Walking without a real destination in mind between Ferrara’s streets was quite refreshing, mainly for the lack of massive groups of people making them crowded, especially after having been to other cities like Rome, Bologna and Siena, where most of the time we had to queue and wait to get everywhere.
With no map in hand (you really can do it without one in Ferrara) was nice to simply look around, admiring the well preserved Medieval architecture along with the stunning collection of Renaissance-era buildings too, turning in almost every cobblestoned little street hoping to find something utterly unique without any expectations at all.
Unlikely so many other Italian cities we had already seen, Ferrara didn’t feel like a major tourist city which was a nice change. There were almost no tourists at all, only locals on their bikes getting on with their lives (so many bicycles!), cycling to work or to school to pick up their children. Life in Ferrara felt very slow, nobody was rushing and people were stopping for a chat with an acquaintance at any opportunity they had, like if they had nowhere to be and nothing else to do afterwards.
Ferrara felt more like a small village than a city and definitely different from the usual tourist itineraries, somewhere where not everyone would necessarily stop unless they are looking for some kind of off the beaten path route away from the most visited and well known places. Here you can try some delicious and typical Northern Italian delicacy’s, a lot of meals are made with pumpkin such as this delicious bread we couldn’t help but trying – I’m addicted to bakery 🙂
In truth, our first impression of Ferrara wasn’t one of amazement. It must have been because we had been travelling across Italy for a while and after a bit some things had started to slightly feel the same. I’m not entirely sure why, I mean Ferrara has very beautiful old buildings, to mention just a couple: the stunning Este Castle complete with a moat (apparently on the top it also has an orangery, which we unfortunately didn’t see), the main Cathedral with it’s Gothic facade which really stands out compared with the architectural style of the other buildings. It was as if every house belonged to a different era which indeed is something very special, but still it didn’t sell Ferrara to us at that point.
From Not Impressed to Liking it
We were fortunate enough to be hosted by an history teacher who was born and had grown up in Ferrara that we got in touch with through couchsurfing. This very kind lady not only let us into her life, made us some delicious and typical and regional vegetarian food, but also offered some of her personal free time to take us on a bike tour. WE LOVE COUCHSURFING!!!!
We borrowed some bikes from one of her friends and we set off cycling on the uneven cobblestone streets which felt more like having an intense vibrating arms massage as we held on and I still don’t know how I managed not to fall off considering how clumsy I am. Anyway, we cycled on to the peaceful city wall, we stopped to admire some local art exhibited in what it used to be one of the gate houses on the wall, we went through a interesting local cemetery and finally we reached a public orchard full of organic vegetables and fruits. It was so weird! It felt like we were in the countryside but in reality we were still within the city walls of Ferrara. The landscape, the type of houses; everything looked slightly different and more rural but we were not that far from the main square.
That night we also went altogether to a community center where there were some local musicians playing and people making food, we had the chance to experience something very local that it’s not in any guide book, that’s for sure.
These couple of hours cycling between laughter, art, nature, beautiful scenes and the night at the community center spent eating and drinking wine with some music in the background made us change our opinion about Ferrara. We finally saw something different about the city, something special beside the beautiful sites available to everyone, something that made us see the city and its life from a different perspective. Once again we have to thank Couchsurfing for that, who knows if we would have left Ferrara with the same nice feeling about it otherwise.