A couple of friends I had not seen in years let me know they would be in Ravenna for two weeks at a language school, and after much organizing and reorganizing we managed to make a plan to connect for an overnight in Ferrara, a point halfway between us. I had not visited to Ferrara since I studied in Bologna over a decade ago, and remembering how much I liked it, was delighted to have both the excuse and the time to return.
I was happy to be able to book one of the new Trenitalia Amica fares, ticketless, through the web site. A limited number of discount fares are offered on all national trains to encourage booking in advance. We then found a scrumptous web site for a B&B called Dolce Mela (sweet apple), and booked ourselves a triple for the night.
It was a charming, comfortable, and welcoming choice. Marco (who is originally from Torino) and his wife Mela (get it?) bought this property seven years ago, and have been in business for five. Such a renovation they have done, with an meticulous attention to highlighting architectural accents like beamed ceilings, contemporary lighting, a lavender-laced courtyard. Their thoughtfulness is apparent both in assistance and accoutrements: bikes, hair dryers, parking options; the six spacious rooms are all decorated individually, but equally attentively. At a rate of 80 to 100 euro per night, we found it a steal (certainly by Venetian standards).
Ferrara is for biking, both inside the city and beyond. Much of the center is closed to motor traffic, and both bike paths and racks for parking are common and convenient. The city is flat, and so it poses little challenge no matter what your athletic status. Bikes are available for free or to rent from almost any lodging and independently, and there couldn’t be a more pleasant introduction to the town, I don’t think. We were on them the moment after check-in; weaving ourselves up to the stunning duomo, then circling wider and wider, finally scaling the surrounding medieval wall for a bird’s eye view of Ferrara. As a flaxen moon began to rise above the horizon, we and our appetites headed for some food Ferrarese.
The B&B owners had recommended Il Restaurantino di Colomba, not far from the duomo on Vicolo Agucchie. I couldn’t help noticing the variety of fare that was available throughout the city, more than I’m used to in Venice, frankly. We made the right choice for ourselves that evening, however. With patient service and not an ounce of pretense, our young, gracious waiter served us an all antipasto-and-primo meal: starting with a Radicchio rosolato in honey sauce, with shaved reggiano, and lardo crocante, followed by a bis of Cappellacci (thinner, floppier, triangular ravioli) di zucca con burro e salvia (butter and sage), and fresh maltagliati pasta and vegetable ragù. A bis is just the thing to allow the diners to select two (tris for three) primi, and each receive a one-serving size plate with a sample of each. We followed these excellent entreès with a serving of Sguazabarbuz split among the three of us: a minestra, again with the fresh maltagliati pasta and fagioli al ferrarese. It’s different than the Venetian version, sauteed with lardo and including a little tomato concentrate. We finished off the meal with a semifreddo and chocalate sauce (or it finished us off, I’m not sure which).
We continued nosing into all the interesting things Ferrara had to offer for part of the next day, but needless to say, such a brief time only served only to make us determined to return.