We dropped the car off at the Hertz office in Chiusi - couldn't have been easier, it is right across from the train station. The man came out, had a quick look, said ok you are all set, ciao. And that was that! (We'd rented through Autoeurope.ca and had full insurance coverage with zero deductible so I wasn't worried about any post rental inspection.) Our only glitch of the journey to Ferrara was when we went to buy our train tickets. Oops, the train we wanted was sold out and the next direct train didn't leave until after 5 pm. Hmmm...well after few minutes of hemming and hawing, we decided we'd brave a change of trains in Bologna. If worse came to worse, we figured we'd just spend a night in Bologna (as Jerry commented on fb, there are worse places to be stranded!) So we bought tickets for the train leaving immediately, rushed along the platform and jumped on with just a minute to spare. It was a style of train I'd never been on before, had just seen in movies - the kind with the narrow corridor along one side and compartments along the other. It was very full, but finally I spied an empty seat in one of the compartments. Permisso? I asked, catching eye contact with the people in the compartment, pointing at the empty seat and then at Mom. A young man got up, rapidly spoke with his girlfriend, got her moved to the inside seat, waved Mom into the girlfriend's now vacant seat by the door, and also waved me into his own seat. He then sat on one of the pull down seats in the aisle the whole way to Bologna. How kind and generous was that?? We had no trouble making the connection in Bologna, although was a pain dragging our luggage up and down the stairs, going underground to get from one platform to another. An uneventful and short second train ride brought us to Ferrara, where we took a taxi to Hotel Touring. Lovely hotel, although hard to go from our three story restored tower into a small hotel room! We have a great view of Castello d'Estense, and the tree lined Viale Cavour.
After getting settled, our first order of business was lunch - I had pizza Caprese (at least, I think that was the name), a plain tomato pizza with tons of buffalo mozzarella.
Then we wandered around for a while, experiencing culture shock coming from Cetona to Ferrara. Cetona is very small hill town...Ferrara is not huge, but definitely a city and one with a grand European feel to me, wide sweeping streets and magnificent buildings abound. Although there is also the medieval section with winding, narrow streets too. But for the first half day, I was wondering what on earth possessed us to choose this as our base, I felt very much like I was missing something. The cathedral is rather too ornate for my taste...it was hard to know where to focus, there is so much baroque detail covering every inch of space! Although there were a couple paintings I liked very much.
We also checked out the courtyard and exterior of the massive Castello d'Estense (saving the inside for another day). The moat is filled with great huge carp and whiskered catfish (the latter being 3 or 4 feet long) , which drift around in the murky water, popping up to the top to snatch a piece of food.
Feeling tired and draggy as the day went on, we came back to the hotel for a late afternoon siesta. When we went back out in the evening...ahhh, Ferrara in late afternoon when the air is soft and cool, and then later under a full moon, worked its magic! What a charming city in the evening - the streets are golden and full of life! Children laughing and running around, people of all ages riding bicycles through the streets, friends strolling arm in arm.
The scene is slightly marred by the McDonald's right across the street from the cathedral, although at least it is tucked back in the arches and not quite in-your-face!
The full moon and the bell tower...
Piazza Savonarola...and a close up of the statue. Not sure who the sculptor is, but he/she captured the malevolence and charisma of this historic figure! We wondered what on earth a statue of Savonarola was doing here, associating him with Florence in the time of the Medici, until we found out he was born in Ferrara! Home town boy turned monk then gone mad, it would seem!
Our first evening ended with a stroll past the castle, with the full moon overhead and the lights beautifully reflected in the moat...yes, we feel we can happily settle in here for few days!