During my trip a trusted Ferrarese told me about a graffiti artist in her city who spray-painted the phrase:
Ferrara 500 anni fa era New York!
It means ‘500 years ago Ferrara was New York”. So…. maybe not New York, but…. during the Renaissance Ferrara was a cultural and economic mecca. The 15th-century “Herculean Addition”, begun at the behest of Ercole I d’Este and designed by Biagio Rosseti, made her one of the first modernly planned cities of Europe. Lucrezia Borgia lived here, binding the city to Roman politics and intrigue, and the Este court grew or drew in scholars and artists such as Ludovico Ariosto, Dosso Dossi, Torquato Tasso, Pietro Bembo, Ercole Strozzi, and many others.
Although now surpassed in tourism my Rome, Venice, and Florence I think Ferrara still offers quite a bit to the traveler looking for an Italian experience. It is situated in a couple hours train ride from Mantua, Verona, Venice, Milan, Bologna, and Florence. Oh, and did I mention the entire city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
The thing I love most about Ferrara is that it is walkable. More than that, it is also a city of bicycles (citta delle biciclette). I can leave home, from a house right outside the city walls (le mura), ride into the ancient city center (centro) in a matter of minutes, and sit alongside the Este Castle (Castello Estense) while drinking a machiatto or prosecco at a cafe (caffetteria).
This is my favorite thing about Ferrara. The freedom of movement on a bicycle in a city where it is safe for bikes is lovely. Bikes have the right-of-way in most areas, their own street signals for traffic control, and are the best way to get around the historic areas of the city where cars are not allowed.
The warm Italian sun, brisk air of October, cobblestones, medieval cathedrals at every turn, zipping by of scooters, and bumbling by of the other bikes, cars, and buses make for a comforting din.
My favorite spots over the past #40daysinItaly are:
Piazza Ariostea (eat lunch at Ludovico here, they have great salads and wine)
Biking and walking along Le Mura (the walls) of this ancient city which look amazing in panorama from the side but have lovely tree-lined walkways on top, too.
The centro (city center) where Piazza Savonarola is (try Osteria Savonarola for dinner and Al Brindisi for drinks after dinner)
The amazing Castello Estense in the centro
Via delle Volte, an old merchanting and storage street way
Palazzo Schifanoia, a palace for the Este family to escape the boredom of noble life in a castle, also home to amazing frescos!
I only have three days left here in Italy. I miss my husband and my dog very much. So, I’m ready to return home. But, I know that when I leave it won’t be long before I have the stirrings of a different type of homesickness. A homesickness for my Italian family, and my Italian routine, and my Italian life.