Saturday, August 20, 2011

Our final day in Ferrara...

(August 17) How can it be our last day in Ferrara, we just got here! However, day four it is and we leave tomorrow for Milan. I started the day with a quiet half hour or so in Piazza Repubblica...just me and the street cleaners!

I returned to the hotel to have breakfast with mom, and then go for a walk about. I have been so charmed by the colours and architectural features of the buildings in Ferrara. Not to mention the beautiful flowery shrubs and greenery cascading down walls.

We found ourselves over by Palazzo Schifanoia. No interior photos allowed, but the museum contains the collections of the Musei Civici d'Arte Antica, so lots of "old stuff"! lol I'm sure I would have been more engaged if it hadn't been sooo hot inside the palazzo, stiflingly hot. I did take time to look at the gorgeous illuminated manuscripts, including the Charterhouse Bible commissioned by Borse d'Este. And some carved ivories, which were amazingly detailed.

But I was relieved to escape outside into the back garden and rest under the incredibly thick canopy of leaves of one of the trees...

Wandering along on our way, we stopped into the church of San Francesco. It was lovely and peaceful and not nearly as overwhelmingly ornate as the cathedral.

I liked this 13th century madonna and baby, their faces so sweetly cheek to cheek!

And this 17c annunciation was also lovely, I thought.

There was also a gorgeous model of the adoration of the magi (which was also slightly bizarre, because apparently it was animated...for a price - if only I'd had a one euro coin to see this spectacle in action!)

We carried on with our exploration...coming to Palazzina Marfisa d'Este. The beauty of Palazzos Schifanoia and Marfisa is that the admission was covered with the combo ticket we bought for the we could stroll through, enjoy what we liked and not worry about missing something, because by this day, it felt like they were free! Palazzina Marfisa has some really beautiful period furniture, including some great huge wardrobes. But the section we enjoyed most was the exterior - the Grotta and the Loggia degli Aranci (orange trees). The Grotta was in a building with a long porch, and had one of those wonderful wooden ceilings with the recessed, painted panels.

We lingered as long as possible in the Loggia degli Aranci...I stretched out in the grass, where it was wonderfully shady and peaceful! One of the women on staff came out to apologize for having to make us leave, but they were closing for the afternoon...

When we came back outside, I saw this long row of bicycles and had to take a photo...seems so typical of Ferrara!

Since we were so close to the city walls, we decided to step outside the city gates and go for a stroll along the ramparts...making our way along the section called Rampari di San Rocco.

We then turned back in toward our hotel, stopping at Piazza Ariostea for deliciously refreshing gelato...and an unfortunate pigeon encounter. (I had gotten bird droppings on my arm in Rome, apparently it was Mom's turn in Ferrara!) Oh well, what are you going to do but brush it off, have a laugh, and carry on our merry way! It was time to return to the hotel for a siesta anyway, so mom was able to rinse out her blouse before the pigeon poo left a permanent stain. :) She had less success getting the chocolate gelato rinsed out...I believe she will always have that as a reminder of our trip!

Three (ish) hours later, we went for our final sojourn around Ferrara. While wandering, I spotted this super cool street that seemed to be arch after arch after cool!! (Afterward I discovered it is called Via Volte - Street of Arches, maybe? And is one of the attractions on the tourist map, so apparently I am not alone in thinking it is worth seeing!)

We decided to return to Leon d'Oro for our final meal in Ferrara. Partly because we really like the food, the service and the setting...partly because there was not much choice, we passed bar after ristorante after pizzeria with "closed for holidays" signs! Ferrara, like many Italian cities, empties out in August, as the inhabitants head for the coast. And there didn't really seem to be a lot of other tourists around either. It worked for us, we felt like we practically had the place to ourselves! I thought that Mom needed to have at least one spritz before we left Italy, so ordered up a couple as an aperitif. Delicious!

After supper, we had a very short stroll, heading down the street tucked down along the left side of the cathedral. Apparently this is the bar scene in town! Bars lined the street on one side, with the cathedral wall on the other - including a great ledge for people to perch with their drinks. Very cool!

As we walked, I glanced up and spied a wooden ceiling very much like the one in Palazzina Marfisa...seems so amazing to think of such treasures being in random homes, but considering the age of the buildings, and that probably many former palazzos have been converted into condos or apartments, I suppose it makes sense!

And so ends our stay in Ferrara. I'm so glad we decided to visit this city. It is a bit off the tourist trail (ok not really, but it is less of a tourist destination than Rome, Venice and Florence!) But well worth a visit, it is full of things to do and see...and wonderful to just amble around and soak up the atmosphere, especially later in the day when the air cools and everyone comes out on their bicycles for the equivalent of an evening stroll. It feels like it would be a wonderful place to live.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An awestruck kind o' day in Ferrara...

Monday morning brought thoughts of Wow, can it be our third day in Ferrara already?? I popped out early for a short stroll around the castle, then returned to the hotel to rejoin Mom. We had breakfast - the hotel buffet is quite decent, including whatever form of coffee you want (espresso for me every time!), cereals and fresh pastries (Sara will be jealous of my chocolate pastry for breakfast!), yogourts, cheese and ham slices, boiled eggs, juice, milk.

After breakfast, we headed out to explore more of this lovely city. We walked up to Palazzo dei Diamante (forgive my spelling and/or wrong names in these blog entries...I haven't kept notes while out strolling, but hopefully won't mix anything up!) This palace is one with great huge pyramid stonework covering the outside...the theory being that this shape would channel positive energy of the universe to the family inside. However...this being Italy on a Monday (and a holiday at that), most of the museums were closed, so all we could do was pop into the courtyard, use the washroom (conveniently open!) and head back out.

Just beside the diamond palace was a museum of some sort, seemed mostly related to war paraphenalia, so we didn't go inside, but the courtyard had the most exquisite roses...

We were going to investigate the Botantical gardens, but those too were closed. However, this much larger public park was open. What a delightfully refreshing green space filled with big, colourful trees of many varieties. Just inside the front entrance were two massive old trees with plaques that said cedro del libano, which mom and I assume means cedar of lebanon. They were so old that their massive branches needed to be held by a kind of mechanical sling.

After our promenade around the park, we moved back out onto the streets, coming across Chiesa di Gesu. We'd read about a statue collection, so went in to check it out. It reminded me of a big diorama! But the figures were well done, very expressive faces and gestures. My favourite piece of art in the church though, was a brilliantly colourful annunciation. It was a restful place though, with piped in music quietly playing in the background.

As we continued our random wanderings, a building caught my eye and I went to see what it was all about...Piazzete Sant'Anna - clearly I was meant to find this place, it is named for me! LOL

As I checked out the outside, I discovered a wrought iron door that was ajar...obviously I had to go in! I beckoned to Mom, who had parked herself on the stone bench that ran along the piazzetta and in we went. What a gorgeous cloister...

I was entranced by the peaceful beauty of this quiet spot. I threw my arms in the air, unexpectedly moved to raise my face to the sun and sing thanks to God for this day, for this trip, for calling me to walk a new path, for all that I have been blessed with in my life. A song by a group called The Message came to mind, "I am awestruck, overcome...razzle dazzled, come undone...I am awestruck, overcome, by God, by you!"

Outside in the piazzeta again, we noticed this strip of grates with water bubbling up through...we were mystified by the purpose of this, but a couple of pigeons seemed to find it a great spot for drinking and bathing!

Carrying on, we passed a (closed) exhibit of some sort with this peculiar display outside. The other side of the egg had a scene with a caption that mentioned Croatia. We never did figure out what was all about, but it was most intriguing.

When we started out for the day, we had thought to check out Palazzo Schiafoni (sp) but never did get there (at least not this day.) This day we kept getting sidetracked! (Which is really the best way to travel anyway, don't you think?!) One of the attention grabbers we passed was Casa Romei, which looked quite appealing, so in we went. I snapped a pic of this lovely fresco fragment just as a woman came to tell us there were no photos allowed inside.

We were allowed to take a few photos in the outside area though, so here I am on the second floor. Definitely worth a visit, this is a charming little museum, with a number of interesting fragments of sculpture and fresco, and offers a glimpse into the life of Renaissance middle class (the house was that of a banker, not nobility).

Back out into the streets...which are absolutely gorgeous in the sunlight. The colours remind me very much of Pisa, lots of gold and reddish shades glowing in the sun.

We stopped at one of the little spots along the cathedral piazza for lunch and people watching! The figure on the bike with the billowing white robes was a nun in full regalia, cycling along on her way to wherever. Everyone here gets around by bicycle, it is so cool!

On the way back for a siesta, we passed the familiar Savonarola statue - which fascinated us, as always!

  And then through the gates, and across the cobblestone piazza to our hotel. While Mom had a rest, I came out and sat in the piazza and caught up on a couple blog entries! When the air cooled, we went for an evening passagiata, or stroll, around the city. Heading off in a new direction, we found ourselves in a bit of a seedy (but not at all unsafe feeling) part of town. I'm not sure what this building was, but the barracks-look, barbed wire and proximity to the old ghetto section had me wondering if it wasn't some kind of prison camp...certainly had an unsettling atmosphere.

After a while, we found ourselves out by the city walls, although weren't up for a walk along them at this point. 

We were starting to feel quite hungry, so decided to head up via San Romano and back to familiar territory for supper.

We would have been open to eat in unfamiliar territory, mind you, but this being the height of August holidays, there isn't much open by way of eating establishments, except around the castle and cathedral. We have decided, however, that Leon d'Oro is our "go to" place. Delicious food, great prices, friendly service and full of life. This particular evening, I had no idea what I wanted to eat. While browsing the menu, I saw something that sounded like chef's special so I asked our waitress what it was. She said it is a surprise, different every time. I thought she meant different every day, so asked what was it this day? But no, she meant literally different every time! It truly is a surprise, the chef puts a little of this, a little of that, on a plate, whatever strikes her fancy. curiosity was piqued so that is what I ordered. And it was absolutely delicious. A bit of speck (spiced meat) on a bed of lettuce, a slice of polenta topped with various mushrooms, a slice of cheese topped with arugula, a piece of bread with melted cheese and cooked spinach, and a piece of what I think was a souffle of some sort - whatever it was, I loved it. We also had a bottle of prosecco. Mom had a spinach lasagna with meat and bechamel sauce.

We lingered quite a while over our meal, but finally was time to call it a night...of course we ended our evening with a stroll around the castle!
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