October 10, 2007

(September 29 and 30) Wending our way up north from The Marches, we decided to spend some time in Ferrara. Driving in, one cannot help but notice that all the signs subtitle the place as the city of bicycles. Sure enough there are just masses of them in the old town and its immediate environs. It seems that the city fathers have decided to really discourage cars in the historic city so have made bicycles equal to pedestrians in terms of where they can go. This makes for a very lively downtown and a quiet one at that, since they don’t even allow scooters. img_5556-500x333.jpgWe also heard no sirens and no honking horns. Young and old, chic and country-looking, all types of residents have taken to the streets on their bicycles.

The whole town is 15th-/16th century, img_5567-500x520.jpgRomanesque in style with nothing higher than two stories and virtually all of it solid brick façade with little or no ornamentation outside. Inside, however, is a different story.

 Casa Romei was built between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and is quite well-preserved. img_5548-500x333.jpgThe Castello Estsense was built in 1385 to protect the Este family who later moved their headquarters to Ferraro.

The Palazzina Marfisi Este was built in the 16th century with elaborately decorated ceilings, and an orangerie.img_5549-500x333.jpg The Palazzo Schifanvia is another Este family structure, this one built as a place of amusements for the ducal family. In the restoration work, they have uncovered trash chutes, three or four of them. In them they found all sorts of beautifully preserved ceramics, painted in an intricate but unfamiliar, to us, anyway, style known as graffite.

In our wanderings, we came across the International Manhole Cover Museum and had to go in to see the exhibition. It was very interesting and truly was international in scope. Who would have thunk? img_5568-500x415.jpgOur hotel was a Relais & Chateaux property called the Hotel Duchessa Isabella. Our room, the last available, was small but adequate. They have an annex around the corner at, we think, lower rates, that looked as charming but it was not suggested to us. The building is beautifully restored and has parking beside its large garden, an important perk in this foot-friendly town.We did have one memorable meal. The hotel had recommended two different trattorias but when we passed them they didn’t seem inviting. We did pass a charming place, Osteria della Campana, and walked in to try to make a reservation. img_5560-500x440.jpgThe female chef came out and took our reservation for lunch later that morning. When we arrived we were showed to the last table and several people were turned away after that.

With the help of a waiter, we ordered a red wine that we liked enough that we will try to buy it later. It is called Laurento Sangiovese Riserva 2004 and at 19€ it was certainly a great value.

Our first course was an herbed goat cheese drizzled with pesto accompanied by a wonderful salami made of goose meat; and only 7€. We then splurged and spent 13€ for sliced steak on a bed of arugula with a grainy mustard vinaigrette sauce. It was terrific. On the side we had a dish of roasted and diced potatoes that were browned to perfection and a mixed salad. The presentation of the dishes was lovely, the ingredients fresh and the whole thing just delightful.

Gary finished with a flourless chocolate cake, which was touted as typical of Ferrara. We drank some grappa, morbida or sweeter for Varian and the stronger kind (secco, I think) for Gary. We were the only non-Italians in the whole restaurant, and were interested to observe that people kept coming in as others finished so that many tables turned at least once during the lunch time.


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