World War II.

We arrived in Ferrara train midafternoon Friday to THRONGS of young people leaving town for the week-end. Instantly, we recalled that Ferrara is a major university town. Our lovely apartment rental was in the shadow of the magnificent duomo and around the corner from the Castle .  The piazza in front of the Duomo is the place to hang out with friends and a drink.  It was nice to be surrounded by youthful enthusiasm and energy. 
Lampedusa memorial and nightly gathering in Duomo Piazza

Also around the corner was a scary statue of Savonarola (the bonfire of the vanities cleric and self anointed prophet).  He is a Ferrara home boy, but Donna was still surprised to see the larger than life statue in a place of honor.


Bicycles rule this town.  They are everywhere with old and young riders…some even dressed in spiked heels. The riders are proficient in one armed steering, so they can talk on their phones and carry their open umbrellas. 

Ferrara had a few other things going for it….1) Giorgio Bassani, a Farranese, set his famous book “The Garden of Finzi Contini” in Ferrara, 2) many museums, 3) a 9KM 15th century wall that surrounds the city which is also a bike/walk trail, 4)  it was a quick train trip to the 5th century mosaics of Ravenna and 5) it was accessible to many nature sights in the Po Valley.  As to #3 & 5, Plan B had to take over with the weather.

We were able to view many of the Bassani’s street/building references…such as the synagogue, the jewish school and the library.  In 1938, the Jews of Ferrara were subject to racial laws and prohibited from accessing the library.  That same library today houses all of Bissani’s books and writings.    On our last day in Ferrara which was beautiful…we walked along the wall  and stopped by the Jewish cemetery where Bassani & family are all buried.


We did make a trip to Commachio a coastal town on the Po which hypes itself as a little Venice (a stretch).    Commachio is famous for its canals, a delightful 5 arched 17th century bridge, eel farms and a famous Roman trading  boat.  The latter was discovered in the 1980s and it along with its contents were salvaged. The artefacts are  displayed in a museum.    In addition to checking out the eel museum, which expanded our knowledge  of eel  production titanically (just ask if you want to know more)…we enjoyed a lunch of eel and other seafood at a nice restaurant on a canal.

This blog would not be complete unless we teased your taste buds and commented on the Ferranese bread…now that we are safely out of its clutches.  After weeks of enjoying Tuscan bread, we discovered that in Ferrara, against all logic, they prefer to eat their own bread.  See picture.  It was fun to pull apart while you are waiting for your antipasto, but we had the most fun deciding how to describe its taste and texture.  Taste  was easy.  NONE.  Texture, we agreed on Ossified Pillsbury Doughboy.   


1 comment:

  1. I'm with Donna on Savonarola. Although he's a home boy, he could have been a smaller home boy. It appears that Bernie adjusted to Ferrara and that you both saw the many things it had to offer. The bread, not so appetizing in the pix.
    Walked to The Bells today with the DonnaDeux who is chez toi. Spent time at Stein Meadows with Mrs. Moose. Miss you both.