F is for Ferrara

Once host to the House of Este dynasty, Ferrara is now admired for its medieval beauty and cultural importance.

Situated in the North-East of Italy, just an hour south of Venice, Ferrara has for the last 10 years been my second home.

Exterior walls of the Piazzo dei Diamanti - the diamonds at the bottom of the palace are tilted slightly downwards, those in the middle straight on, and those on the upper half of the building slighty upwards, to give the illusion that the palace is bigger than it actually is.

The centre of the city is full of treasures, with its magnificent castle, charming narrow lane ways and Romanesque cathedral.

The Palazzo dei Diamanti is one of the most influential examples of European Renaissance architecture, with its exterior walls covered with protruding diamond-shaped marble blocks. Legend has it, that a real diamond was hidden in one of the blocks, but though many have tried, none have discovered it, if it does indeed exist.

Dating back to 1135 and stretching over two kilometres long, Via delle Volte is one of the longest still existing medieval streets in Europe. A picturesque street, it is named for the volte, or arches, that join the buildings on either side together. They were once used as passageways to join the merchants’ houses on the southern side to their warehouses and shops on the northern side.

Via delle Volte

While Via delle Volte is certainly the most famous of the streets in Ferrara, it is most definitely not the only one of its kind. All the narrow streets of this city are archetypal of the colourful arched cobbled lanes that Italy is best known for.

But whilst the city itself is a beauty, it is the people that keep me coming back.

As I mentioned in C is for Castles, I first travelled to Ferrara as a 16 year old exchange student. It was my first time travelling alone and I was both anxious and enthusiastic to meet the host family that would replace my own for the following three months.

I arrived in the European winter of 2001, not long after the 9/11 attacks, which very nearly saw my parents calling off the trip altogether. I am so grateful they didn’t.

My host sister, Sara, and I, 10 years on.

I was greeted by my beautiful family, the Maietti’s, who cared for me as one of their own, and perhaps even more importantly, fed me as one of their own (Italian food, naturally, gets its own post). I was placed in a school where I was likewise greeted with open arms by a bunch of the nicest people I think I’ve ever known.

My classmates were so very interested in Australia and our way of life, and just as interested in making sure I was happy and at home in their classroom. My closest friends also did me a great service during my first week of class, making sure I was well informed of every swear word the Italian language had to offer.

Since 2001, I have returned to Ferrara every few years to visit my host family and classmates, and each time I am greeted as if it were my first; with many cheek to cheek kisses, warm embraces and smiling faces.

This last trip was no different, and while I did spend some days reacquainting myself with the city, it cannot be denied that I spent the majority of my time catching up with old friends, eating AMAZING food, and spending time with my second family.

The Piazza in Ferrara

 

Il Duomo - Ferrara's Cathedral

The Piazza

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13 comments on “F is for Ferrara

  1. you certainly beat me into February, I’m still back in January for a few hours!

    great post, Ferrara is beautiful

  2. beautiful place, isn’t it? i remember lots of bikes too, and the old but cherished habit of greeting strangers – an old man walked by me in the early morning, and gave me a buongiorno decorated with a smile and a bow of the hatted head.
    ;) i don’t get even 10% of that from my neighbors here where i live.
    nice memory, ferrara. and great cuisine too

    • I definitely should have mentioned the bikes! It is the City of Bicycles after all.

      The Italians are a friendly bunch. And the food in Ferrara is sensational. I will at some stage be talking about my favourite Ferrarese dish, cappellacci di zucca. Yum!

  3. Beautiful. There really is something to be said about having a home away from home.

    Also kind of funny. I kept reading the title as “F is for Ferrari” rather than “Ferrara”. I kept thinking “when will she get to the cars?” haha.

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