Wednesday, June 9, 2010

3 June 2010 Venice

I got up at 6am so I could get the train station for my day trip to Ferrara. It had rained all night and I woke up to overcast skies and constant drizzle.

I got to the train station early so I walked around the area and had some tea at a cafĂ© (Bar S. Lucia, Cannaregio 282/B). I was the only woman in the place – all the men were coming and going downing their espresso in seconds before heading to work.

The train left promptly at 8:27am and it took an hour to get to Ferrara. I walked almost a mile to the center of town. Ferrara is a beautiful city and reminded me of Parma (lots of people on bikes) and Bologna (with the arched porticos). The city is known for the Este family, who ruled from the early 1200’s to the late 1500’s, until the blood line ran out and the Papal States took over. After a long decline, Ferrara is once again a lively city.

My first stop was to the Castello Estense de Ferrara, a huge fortress from the early middle ages. It rained hard while I was inside and it stopped as I got to the top of the tower (about 130 steps). I enjoyed the views from above. Inside, several of the rooms had beautiful frescoes and paintings on the ceilings.

The rooms had huge mirrors on the floor angled up so you didn’t have to stretch your neck up to view the ceilings.

Down below, I visited the dungeons. The ceilings were very short and the two rooms I saw were tiny. The woman that led the way made a motion of of her hand across her neck - off with the head.

The cathedral just around the corner from the Castello (built in the early 1100’s) was beautiful but a little too dark for my taste.

Service was going on with a dozen people at prayer. As I walked outside the sun came out and it was a beautiful afternoon. It would have been nice to be up in the tower when the sun was out. Next time.

I dined at Trattoria La Romantica for lunch: Cappellacci di zucca, which was pumpkin filled pasta in a tomato cream sauce (more creamy than tomato flavor) with walnuts and parmesan cheese (a regional dish), and a side dish of spinach, which was a huge portion. The pasta was wonderful and rich in taste. (16 euros total with 3-euro cover charge).

Ferrara has lots of cobbled streets with colorful buildings.

There was an indoor market, which I visited, but most of the stalls were empty. I walked around the various area of town just taking in the city life. I had read about a ceramic shop, so went to find it. I walked along (on top too) the city walls, as a portion of them remain. However, not thinking, I arrived when the stores were closed for their ‘siesta.’

Back in the center of town, I took the bus to the train station and headed back to Venice. The train ride was 1.5 hours, but it was nice to sit and relax.

I had my hotel make dinner reservations at Taverna San Trovaso, a place I had been to before. The place was full and mostly with tourists, but it’s a place I enjoy going to.

The bruschetta pomodoro with stracchino was fabulous. The stracchino is a local cheese and very mild in taste, very soft and creamy. It was excellent. I also had the mixed seafood dish: fried calamari, shrimp, and some sort of small fish with firm polenta. With house wine and water, dinner came to 33 euros.

When I received my bill, it came on a ceramic plate that had the restaurants name on it. I asked the waiter, “Can I buy this plate?” He said, “Yes, this night only.” “In the next 60 seconds?” “Si”. Then he just gave it to me. That made my night. I was also given a complimentary glass of limoncello, which is always a nice touch.

On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at Nico’s, a gelateria, and had a single scoop of pistachio gelato. Nico’s has some of the best gelato in Venice! It was so tasty.

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