All Good Things Must Come To An End

Our last days and hours in Ferrara continued to be as wonderful as those first days were three months ago.  The last 48 hours have been crammed packed with not seeing things we have missed but participating in festivals and the normal flow of this amazing town.  We would try our hardest to do it all.

On Sunday morning we began the day with heading on the bikes to Urbani Parco to see some of the last day (a four day event) of the Vulandra festival.  People come from all over Europe to fly their kites….in all shapes and forms.  We had missed the first three days as we were away…….but Sunday morning was dedicated to families.  I cannot tell,you how wonderful it was to sit on a bench and watch hundreds and hundreds of multi generational families spending the day playing and flying kites together.  The grandparents helping their grandchildren to get their kites up in the air…..the young parents interacting with their children and other families.  One young girl just could not get the hang of needing to hold onto the string…..her Dad would then chase after the string with the kite still in the air and his toddler chasing behind. After a few hours of people watching and buying kites to bring  home for Peaks we headed out for our last ride along the Po.  This time we decided to try a different route I had discovered on one map.  Certainly not as well marked.  We found along the way the Ferrara dog pound an ended up half the time on posted private dirt roads.  It was such a beautiful and peaceful ride through these farm roads…..the only other person we saw was another person on a bike.  The ride along the Po was too short and by this  time we knew we had much more to do.  The ride  from Francolina has become shorter and shorter as we know well all the turns and bends and markers along the way. Lunch at da Pippos and we said our goodbyes to this wonderful family.  I began to realize this would be the first of many good byes.  Briefly home before returning to watch more of the Vulandra.  Shortly after we arrived dark clouds were everywhere and we quickly decide it was time to leave……about half the way home heavens opened up….we found shelter under a portico till the storm ended.  We had our first experience riding on the wet and slippery rocks.  Also being held this weekend in Ferrara was Ebraico festa…..the celebration for liberation of the Jews from the ghetto.  A few historical notes:  Ferrara was the home to many Jews in Italy…….many coming from Spain when they were forced to leave……the ghetto was constructed in 1624 and Jews were forced to live there in 1626……they were finally liberated in 1797 but it was not till 1860 when Ferrara became a part of the kingdom of Italy did     they see real freedom.  Our second apartment on Via Mazzini is within the ghetto.  At 1800 we saw there was,to be a jazz concert….we went but it turned out to be a lecture on American Jazz…..of course all in Italian.  It was a long almost two hour event!!!!  Home for a quick last meal…..With the few things left in the frig I was able to make a pasta meal.  Believe it or not at 2200 we went back to the Salon Estence for another jazz concert…….this time the concert was for real.  Delightful end to a wonderful day!!!!!

Monday is market stall day….on the bikes to buy two last things in the market…..a ride through town stopping at the ATM……I wanted to bring back some Euros for the next trip…..I know we,will return…..a stop at the cheese shop to bring some,home.  After sandwiches at home we sat on my porch for awhile to savor those memories we have gathered over the months.  A young Mom with two babies sat near us….the youngest was crawling everywhere as she ate her gelato cone…..not sure how much went in her or on her or the pigeons ate. One last bike ride was next….but where to?  We just took off and went here and there……part on the wall and part along the outside….through the medieval streets……through the historic area so we would not forget the art of riding bikes on crowded alleyways.  After showering our last visit to Bar 109 to say goodbye to Lucio the owner and our glass of wine as we watched people pass by.  Meo came to say goodbye and then we headed to say our final,goodbyes to Bruno.  We arrived there 20 minutes late but because he was the one to tell us about “Italian Time” I said when we arrived we had learned the lesson well……I thought we would just say our goodbyes but that was not to be….more wine and apertif’s awaited us.  Then onto dinner at da Noemi’s…….we had our first and last dinners in this wonderful place.  Maria Christina welcomed us with hugs and kisses and showered us with attention even through every seat was taken and people were waiting outside.  A slow walk back home stopping for one last gelato.  Along the walk through Piazza Castello we watched ( just for us I am sure) a presentation of dancing and sword fighting……oh, so many memories.  I hope the pictures I took of the castles reflection on the moats waters come out…….Faboulous to see.  It was a,very slow walk back as I looked in all directions trying to take it all in.  Even at midnight the streets were alive with people……the steps in front of the Catterdrale were even fully occupied with people sitting and talking.

It is now departure morning….the bags are packed……I am sure we will owe money this time…….Paul has checked all,the rooms and nothing is left behind…..the trash has been taken to the recycle bins and Paul is taking one last siesta on the couch before talking the bags down the flight of stairs.

It has been an adventure of a lifetime… many cherished memories of Ferrara and new friendships made.  The tears are interfering so I will end this now….see you all soon.  Viva Italia!!!!!

The Beginning of our Last Week

Tuesday morning we awoke to clear skies…..the storm of last night is long gone and the forecast for the week looks wonderful, if you can believe  First on agenda was to say our goodbyes to Valentina…she has been a wonderful young gal,to get to know and each week does a marvelous job of making sure our place is tidy, tidy.   After our hugs and thanks we headed off a park area on the southeast side of town that was having a four day market different from the other weekly markets in town…..we thank Valentina for telling us about it or we never would have known about it.  It went on and on with many different  stalls that we have seen over the three months.  On the way back we finished up our food shopping for tonight’s dinner with Beth and Bob. (My cousin and husband from CO who arrive this afternoon). A dry run on the bikes to find where to find the car park for their rental car we get tomorrow.  Paul and I walked to the Bus and Fly park to await their arrival at 2:45….in sitting on one of the park benches enjoying the sun and listening to the ” clusters of women whom apparently spend each afternoon in this park talking and talking about ????. I have heard these are Russian immigrants in Ferrara.  The bus arrives right on time and it was wonderful to see B and B again after way too many years.  As we meandered slowly back to the apartment through the Castello Piazza, in front of the Cattedrale and along Piazza Trieste they got their first sights of historic Ferrara and her medieval history.  After a quick settling in and a glass of vino we headed off for an orientation walk of the area and to see the inside of the Cattedrale……ending up at Bar 109 at the end of Via Mazzini for a glass of wine and to people watch as we gals caught up on our families.  Dinner was at home……a first course of polenta, Gorgonzola and pancetta…..then dinner was grilled chicken, roasted baby asparagus and fennel and bruschetta topped with tomatoes.  B and B did amazingly well and still looked great after being up for so many hours When we hit the bed that night.  Wednesday morning we hit the decks running as it was their only full day in Ferrara.  First off we headed to Bruno’s to borrow two bikes for their use for the day…..then rides through the town, along the top and outside of the walls ( the perspective is so different), a visit to the market stalls we had discovered the day before and ending up for lunch at da Pippo’s. B and B went on their own to,tour the Castello…..I enjoyed an hour on my porch in the sun…although it got very hot…..when we met up again we gals showed B and P exactly where to park their bikes and get the cab to take them to the car rental,place…..B and I then went for another bike ride.  As planned we met the men at the appointed time at Bar 109 for our evening vino and people watch.  Home for showers before our 8:30 dinner reservation at Mandolino’s.  Bob definitely is loving the Italian meat platters with their regional selections.

We were up at 7 for a 8 AM departure to walk to the car…..about 15 minutes…..on the road headed to Tuscany right on time.  Today is Liberation Day in Italy and apparently many take this as a four day weekend……the TRAFFIC heading south was awful.  We experienced stoppages and slow downs almost the whole time on the autostrada.  Never on previous trips have we seen this.  The toll exits were crazy with backups and people who had to turn right of course in a left toll exit lane or visa versa… we were.  Bob learned very quickly to just keep nosing in and you will succeed.  Bob and his co pilot …moi.. Got us through and B and P in the backseat did very well with limiting their advise.

first stop in Tuscany was in Greve at the wine museum… place to go if you have not done it before.  They all were impressed I immediately got us right into,the right parking lot and in a space right near the bridge that is at the entrance to the museum.  Our 15 E cards gave us plenty of tasting samples.  It is a lot of fun tasting many different wines… ….the machines have changed slightly from our visit in now have three options for the amount of wine you want in your glass.  We all ended up with our favorites in the various varieties we tried.

Our next stop was to find a place for lunch.. …..we did stop in Pietrafitta at a place we ate at in 04 and had a fabulous meal at….however now it appears to be more of a vine tasting place with cheeses and pate’s and we needed more than that after just leaving the museum.  I then said let’s go just south of Castellina to Tenellas….another place we went to in 04. We recognized it immediately even with its new name…..La Chiantina.  We sat outside at tables covered with linen clothes and had one of our best meals ever in Italy.  Certainly not expected.  This osteria was opened last summer and already has wonderful,tripadvisor reviews.  We shared an antipasti of tartare di verdure arrestite con balsamic e pecorino di Pienza al miele……Devine!!!!   I had for my meal…..zucchini pie with scamorza cheese wrapped in pancetta…..presented beautifully and melted in your mouth.  Will definitely have to try to recreate this summer.  By now it is well after 4 pm and our plan to stop in Siena on the way to Montepulciano is ditched……we will head right there doing the ss438….cypress road through the Sienese Crete area of Tuscany.  We did miss the first turnoff for the 438 but still managed to find it further down the highway.  These back roads are very slow but the country is beautiful and worth taking for sure.  The farmers are all busy in the fields planting…..the trees are full bloom…..the grape vines are trimmed and the new shoots are green and visible……everything is green and lush.  We pass through many small towns as we wind our way through the countryside.  Finally we see a sign for Montepulciano…..On our second attempt we enter the  city through the right gate.  One makes many very sharp back switch turns to get up to the Piazza Grande.  B and B have parking with their hotel so they were able to drive right up to it… People are everywhere…..again all due to,the holiday.  We are in different hotels and after a long walk following the map and not the signs for our hotel we find La Terrezza.  Great room on the main floor….no stairs!!!!. It is now almost 7 and we are meeting B and B at 730 on their terrace.  The views from their room and the inns terrace are spectacular……rolling Tuscan countryside and a setting sun.  ( del Borgo).  Dinner that night on a street that turns out to be right below our inn.  Lucky for us as we will have less steps and hills to climb after dinner.  Another fabulous meal at La Pentolaccia.  On our return to la Terrezza ( B and B with us) we met Roberto the owner…..his wife had checked us in…..what a character he is…..looks like Omar Sherif…is the captain of a poker team…..wearing his teams sweat suit…..hugging and kissing all four of us..  ….I really wondered at one point if we would get to bed that night.  However we did get a wonderful nights sleep and did not get up till 830.  As planned we met B and B at the parked car at 930 and headed to Siena.  PEOPLE everywhere…..we did find good parking using Ric Steve’s guide and Beth’s reading them……the lot is right at the stadio…..just follow the soccer ball emblem on the directional signs……,course right after we arrived it started to,sprinkle but not enough to interfere with anything.  First stop the Duomo…….magnificent as ever….the floors were uncovered so we again got to see all the wonderful tiles.  I do not remember having to pay to enter before but you do now….well worth the 4 euros that is for sure.  Next stop the campo……by now the sun is out and the place is filled with people of all ages enjoying the day and holiday.  After lunch on the campo we headed back to the car…..somehow we found the train station…the signs are there but spotting the train emblem is much more difficult than following the soccer ball.  Our goodbyes were made to B and B……we had a wonderful four days with them and they are very west travel buddies.  They are now,on their own for the rest of their first European adventure……a few more days in Tuscany before heading to Praiano and then Rome.  Both have caught the “bug” and Beth is already thinking of another trip.

Our train trip back to Ferrara turned into a real adventure….thank goodness we were not on a time schedule.  They announced when the train was already 50 minutes late in departing Siena that there were problems…track or train we were not really sure….and it would be 50 minutes more delay.  An Italian near us said that means….” Who knows when”.  Well I knew our connection in Florence (refredi stop would not be made) so I went to the ticket office to see what our choices were.  The man was less than helpful and said….” No idea”…he did return my money for the second leg and I,decided we would ride the train all the way intro Florence as I was unsure how many stopped in Refredi going to Ferrara at this time of the evening.  Of course no WIFI to check on my Ipad.  Finally an announcement was made…picture in your mind everyone rushing back on the train from the platforms… was hot as blazes on the train and during this time everyone was just sitting on the platform talking and smoking.  Just north after the Castellina di Chianti stop I noticed the train was not traveling a normal speed… did stop several times and then continue on……I assumed because we were so late another train was on the track…then we are going very slow and stop in some very small town and other announcement is made…everyone again is off the train……suddenly our train tries to restart with huge puffs of black smoke filling the sky……about 30 minutes later another train arrives to pick us all up…… This new train takes us only to Empoli……little did we or others know this.  Again to the ticket office but I could see that there was a train to Florence in about 15 minutes……we were told platform one……then changed to platform three….then back to one…we all got plenty of exercise going up and down the flights of stairs…..I felt sorry for people with luggage.  Finally made it to Florence at 8:15…..I immediately rushed to the ticket line to see how and when we could made it to Ferrara…thinking a night in florence might be our,option….well there was a train leaving in 10 minutes… Per of luck,it was running late and when we finally made it to Ferrara it was over 40 minutes behind schedule.

home felt very good…….it is now Saturday and almost noon…..lots of things going on this weekend for us to enjoy… to the kite festival now…..



An interesting storm this evening……lots of thunder and lightening and then about 15 minutes of pea sized hail.  As we planned on dinner out tonight…..winding down on stocking the cupboards…I went to and according to the hourly forecasthat would clear by 20:00 .   It ended up being 20 minutes off and at 2020 the moon was out and we walked tp dinner…….did choose a close by one just in case…..Sofisti.  When we finished it was raining lightly but no further lightening.

The Count Down Has Begun…..

It seems impossible that it has been a week since I last updated family and friends on our happenings.  Fortunately the ability to face time and Skype has made it easier being away for three months.  How sad we were to receive Kate’s face time last Monday evening  informing us of the Boston Marathon bombing…but relieved however to learn she was working from home that day as her office is on the finish line and it is always chaotic.  It has been strange to watch the news reports of a major event in your country from afar from an international news agency.

Now for the update:   Last Friday night our dinner with Jane and Drew at Bruno and Paola’s appartmento finally happened….everyone was well at last.  Paola prepared for us a fabulous multi course meal that just went on and on. The evening started out with presecco and nibbles and conversation in their living room.  Paul and I have so enjoyed all we have learned of Ferrara, the Italian government ( past and present) and so many of the cultural issues that faces us all.  The issues of today whether here or in the States are so very similar.  Paola has promised to email me soon the recipes and I hope I can do them justice when I get home.  The spinach/vegetable soup will become a winter favorite for us.  The remainder of the meal will remain a secret till I prepare at some point and say “Grazie, Paola”.

Jane and Drew were heading home the next morning and we will miss them here and have so enjoyed our time with our new friends.

I again brought Paola flowers from the Friday flower man….this time he rushed out to meet me as I approached the stall and gave me a hug and kiss.  My goal tomorrow when I buy flowers for the last time (we are in Montulciano next Friday) is to ask him his name in Italian and have Paul get our picture.  Over these weeks he has become a Friday friend and lasting memory every time I buy flowers in the future.

on Saturday we did the usual……visiting the markets, shopping and biking…found the best of best gelato stores……K2.  All I can say is thank God it was discovered at the end of the trip.  I love gelato but only want few bites and then Paul gets to finish mine…..well not this time!!!!  Our plan for this night was to meet up with Maria and Marcella for apertifs in one of the local bars.  It took awhile to find a place off the main streets that still had an empty outside table and not surrounded by loud noise.  It was the first really warm weekend day and everyone was out celebrating spring had arrived.  After two preseccos and several bowls of nibbles we four decided to continue the evening by going out to dinner.  Da Ghetto was selected which we have gone to several times and is one of their favorites……Laura the “lady” of the trattoria was surprised to see the four of us together I am sure.

On Sunday we decided to try and follow Marcella’s directions and find the bike path along the little Po taking the road out of town by the train station.  This part of town is quite commercial and although there is a bike path along the busy road it certainly is not a relaxing country ride……we never did find the bike path along the Po so many miles later by chemical plants and other industries we returned to Ferrara.  As we approached the Castello we could hear this weeks contrade approaching with their playing of horns and drums. Following the sounds of music from afar we found them coming up Corso Ecole 1 in their white and blue colors.  This week we only watched them approach the Castello as we have seen so many of the weekly presentations.

Monday we awoke to another beautiful day….can this be possible….four sunny days in a row!!!  The plan was to ride the wall stopping along the way for several errands that still need to be done and also try and buy tickets for a jazz concert at the San Giovanni tower.  The ticket office was closed and as the day was,perfecto we headed back to the Po bike path.  Amazing differences noted along the way In just a few days……the dandelions are no longer yellow but all white fluff balls…..the peach and pear trees are trellised here and now covered with pink and white flowers…..mowing of all the park lands has begun……and the spring flowers are in full bloom.  When we got to the Po  we decided to go left on the path this trip……certainly not as interesting a ride as you are heading toward another industrial area.  When we stopped to view a location map an elderly Italian started a conversation with us…..little was understood except the “bravo” and his clapping when he realized we rode from Ferrara and had not brought out our bikes in a car.

On Tuesday, we headed to the staizione shortly after 7 AM for the train to Rovigo…..where we transferred to the Verona train.  It is about a two and a half hour trip there using the trains.  Our ten minute change time in Rovigo became three minutes as our train was late in arriving……it made a very quick get off the train, run down and then up a flight of stairs to the next platform and just make the train to Verona.  With our map of the city we had a plan of where to go…….the goal was to capture her essence…..maybe visit a few sights…wander the streets and find piazzas to sit in and people watch.  Verona is much larger than I thought it would be and the train staizione is on the opposite end of the town from the sites.  We walked the entire length to the Ponte Pietro one of the oldest Roman bridges although rebuilt after the Germans bombed it. We had a delightful lunch outside right along the river.  A slow walk back……quite hot today and we both were feeling the heat and probably not had enough water to drink.  On the train ride home through miles of farm lands and little towns, I noted how manicured all the farm fields look… the small plot of land around each in town home has become a vegetable garden……everything in these gardens looks perfect and organized…..elderly ladies in their house dresses are outside sweeping anything concrete.

On Wednesday we did more riding around Ferrara on the bikes and in the afternoon sat on Steph’s porch again at the base of the bell tower.  I am not sure if I have mentioned before but last week we met in this spot two American girls studying here in Ferrara.  Well, today one of them came right over and introduced us to two more of her friends.  It is fun listening to their stories and experiences and I feel they love having a “Mom and Dad” to talk with.  These girls are wonderful examples of our youth and represent their schools well…..U of WI, U. of Oregon, U. of CO. And UVM.  She was funny when she said…..”I can say UVM and as New Englanders you will know what I mean…..others always think somewhere in Virginia.

Tonight we took Bruno and Paola to Mezza Luna for another meal.  The evening started out with us going to their appartmento for a glass of prosecco.  Bruno said at one point…don’t worry….we Italians are always late for our dinner reservations.  I must have acted antsy as we were already 30 minutes late!!!!

We awoke to another beautiful sunny day.  The Po is calling for us to return. The ride out to Francolina seems to get shorter each time.  I must comment about the two or three road service workers we have passed each trip…they do wonderful work and you will not find a blade of grass or weed where they have worked…..however in many days only a short distance has been covered……they must be on what we call island time.  We stopped at the local bar for water before getting on the bike path…..I could not believe the lady recognized me from several days ago.  We again went right on the path not knowing how far we would go….starting out at marker 50km.  We turned around near Zucca at the 68 km marker.  On the way back we detoured into Sabboni to find one of the D’Este summer palazzo’s.  Unfortunately, we could not find it……we did find another Castello which is now the clubhouse for a golf course.  During the course of our ride we became aware it was noon as we could hear the local church bells ringing from at least three different towns.  We stopped riding to just listen to these wonderful sounds that last for about five minutes.  Yes, a very special memory.  On the way back to Ferrara we pass a small elementary school and observed so many pregnant mothers waiting to,pick up their children at one when school,gets out. I only note this as everywhere you see baby carriages here…..there definitely is a baby boom here.  Dinner was at Pippo’s our favorite pizza osteria…….half of which was taken home for lunch tomorrow……we ended this day with a gelato at K 2 and my getting Paul to dance in Piazza Trieste to music from one of the bars crowded with college kids.  This certainly could be considered a ” Perfect Day”.

Before I end I must tell you about the art of riding bikes in Ferrara.  It truly is an art we have learned well.  Just imagine riding down a narrow medieval alley congested with numerous walkers, baby carriages, dogs on leashes, people pulling suitcases or grocery totes and other bikers.  You have to learn quickly the art of weaving in and out…..slowing down using your brakes and what I call toe tipping to keep your balance and still stay erect on your bike.

In ending today is Friday and my goal for today has been done.  My flower mans name is GiGi.  Paul got pictures of us together as I was buying my weekly supply… will be sad not to see his beaming smile each Friday morning and get my hugs and kisses.

We will continue to live each moment of these last days.  Next week my cousin from Colorado and her husband arrive for two days and then we all head to Tuscany for several days before they then continue discovering Italy on their own.

We are now glued to watching the TV as the events in Boston are unfolding.  Our prayers and thoughts are with Boston today.  Kate stay indoors and keep your doors and windows locked.


We did it……

We awoke to bright blue skies and decided today is the day is the day to ride the bikes along the Po River embankment.  First off was to do a google map search and actually frode the bike path that would take us there without having to ride a highway for 9 kilometers.  Found what looked like it would work and off we went.  We continue to be impressed with the way the Italians have provided all with these bike paths that are all paved.  Our trip took us beside the Urbani parco, the local public pool and tennis courts for Ferrara.  We then headed north passing through several small towns till we reached Francolino.  This is a very small rural town that has a tabachi and church and not much else but it has the access path to the top of the river levy where the path and bike path is.  As you ride along this incredible path you have the river on one side of you and open farm fields, vineyards and clusters of two or three old farm houses and estates.  As Paul and I rode along the path ( the only people we saw were groups of what appeared to be professional riders and several walking their dogs) we kept saying  remember this….or remember that.  At noon we heard church bells ringing in a distinct town.  All the fields appear to be so manicured in appearance and a lush vibrant green as the sun and warmth are now here.  When we got to the town of Pescara and saw the kilometer marker we KNEW we should turn around and head home……in all we rode 44 kilometers on this adventure.

Along the way we passed acres and acres of dandelions in full bloom and as thick as could be……I told Paul he had now found his new job in Italy.  Everyone knows he is a maniac when it comes to dandelions as he hand pulls ours out yearly.  He and John Freeman could have quite a business here!!!!

Once back in Ferrara we had a late lunch…that beer never tasted so good….once we were home I was the one to take a siesta today.

Last night we took Maria to Mezza Luna for dinner and it was a excellent as the first time.  The camera went and I will attach a picture or two.  After dinner we walked Maria home….Marcello is back in Holland at work.  I certainly appreciate the tripadvisor forum for making our meeting possible.  Marcello is back,this weekend and we hope to  meet them for a drink one evening.  She leaves next week for China to visit her daughter who lives and works there.  Lots of discussion over dinner related to traveling to this part of the world at this time.  We were not aware of,the new stain of bird flu that is very serious there now.

finally the washing machine has stopped……Italian washers,take OVER two hours…..and I could not start the dishwasher till it stopped…..only one appliance can run at a time or the fuses blow.




Road trip to Mantua

Lunedi up bright and early to meet up with Jane and Drew for our road trip to Mantua.  The town has in the past been called both Mantua and Mantova but just recently it has been decided to now be spelled Mantua only.  It took us almost exactly the planned one hour and forty- five minutes to drive there.  It was bright and sunny when we left Ferrara and as luck would have it the clouds arrived half way there.  The drive was through many small towns….there is no highway stradas from here to traffic and we encountered few other cars.  The drive takes you through fields and fields of rice paddies.  This is obviously a main crop along the Po River Delta.  At this time the rice is about 8 to 12 inches tall and a very bright green.  These fields have been rice fields for hundreds of years.  i definitely hope to bring some home if there is room in the bags. The road follows the Po and I want to tell all that Italy has spared no expense in creating an amazing bike path along the elevated banks of the Po….it runs for hundreds of kilometers and is even all paved.  Also at certain points with a permit cars are allowed I have read.  We drove into Mantua along the ring road and easily found an internal,parking lot.  Wouldn’t you know it the drizzle started just as we arrived.  First thing we did was walk to the info center…..oh, I love these towns with covered porticos to walk under.  We soon discovered everything in Mantua is closed on Monday mornings except a few bars and such…..we all needed a toilette by now so into the bar we went…..they had coffee and P and I ordered cocco……I have never see n the like of what we got….you could stand the spoon up in the cup it was so thick…..I am sure just melted chocolate. Way to rich and a few tastes was enough for me…..Paul loved it!!!! This bar was very nice except in one way….the toilet was a one holer in the ground….Jane at least has a skirt on….I opted no thanks with slacks.  We all had many laughs when Drew described what and how Jane would deal with this!!!!

An early lunch at a place we found near the Palazzo Te after a 25 minutes walk….really raining by now and very cool.  Mantua is surrounded by a river that actually looks more like lakes in size and because of this the town is called Italy’s coldest.  It is lovely with buildings that look like those in Florence.  The Te is a renaissance palace known for its Giulio Romano frescoes.  It was built by Federigo 11 one of the Gonzagas’s as a palace he could keep his mistress in.  Also things worth mentioning…..the frescoes start half way up the walls and below that the walls are empty in all the rooms except one……the blank area would have been covered with leather…..the one room with all the walls covered with frescoes is very stressful to the eyes… is covered with paintings of giants with heaven venting its anger on them.  You can even find in some places graffiti written back in the 16C….it was decided during a restoration years ago to leave it as it is history.

the last two days we have been biking and continue to find new places to explore.  We expect Maria to arrive shortly for wine before we take her to Mezza Luna for dinner.  Unfortunately Jane and Drew are not joining us…they decided to do their last road trip as they head home on Saturday.


Still more to see and do

Do I dare say maybe spring has arrived in Italy at last.  It is only rarely we see a hat or scarf on someone now…both are a “standard part” of the Italian wardrobe.  The colors of the clothes worn is also changing…..the blacks are disappearing and bright spring/summer colors are being worn and certainly shown in the store windows.  I do wonder when and if boots will stop being worn.  I do not think in Portland the 30 and under  Italian female dress appearance has caught on……tights with the tightest short shorts or a skirt… least they have pencil thin legs…..and then boots of all heights.

All of the early fruit tress are flowering at last…..window boxes with spring blooming flowers are being hung and daffodils and tulips are seen in the gardens.  We finally got five straight days in riding the bikes and on several of them I ditched my jacket…..of course I was one of the few that had.

My goal this week was to finish up seeing the museums here in Ferrara.  My check list says we have only one still to do….unfortunately several others are closed or only open for special exhibitions so they could not be done anyway.  We did visit this week the Museo del Risorgimento e della Resistenza.  Fascinating with four rooms dedicated to documents and articles from 1884 through one room filled with WW11 articles.  It was interesting looking through numerous collections of war posters, letters, wire telegrams and pictures……from both sides of the conflict…..but many focused on Ferrara’s part in the Antifacist struggle, in resistance and liberation.  The war bombing damage shown in many photos was so sad to look at.

On a more  upbeat note as we left there we finally found a returnable bin for our paper and cardboard……and it was right in front of our next stop…the Orto Botanico.  Still to early to see much except for the emerging of all the green tips of many plants and the flowering of the early spring bloomers.  I was amazed at all the water garden areas in beds about 8 inches above the ground.  My thoughts centered on “why” when everyone talks about how bad the Mosquitos are in this area.

Back on our bici……next destination…..Casa Romei….of course it is in the opposite side of Ferrara and I manage once again to find all the one way streets to bike on going the wrong way against the occasional car that is allowed inside the walls.  On the way there as I rode under one portico to avoid the stone roadway and I manage to time it perfectly with a school being dismissed.  Just picture me ridding my bici through the parents waiting to check out their child and all the cars waiting in the alley.  I made it through but after I turned the next corner I realized Paul was not behind me.  Finally after many minutes I see him afar.

Casa Romei is a 15C Ferrarense home built for banker Giovanni Romei……part of which included the 16C an apartment for Cardinal Ippolito 11 of the D’Este’s.  The double loggia courtyard was beautiful with many frescoes still intact on its interior loggia walls.  This home also has the last remaining medieval fireplace to be found in the city.  Throughout you see many frescoes showing the white eagle the symbol of the cardinal.  This home on Romei’s death was given to the Corpus Domini monastery next door… some point the it fell out of the nuns hands and became run down and a place for the homeless.  It was to be torn down in the mid 1920’s when the state interceded and funds were raised to make it into,a Museo.  It truly is a fine example of an aristocratic house of the 15C.

One day last week we  decided to again ride through the urbani park and to see the public veggie gardens.  On our return instead if riding on top,of the wall we rode around the exterior of the wall.  WHAT a different perspective on gets.  When riding on the top you do not actually feel how high the wall is……however on the path below you get a whole new perspective.  Just imagine riding around Portland’s back bay…about the same distance…..with a 30 to 40 foot wall of bricks around it.  I cannot envision how many bricks it took to build the wall and how many men were USED and DIED.

On Friday late afternoon the doorbell rang and Jane and Drew appeared……they both are still feeling down with their colds so dinner what again been cancelled with Bruno and his wife.  We gave them chairs on the other side of the room and we did all enjoy a few glasses of wine before they headed home and we went out to dinner at da Ghetto.

On Saturday we headed back to Padova…..main objectives to revisit a small shop Jane and I had made purchases at before and to see some of the towns highlights we missed before.  It was sunny when we left Ferrara but as soon as we got off the train a drizzle started.  Thank goodness Padua is a town of porticos….we headed immediately to the opposite side of the town from the train station to the Prato della Valle Piazza….which on Saturdays is one HUGE market area.  We found the store I wanted to return to and then right down the street we found the Basilica of St. Anthony… is the most important monument in the city and was begun in 1232 .  It certainly rivals St Marks in character and although very different on the inside just as beautiful.  The. main part of the church and ceiling are very plain and austere…..however the side chapels, 8 dome ceilings and two bell towers are something else!!!!  Behind the main alter you walk up granite steps and view the Treasury Chapel which is very Baraque in style and one finds St. Anthony’s tongue and jaw bones encased in golden chalices.  Also can be viewed his coffin and clothing.  The. Chapel of St Anthony is lined with reliefs and statues showing the miracles from his life.  Also found there are many pictures people leave daily asking St Anthony for his help.  A young mother carrying a baby was ahead of me as we approached his alter tomb and she spent minutes just rubbing her sons hand on his tomb.  I will never forget watching that not so private but special moment.

As we walked out of the church the sun burst forth and we saw no more rain….thank goodness!!!  Next stop was to be the Basilica di St. Giustina….however…..on the way there taking a back side street we discovered the botanical gardens of Padua.  These gardens are the oldest botanical gardens in the world and have remained in the original location and structure since being formed in 1545!!!!  Today it contains over 3,500 different species from all over the world.  The oldest plant in the garden is Goethe’s Palm…..from 1585!!!!

In one church we stopped at….just to really sit and rest for a few minutes and think about and prey for all our friends who are ill…..we heard a saxophone playing ” My Way”…….another special memory.

The basilica was found to now be closed…even through the guide book said it would be opened all day.  So we headed back through the market area and missed our exit point and actually were headed out of town before we realized our mistake.  After a turn around and re walking the market area we found the right street and headed to the historic area where we wanted to find the food stalls/markets and lunch.  Lunch needed to be the first find as with just a roll and diet coke on the train for breakfast our energy level was weaning…..luckily we found an empty table outside in the sun right in Piazza Erbe with our next stop the Palazzo della Ragione right at our back and the fruit and vegetable stalls in front of us.  It was MORE than great to sit and sip vino and eat lunch and watch all that was going on.  The Ragione is where the covered meat, cheese and fish markets are found on the lower level…..upstairs is found the “Salone”….built in 1218.  It is a massive room with a wood ceiling that resembles an upside down hull of a ship without any supporting structure.  We found here a special exhibit going on showing artifacts from VIII and VII BC.  I only wish we were not so exhausted to have been able to really viewed and learned more.  Now we began the long walk back to,the train station……a one point we both said “yes, I think I can”….I do know when I saw the trees by the park at the Scrovegni Chapel the train station was not far away.   Needless to say a quiet night at home…..or quiet till when Ferrara really wakes up at 11PM…..or at least so on the alleyway outside of our bedroom.  I must say I would never tolerate the noise on Peaks but here it is PART of living in Ferrara….just like having the houses all connected. We have at least three bars within 50 feet of our windows that are gathering places late in the evening… Last night one even had a band playing all kinds of jazz till at least 2AM.  As smoking is banned inside most people gather outside and the conversations can get rather loud as the evening progresses.  We have learned to love going to sleep listening to the night life of Ferrara.  Maybe one night we will join in!!!!

Today is Sunday and we met Drew for the next contrade celebration….this week was for Santa Maria in Vado.  Wonderful but week one still is our favorite.

Paul has found the art of taking a siesta very rewarding.  If he goes to the couch right after lunch I KNOW within minutes he is a goner.    After two hours I woke him up and since it was so nice we went an sat on the granite base of the bell tower on the Piazza Trieste to watch and listen to the sounds on a Sunday afternoon with the piazza full with family’s strolling and the collectible markets stalls lining the center.  With my eyes closed I captured the sounds of bike tires and baby carriage wheels over the stone roadway, bike bells ringing warning you I am behind you, pronto and ciao as another Italian answers their cell phone, the harmonious clatter of Italian being spoken and the church bells near and far ringing.

off to bed….tomorrow we head to Mantova with the Spauldings.