A Month in Bologna

Saturday, June 18, 2011 11:35 AM


On Wednesday of this week, we picked up our Fiat from the parking garage, paid our €25 ransom ($37!), and took the Autostrada for the short trip to Ferrara, cost of about €3.00 toll each way. Ronnie had done her homework and we bravely headed into town where she had located a parking garage on the map.

We remarked on the number of bicycles we saw as we headed toward the center until we came to our turnoff, which was one way, the wrong way for us naturally. The next street was the same but we finally found one heading in our direction, which we took. We planned to work our way back but the next two streets were also the wrong direction. Now let me explain that these are not big streets. The were laid out in the the Middle Ages, are very narrow and twist and turn. Also, many are paved with cobblestones and allow parking for residents on one side, making them still more tight. We did a lot of circling before we found our parking garage, …..  which was full. We finally gave up, headed for the main drag again and found a metered spot on the street just outside the middle of town.

We hiked in and immediately came across a big castle and I mean, huge. This was the home of the ruling family in Renaissance Ferrara and was more than just a fortification, but was the resident palace. (The picture is only a small part of the place.) We meant to tour it, which would take hours, but decided to do some exploring instead since we were approaching the afternoon shutdown. There was a restaurant in town that was recommended online as offering local specialties, so we thought we'd track it down. Ferrara is interesting. First, there's the castle. Then there's a large pedestrian zone, so you can walk a lot without worrying about getting hit by a car. However, getting run over by a bicycle is another matter. I firmly believe that everyone in town has a bike. We hadn't seen that many since Amsterdam. The entire Po valley is flatter than Kansas and over the years has had more armies marching across it than Poland. This lack of hills makes it ideal for bicycles. They are everywhere and the riders are aggressive and ignore all the stop and one way signs. The only things they fear are autos, whose drivers are even more pushy than they are. The pedestrian area is misnamed since the bikes are also allowed. Since they are silent, they have a tendency to sneak up on you and zip by when you're not expecting it. I so wanted to have a bicycle and join in the fun.

We finally found our restaurant a distance from the castle, but we were approaching the metered time for our car, so we marked out a parking lot in the area and began the trek back to rescue the Fiat. When we made it back to the restaurant, it was almost two o'clock. The meal was kind of a disappointment, since the lunch menu was very limited and contained many of the pasta dishes that we were able to get in Bologna. There really wasn't anything unique to Ferrara except for a strange bread that was dried out and tasted like a Saltine cracker. Now it was time to move the Fiat again and we decided that we had had it with driving and headed directly to the airport and turned in our Punto a day early. It just didn't' make any sense. We had spent some time in earlier trips in the hill towns of Umbria, where cars were essential, but they are definitely not needed in this area. We would like to return to Ferrara and see the castle, but the next time we'll take the train.


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