Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Moving on to Ferrara

Oh, we were sad to leave Cetona on the 13th. What a fabulous time we'd had here and highly recommend it as a base from which to explore Southern Tuscany and parts of Umbria. I cannot speak highly enough of our wonderful hosts, Alessandra and Francesco! Remember that parking ticket we got in Montalcino? Well...not being sure what to do with it, I asked Alessandra. From there, all we needed to do was hand her the ticket, the 39 euro and she took care of the rest! She offered to pay it at the post office AND take the receipt to show them at the Hertz office to ensure they don't try to double bill us. The day before we left, Francesco brought us a bottle of white wine as a gift. They both came in the morning to help us get on our way. Francesco brought the car up, loaded in our bags, and took it back to the parking lot (this was much appreciated - I certainly wasn't going to attempt driving the car up, or backing down, that particular hill!)

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!


sandrac said...

I was fascinated by the castle and moat -- a couple of years ago I stayed in a hotel right across the piazza just so I could look at the castle whenver I wanted!

Unfortunately, during most of my stay workers were erecting scaffolding for a concert right outside my window.

Trekcapri said...

Hi Anne, I always find it hard after developing a fond relationship to the towns I stay in for a few days to leave. Almost like leaving home or something. That was so nice of your host to handle the ticket for you. Very nice hosts.

I spent an all too brief two hour stay in Ferrara as a day trip from Venice and really enjoyed my time there. Seeing your photos on this posts makes me wish I had spent more time there. Your description of the town during the early evening sounds very charming and inviting. Loved all of your photos and I am so envious of all the great food you are enjoying on your trip.

I am so enjoying coming along with you and your mom on your trip. I always look forward to your next entry. Thanks so much and keep having fun...

Anonymous said...

It would be jarring arriving in Ferrara after your quiet time in Tuscany! I've always done it the otehr way - arrive after having been in a larger centre - so it always seems so much more laid back and relaxing.

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