Ferrara, a long long way to run!
So what if I’m taking these references to The Sound of Music too far? It makes me happy and it’s what comes natural to me, you’ve got to learn to be OK with it. I also like this title because it hints at my timely return to running that happened in Ferrara over this visit. You may applaud.
I want to dedicate this post to the Italian city of Ferrara, in the Emilia Romagna region. In 2006 my dear friend Laura ‘Kmippscie’ Dadson* moved to this city in her Erasmus year at uni. In 2007 I visited her in this city for the first time, and since then have returned a good four or five times… often for a nice lengthy two-week stint.
These times have of course been really special for the time with my ‘Kmipps’, but as I’ve returned each time Ferrara itself has become quite a dear welcoming friend to return to also.
Ferrara is a pretty city, attracting a relatively small number of tourists to other neighbouring Italian cities. It’s a hidden treasure really, and whilst it’s not particularly grand or acclaimed, it is pretty and a perfect little retreat for an English visitor wanting to soak up Italy’s culture, sun and food.
Whilst in England we have the Italian stereotype, aftera great amount of purely duty-bound research, I’ve come to realise that Italy is actually quite a diverse country, and each city has its own distinct flavour to offer; its cuisine, art, architecture, industry, climate or particular quirks make each place quite distinct and worthy of exploration and celebration.
I’d like to invite you in on my own cultivated opinion of some of Ferrara’s particularly fine assets.
Cappellacci di zucca al ragù and other culinary excitements. As with all Italian cities, Ferrara has its own typical pasta. It has its own typical bread, but the less said about that the better. Anyway the pasta more than makes up for it… pumpkin filled pasta parcels served with a ragù sauce. You can also have it with butter and sage but only a crazy person would opt out ofan additional portion of authentic Italian ragù, in my honest opinion.
Anyone enjoying the Ferrarase cuisine will also quite enjoy the generally cheaper eating out costs, on account of the fewer tourists. Definitely get out to a local bar for pre-dinner aperitif drinks of spritz aperol, with the customary selection of Italian meats, cheeses and other nibbley bits.
The city walls. Ferrara is beautifully tucked in by its wall. This means you’re snug as a bug and safe from any medieval attacks, plus the wallnow doubles up as a greatpromenading/running/cycling route… as tested by yours truly, bountifully and smugly.
The city centre/centro. Cobbled streets, cute little shops, and a rather jolly selection of bars, gelaterias, and cafés. At the centre is the very grand, very marbly cathedral practically adjacent to the moated and stately Castal Estense. Definitely read Sacred Hearts, by Sarah Dunant, to get a better feel of the medieval history of Ferrara, (and also for a good read about racey nuns).
Parks and green spaces. If you’re prone to reading in a sunny spot or shamelessly sunbathing, Ferrara holds an essential for you; green spaces to do so in. I particularly celebrate this, because it’s not always that easy to get to a good sunbathing spot on the same outing as a trip to a city centre.
Piazza Ariostea, (its namesake, the poet Ariostea, has a large column and statue in the centre), is a piazza fashioned from an old race track, that still hosts the occasional horse race to this day. A great grassy spot where I’ve spent my many hours working through the greats; Brontë, Austen and Meyer. For a more anonymous spot (ie. where it’s OK to practically strip off), check the large park on the north side just outside the city wall.
The cemetery. It may seem like a morbid attraction, but the cemetery is particularly beautiful. A great spot to wander around and look at the interesting and well cared for graves and memorials. Take a fancy camera if you’ve got one and you’ll look like a genius on your return home.
I’m afraid I may not have done Ferrara justice, and of course there is more to explore. Really Ferrara is a quaint, comfortable sort of city with more hidden treasures and gems and delightful ways to put on weight that I’m able to account for. My suggestion? Ask an old school friend, one that you’ll be comfortable to descend on for a fortnight plus, and send them out there to live, so that over time you might fall in love with this city as much as I have. Once you’ve done this, let me know, and we’ll exchange notes over cappellacci and prosecco, both feeling like a more sophisticated breed of tourist.
*An in-joke whose origin is almost forgotten.