G is for Galaverna

After spending a relatively mild few weeks in Germany, Poland, Scotland and England, countries usually known for their cold winters but which struggled to hit below zero whilst I was there, I arrived in Italy expecting much of the same. The forecast was for sunny skies and a tame 10 degrees.

Of course, it turned out to be the most bitterly cold of them all, with a top of minus four during my trip to Venice (but that’s another story).

Whilst the cold was moderately off-putting in terms of getting dressed into layer upon layer and mustering an enthusiasm to leave the house of a morning, it did provide for this wonderful phenomenon: galaverna.

Galavera in Ferrara, Italy

Galaverna. Galaverna. I kept hearing the Italians throw the word around but I’d never heard of it before and had no idea what it meant.

What in the bloody hell was galaverna?!

After several people tried to explain it to me using unfamiliar Italian words, I came to a rough understanding that it was a build up of frost from the weather being so damn cold over many days and not being able to thaw. I then proceeded to explain that there simply was no word for it in English.

Of course I was wrong.  The dictionary told me that ‘hoarfrost’ is the English translation for the Italian galaverna, and though I can’t say I’ve ever heard of it, perhaps those of you living in countries that annually reach temperatures below zero have.

For those of you who, like me, haven’t, it is described by the faithful online dictionary as:

Frozen dew that forms a white coating on a surface.

Yes yes, that’s all very good, but what the definition doesn’t explain, is just how beautiful it is.

The trees and bushes turn white with the build up of this ‘frozen dew’, which becomes more and more prominent as the days continue in cold succession.

What it ends up looking like is snow. Snow without all the slush and mud under your feet. It is, quite simply, stunning to admire as everything turns white.

While both hoarfrost and galaverna are two words I’m not familiar with, I find it fascinating that they exist at all. Not content with calling it ‘a build up of frozen dew’ or ‘frost pretending to be snow’, somewhere, sometime in history, someone actually gave it a name. I don’t know why this amazes me so, but it does. To be able to give a name to something so beautiful, really is quite gratifying.

That said, I have to admit that galaverna just sounds so much better on the tongue than hoarfrost. Don’t you think?

Galaverna in Ferrara, Italy

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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