Our tour of Emilia-Romagna ended in the elegant and very pretty city of Ferrara. Without much of an agenda, we took it upon ourselves to wander about and let the city open itself up to us. After many days of travel and so much stimulation (and food!) it can be nice to walk aimlessly and just take it in. Ferrara was just the spot to do this and we delighted in the sights and sounds of the ancient city center (a UNESCO world heritage site, no less) with well dressed bicycle riders and buzzing cafes at every corner and even this elaborate umbrella installation, though you get the feeling it must rarely rain here.
Entering the town through the impressive Este Castle is a nice way to arrive, passing over the moat and marveling at the grandness of it all. One of Italy's most famous and influental filmmakers, Michelangelo Antonioni of L'Avventura and The Passenger fame, among others, called Ferarra home and was buried here upon his death.
Ferarra is surrounded by nearly six miles of walls built between the 15th and 16th century. Some of the best preserved Renaissance walls in Italy, you could easily while away the afternoon strolling along. Or, do as the locals do and ride your way around and through town. Several spots in town rent bikes by the hour or day.
In most of Italy and especially in Emilia-Romagna, aperitivi hour rules and from 6 to 9pm or so you will find most cafes, terraces and bars full of folks enjoying a post work cocktail or glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for any inviting looking buffets as these snacks will be included in the price of your drink. Aperitivi can range anywhere from peanuts and chips to charcuterie, cheese and elaborate composed dishes. After much eating and drinking in previous days, this was one stop I eased up on the research and we decided to embrace the aperitivi.
For the price of two Camparis (8€) we loaded up on salame and pecorino, fried olives, focaccia and mini panini. This can be a great option, especially if you find a nice spread and a charming terrace you'd like to linger on. I don't often take part in the aperitivi buffets on account of wildly varying degrees of food variety and quality, but it worked for us in this instance and it can be a fun thing to do if you'd just like a few nibbles with your wine.
For a midday meal or pre aperitivi snack, Pizzeria Orsucci is a tiny little shop serving up tasty pizzas and divine farinata di ceci (chickpea flour pancake) or simply 'ceci' as it is called here.
Baked in little pie tins as opposed to directly on the wood-fired oven's floor, these crispy little pizza's have great flavor from the wood fire, tangy fresh tomato sauce, a modest amount of cheese and in this instance flecks of salty anchovy. We ordered a mini pizza for 2.5€ and a slice of ceci for 1€. This was merely a snack, but they offer different sizes if you'd like to make a meal of it. I had been abstaining from pizza in general since Napoli is next on the agenda, but I had to return later for another slice of their amazing farinata di ceci.
Popular in many forms throughout the Mediterranean, farinata di ceci is basically a thick crepe made with a chickpea flour batter. Naturally gluten free, this pancake is baked in a large pan in the wood oven until the crust is crunchy and singed in spots and the center is barely set. At its best it is a smokey, salty, crunchy, creamy (almost custardy) delight. I usually make the thicker, olive oil fried chickpea flour panisse, but I will certainly be trying to replicate this deceivingly simple pancake at home.
Without much of a plan, we happily wandered about, checking out the many beautiful churches and felt quite content. Getting lost in the old town and admiring the pretty plants and charming alleys is an awfully nice way to spend the day. When you are ready for a pick me up, it will be easy to find really amazing coffee at every turn.
Grabbing a coffee almost anywhere in Italy is not a leisurely event. Usually taken standing at the bar of a cafe, espresso rules supreme, especially after breakfast time where I will be the only person you see enjoying a macchiato or cappuccino. Milk, it seems, is for weaklings, so down that scalding espresso and continue on with your day! As a former barista, it is incredible to find yourself in the rush of morning or afternoon coffee time in Italy. Cups and saucers flying, a bustling café will be a chorus of tinkling glasses and baristas shouting out orders. As is customary in most coffee shops, a small shot of still or sparkling water will be served with your espresso which is oh so nice. At Caffé Europa, a small piece of fine chocolate sat beside our sexy Illy cups, a nice treat even if it meant we spent about .50€ more than usual.
Enough of all this coffee and chickpea flour talk, let's get down to the business of drinking! Ferrara being our last stop in Lambrusco country, I was determined to seek out some of the best. Imagine my delight when we stumbled upon Osteria Due Gobbi, this hip little beer bar just off to the side and in the shadow of the beautiful Cattedrale di San Giorgio.
I was presented with this bottle fermented beauty of a Lambrusco. Those who know me well can attest to my enjoyment of most alcohols, ciders and wines which are funky, crisp and fermented, and this was no exception. Bone dry and with just enough funk, this bright, ruby colored Lambrusco was so flavorful and refreshing plus ecológico (organic) to boot. This bottle was 15€ here and worth every penny plus they sell all kinds of microbrews and cocktails, though the only snacks are chips and peanuts.
Alright folks! Next stop Napoli and a recap of the three thousand pizzas I enjoyed there. Ciao, ciao!