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22 May 2020 - Day 41 – Ferrara

Awakening to a lightly overcast morning sky, I had extra time to organize before closing up my suitcase and heading to the ground floor. I only needed a light jacket, and the breeze was mild. Back the kilometer to the train station, that long straight walk on Via Garibaldi over the water. I sort of kept an eye out for breakfast, but it wasn’t a priority, as the station was large enough to have services. Nothing came up interesting on the east side of the boulevard, so Bricolage for an Americano and roll was going to make do. My train south departed the middle platform, so it was down, over, and back up stairs for the 9:50. And I had my “bump-up” ticket to boost the Eurail pass for the 50-minute ride. (For some train lines, an additional amount is collected, despite having a Eurail pass. Every now and again, I had to get a supplemental ticket to take the train I wanted.)

#Ferrara is my destination for today. My lodgings, Il Pagliericcio, is a 1-bedroom flat in an apartment building 10 minutes from the station. I’d arranged with Enrico to meet at 11, which would allow me time in case I got lost. Maps did a good job guiding, and the walk on a path through a tree filled park was a plus. Crossing the Viale Po, an 8-lane roadway was hairy, despite the traffic signals.

Enrico, a twenty-something off-duty policeman, was perusing the newsstand as I rolled up. My flat was only one level up (stairs) and the bedroom was huge, albeit it was an open-space plan and the only real walls were around the bathroom. He handed me a set of keys, showed me how to turn on the hot water, and took off. I cracked open my bag, pulled out dirty laundry to put into sacks, and took off for Lavanderia Splendor. I’d emailed ahead, and they would wash, dry and fold my clothes and have ready by 6pm.

Soiled clothes no longer an issue, I headed back to the train station. I’d hired a guide through Civitas for a 2-hour walking tour.

BikeinBO provided the tour, and a fit cyclist named Pietro was our guide. A couple from New Orleans, Rachel and Aubrey, and I were the group. Introductions and outlining the route completed, we headed off for the Acquedotto di Ferrara. We learned that Ferrara had not been founded by Rome, as it had been swampland. Developed in the ninth century, it is connected to the River Po by canals. The Acquedotto is a twentieth-century water tank, no longer used as part of the hydro system or connected to the aqueduct, but an attractive building.

Walking towards the city center, we came to a rotary and headed down the Via Delle Volte, a street mentioned in Bassani’s Garden of the Finzi-Contini. Formerly a canal, the connecting vaults went from merchant home to warehouse across the water. Our next stop was the former ghetto Ebraico, the Jewish quarters which thrived until the Papal States absorbed Emilia Romagna (conquest by Pope Clement VIII), and then again when under French control. While “abolished”, it is still a center of Jewish culture, and three synagogues survived. Rounding the corner onto Via Giuseppe Mazzin, the old central street of the Jewish quarter, we walked into the Piazza Trento e Trieste, the old Piazza del Mercato delle Erbe, the main market square of Ferrara.

The plaza runs alongside the south side of the cathedral, and opposite is a loggia and incomplete bell tower. We moved around to stand in walk in front of the cathedral before entering the Piazza del Municipio and the Palazzo Municipale, bracket by two statues of the Este family. Once inside the courtyard, the Scalone d’Onore, white marble stairs were stunning. After quickly looking at a few rooms in the Ducal palace, we exited the courtyard, back to the Piazza dei Duomo and headed towards the garden and Castello Estense di Ferrara. Surrounded by a moat and an aggregate stone plaza, there are four looming corner towers, and the place is a museum. Intended as a fortress, it had been connected to the palace by a wooden overhead passage. Standing in front of one of the castle jails, Pietro delighted in telling us the sad tale of Ugo and Laura (“Parisina”), the bastard son and new young wife of Lord Niccolò III.

Our final stop was at a corner in the so-called Quadrivio degli Angeli called the Palazzo dei Diamanti. A Renaissance period palace, it was meant to start an urban revival and expansion from the center, which never completed. Now the Pinocoteca Nazionale di Ferrara, it houses a collection of paintings. Remarkable for its exterior covering of pink and white marble blocks; the blocks are set with 4-sided points outward.

Aubrey proposed that we all have lunch together, and Pietro was agreeable, so we headed back towards the fortress, where Pietro knew of a good pizza restaurant. Fortunately, no dietary limitations for the four of us, so we decided to get two pizzas to split, with a plate of sardines to start while the pies baked. And we all wanted red wine, so a liter of the house red accompanied the liter of water. Eggplant and zucchini for one, and red onion and sausage for the other, there was nary a scrap left as we finished with a coffee. Pietro headed out to his bike shop, as he was leading a ride that afternoon once school let out. Rachel and Aubrey were going to shop until the cathedral re-opened at 3:30.

As I’d learned that there was a former cathedral still in Ferrara, Basilica di San Giorgio fuori le mura was my next destination. Located well south of the center city, it would take me at least a half an hour to walk the two-plus kilometers. Maps wanted to wend me through where we’d been on the tour, so I opted to take some straight paths. Down the Corso della Giovecca, I wound up passing the university area, at which point I turned onto Via Madama (and its subsequent names) as I walked past a basilica and Carmelite monastery. More churches and schools, and the Archeological Museum were passed as I got to the Ponte San Giorgio, which crossed the Po of Volano.

The ex-cathedral of St George is a brick building with a large square belltower in the northeast corner. Ecclesiastic buildings, including a cloister run along the south side. Inside, the walls of the side aisles have a few chapels and large oil paintings mounted, and the surfaces of the nave are frescoes. A large gilt organ sits in the loft over the entry door. The apse is bowed, with the high altar behind the newer main altar. A statue of St George vanquishing the dragon brackets the entry to the presbytery with a bishop opposite.

Returning to the city center, after crossing the Po, I walked the path Via Quartieri in a park alongside the Via Baluardi, paralleling the river. Excavations a Porta d’amore didn’t allow much of a view. Porta San Pietro, another city gate, is under repair. Reaching the end of the park, Porta Paola, a Renaissance gate was in much better shape; it moat is not completely filled, but it is detached from the old defensive walls. Heading north, I had returned to the commercial city center, catering to the affluent tourist. It was after 4 when I arrived at the Piazza della Cattedrale. [At some point, I will seek an explanation as to what the difference is between the terms Duomo and Cattedrale.]

Basilica Cattedrale di S. Giorgio Martire, the Cattedrale di Ferrara, was elevated to that position in 1135 as the bishop’s seat was transferred across the river from the church I’d just left. With the Municipal Palace across from the western façade, and the Piazza Trento-Trieste to its south, this large church has a perfect setting for a photographer. The western façade is Romanesque, built with white marble. The three top cusps are of equal height and similar design with four arches and a rose window. A porch extends the central entry, but two sets of loggias run across the face and down the sides.

Entering is a flip in style. Following a fire, the insides were remade in the Baroque. With side aisles providing space for side altars, confessionals are placed by the formidable nave columns. Several ornate altars fill the transept, as well as the main in the presbytery. The cathedra is just outside the apse on the gospel side. The frescoes in the dome ceiling are simpler than I’d have anticipated.

It was pushing 6. Time for a drink and some journal time. I didn’t feel any need to return to the flat, so I would be “killing time” until I found dinner. Situated in the heart of Ferrara, I wanted a somewhat quiet place to relax. Reviewing the Maps options, I headed towards a brasserie called I Duellanti.

Looked like a good place, but they seemed to have a second name, Skottadito. Snazzy bar setup with backlit bottles, a counter with buckets of iced wine, it had just opened its doors so I was welcome to just about any table. Over in the corner near the front, I sat where I’d have enough light to write, be able to watch the Friday night crowd drift in, and still relax. With the first of two glasses of white, I ordered an antipasto platter.

The crowd built slowly, and between checking maps o the phone and my camera for pictures, I was able to represent another full day in my journal. The crowd was shifting towards louder, rowdy youngsters, with the dinner crowd heading upstairs to the balcony. I figured it was time to be off in search of my own evening meal. It took a bit of wandering, and reading menus through windows, but I finally settled on Materpasta. How can you go wrong when there’s a refrigerated display counter with fresh pasta to select from? Having a slight buzz, I didn’t grab the menu back to write down all I’d ordered, so I’m going to have to wing it with descriptions.

However, I got an email and a text – I’d forgotten to pickup my laundry! Fortunately, they’d be open at 8:30 tomorrow, so I can collect then. And it won’t affect my schedule. That’s what I get for enjoying myself too much.

Back to dinner. The glass of prosecco probably didn’t help – I had it as I sat down. I saw an appetizer that looked interesting, so a small plate with fettucine appeared, with deep fried leaf (sage?) and a crumbled chopped boiled egg mixed in. I don’t remember the seasonings, but it was wonderful. Next, so what does an Italian do to tempura? Okay, zucchini, carrots, shrimp, calamari, scallion. Pretty good, as there were some extra flavors I didn’t recognize in the batter. And to cap it off, only because I haven’t had any yet, lasagna with less tomato sauce, and diced pork. Even went with the half carafe of white I’d ordered. But they insisted I have a sweet – these three thin squares of lemon bar, that had to be made with just lemons, flour and sugar. Better than limoncello.

Sated, (okay, sloshed.) I walked, no, strolled back to the flat. No problems getting there, or getting in. I opened a window, kicked off the shoes and pulled out the netbook. Another posting written, ready to send into the cloud. And fortunately, I still had clean clothes, so tomorrow wasn’t too much of a dressing challenge.

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