We arrived in Ferrara in the middle of the afternoon on a hot and airless Saturday, and left less than 24 hours later. The roads to our hostel were practically deserted, empty both of cars and foot/cycle traffic. A lot of Italy shuts down for the middle of the afternoon in general and for August in particular, meaning this scene was being repeated all over the country.
Ferrara is a renaissance town in Emilia Romagna that feels a little like a smaller and cleaner version of Bologna, but with more bikes. Cycling is the favoured mode of transport and the largely pedestrianized central city is also open to bikes. Don’t let the discomfort of cycling over cobble stone streets put you off.
Ferrara Buskers Festival
The whole point of our visit was to check out the Ferrara Buskers Festival, which takes place over a ten day period every August. Nothing is scheduled until later in the evening, to let the heat from the sun fade. The festival was a mix of ‘invited’ groups and others that, while still part of the programme, were somehow not so official. The acts were mostly bands, but there were a number of other types of performers, too.
Central city wandering
Usually our most favourite thing to do, but we were suffering a little from travel fatigue at this point. Ferrara is surrounded by its city walls, meaning that is it is small and easy to get around. We had plans to further explore with the bikes we hired the following day, but decided we weren’t feeling as adventurous as all that in the end.
Fortune tellers are apparently a big business in Italy. We found a street full of them as part of the Buskers Festival (I assume), offering palm readings and, slightly more obscure, ear and eye readings. I joined the biggest queue, for a one euro reading that came written on a piece of paper. I’m still wondering what it said, if anyone wants to translate it for me.
Gelato Riva Reno
I’ve already mentioned how not delicious the ice cream in Sarajevo was. That fact, combined with the cheap supermarket ice creams I had eaten in Austria the two weeks prior meant that this little gelateria was a delicious revelation. They had a number of own flavours and local specialities, and were rather delicious.
Cycling to the River Po and around Ferrara city walls
Sunday morning we borrowed rickety bikes with dodgy brakes from our hostel, and set out in a direct line away from the city. Luckily for us, everything held together and we made it all the way to the Po River and back again, cycling along some of the city walls and then into the city itself. Ferrara is super welcoming to bikes, and they are allowed in the central pedestrian-only area. The abundance of cobblestone streets are a little less fun though.
Matt had tried the chick pea pancake that is farinata during his cycle trip back in March, and was pretty keen to share it with me. Farinata originates in Genoa, and in Ferrara it was just called ‘ceci’ ( meaning chickpeas). We returned to the same restaurant he had been to, where they also offer homemade style pizzas and coca cola by the litre. There was almost an awkward moment where we both thought a bowl of sand was pepper. A thick grained pepper, full of tiny pieces of glass and shell, that was intended as an ashtray. Hmmmm. Luckily this was all before our slices of ceci arrived, so no food wasted and no sand consumed.