While still the haze of dawn hung in the sky, as the clouds were breaking behind the tower beyond my window, I was up and getting ready for the day. Today L and B planned to stay in Bologna scouting out some of her museums, but I have seen most of the ones I wish to see, so instead I was preparing to hit the road for Ferrara.
Yes, my friends, it is time for another day trip.
Why Ferrara? It is close to Bologna and is supposed to have lovely medieval and renaissance architecture. It isn’t particularly large, either. Seems like a perfect candidate!
I was out the door early, stopping briefly in a pasticceria for a brioscia con cioccolata (brioche with chocolate). This followed by an espresso and I was rolling. I hopped on a train and set to reading the guidebook.
“Ferrara is a city in Italy.” Thats what the guidebook said. That pretty much sums it up, I guess.
In case the guidebooks might be inadequate I had also downloaded some guides directly from the city, and they were more helpful, including some recommended walks. The Medieval walk was first on my list, followed by a visit to the Renaissance addition. A walk of the walls seemed a pleasant repast as well, as I have previously walked the walls of Lucca. I’m sure the walk of additional Renaissance residences and churches would be nice, but time would almost certainly not permit, and the last walk went to “where the Po once flowed.” Having already visited nonexistent rivers this trip, the Po was low priority.
The train came to a halt and I disembarked, heading straight to the Castello Estense, in the center of town. There I popped into the city’s information station and got a map of the town, which would undoubtedly easier than the maps on my phone. The Castle itself is very impressive. It was built in defense against a tax revolt, and has, as it’s most important defense a moat.
Inside some of the frescoes remain, but others have fallen victim to the discourtesies of time and I can only imagine how upset the Marquise would be to see them. I’m fairly certain she would say to the Marquis, “dear, why don’t we have the frescoes redone?”
The kitchens were rather spacious, although the English translations on the signs here (and elsewhere) were almost incomprehensible at times. They clearly weren’t proofed by somebody who has a mastery of English. If they wish to hire me I’m happy to return and help them. For simply the cost of the travel expenses. I’m not a master of the Italian language, but I can muddle through in English.
Apparently a critical person at a proper meal is the shredder. Next TC, I am assigning the role of shredder to J. I can already see myself saying “cut faster, cur!”
Next on the tour were the dungeons. Actually, they wouldn’t let us go directly to the dungeons, first requiring us to stops and pretend to look at a nauseatingly boring display on masonry. Then we went to the first dungeon. They warned me on my way in not to hit my head. This was the nice dungeon. It was larger and got a trace of natural sunlight. They warned me on the way out not to hit my head.
On the way downstairs I was warned again that the ceiling was low. I should be careful not to hit my head. These two cells had no natural light and just big steel doors. I think this would be a depressing place to spend a lot of time. All of the doorways were small. Major downer.
I hit my head on the way out.
The rest of the castle was very beautiful and impressive. I was particularly impressed with the small game room, which is the perfect size for a 3-4 player game of Settlers. Anything more than that would certainly require moving to the more formal game room, of course, but sometimes the small game room is enough.
I visited the cathedral of St George, which has a glorious gothic exterior, but an interior that was updated much later and was rather uninspiring.
For lunch I stopped at a nearby restaurant where they provided local bread and some salumi, including ciccari (ie chicharones).
For lunch I had capellacci, which vaguely resemble tortelloni, but are supposed to look like bishops hats. They are filled with winter squash flavored with amaretto cookies. The capellacci were served with sage brown butter and the dish was delicious and comforting.
From there I continued my walk through the medieval portion of town, including a street called via delle volte, or “way of the times,” which has many archways over the road. It is a way of a time, perhaps, but not a way of the current time.
Passing into the Renaissance section of town, the architecture was strikingly different, including the palazzo diamante, or diamond palace, which is named by the diamond shapes on the brickwork outside. Contained within is the local national museum.
I continued for a bit of a hike to the church of St. Christoper. There aren’t a lot of St Christopher churches around, as I suspect many were purged, but this was beautiful from the outside. It was closed, however, and I was unable to view the recently restored interior.
Behind the church lay the cemetery, which I wouldn’t enter. Even in the courtyard, a silence and reverence hung palpably in the air. The sound of the shutter on my camera, itself, seemed to echo intrusively where spirits lay at rest. The cemetery was not a place for me – it is for but a few of the living: those with family interred within, whose souls speak words of welcome and comfort. The rest of us may be permitted, but we are not invited and should not tarry.
So I continued to the north, climbing the aged walls that still hug the city to their bosom, comforting her, shielding her, and shaping her. I walked along the edge of town for well nigh an hour, yet didnt even pass half the circle, as these fortifications are much larger than those at Lucca. At moments I walked her ramparts and gazed across the fields, and at other times I simply strode the dappled pathway, enjoying the late summer air.
Even such a gentle afternoon was not without it’s moments, however, such as the instance, while taking a photo, that I felt something wet upon my hand. There was neither cloud nor bird to be seen, yet there was bird poo. Ugh. And again, later, my walk was disturbed when a bug flew into my nose and was inhaled to be gone forever.
From here, I returned to the summer streets of Ferrara, exploring again her medieval churches and sampling a gelato on the way out of town.
Returning at last to Bologna I met L and B, and we found dinner at a familiar watering hole. I have visited Osteria dell’Orsa in the past, and was happy to return (although I had forgotten the limited scope of their menu).
For dinner we had a crostini with squacquerone, a soft local cheese, and mortadella. It was light, balanced, and a welcome way to break the afternoon fast.
For my main course I had a pork cutlet stuffed with prosciutto. The whole thing was fried and then covered with a cream sauce. It was delicious. This was served with peas and onions, which were tasty, albeit a bit overcooked.
We returned through the darkened streets, sated, to the apartment, with one last day ahead of us in Bologna.