It was a slight surprise that we went on a second day trip when we only had four days, but luckily Ferrara was only half an hour away by train. Upon arrival in the city centre, there was a huge castle with moat, apparently built by the once powerful Este clan. We took our breakfast in a cafe with outdoor seating, sipping our cafe latte and cappuccino while looking into the piazza. It was lively and bustling despite the fact that it was a Monday, and the sun was bright enough for sunglasses. Many streets still had the medieval walls and arches intact, so that everywhere you walked, you feel like you’re living in some historian novel. Unless you’re Italian, of course.
During our visit to Bologna, we decided to stop over at Parma – a small city conveniently situated an hour’s train ride away – to explore some of the other localities within the region.
We didn’t manage to visit the main museum housing popular landmarks i.e. the Teatro Farnese and Cattedrale, which wasn’t ideal as it was pouring with rain. However, that presented us with the perfect excuse to indulge in one of the many cafe’s serving freshand satisfyingly warm coffee.
It was obvious from the ambience within the cafe that there was a big coffee culture within the city. Things were a much slower pace here, and more so than Bologna would you believe it! It was only until the mid-afternoon when the streets started to filland the locals started to pour in. We did wonder if people came out of their apartments purely to head over for a coffee – as it seemed like it from where we were!
We weren’t quite sure if we were charmed by everydaylife in Parma. Shops closed by half four. Roads, as a result of the pedestrianisation of the town, were bare. Would quaint alleys and peaceful days be enough to convince us that there was a better life here? Not at this time of our lives, we thought.
We discovered Parma was host to a wealth of food festivals. Along the main high street this time, there were stalls and stalls worth of chocolate. One ladyoffered us a sample, which to our surprise, hit like a bomb. With that sort of alcohol content, it must have hit Sharon’s half glass limit in an instant!
We finished off the day with a pre-dinnerwalk through the palace and stopped for a moment to embrace the company of each other among the dazzle of the royal walls. Dinner was at La Greppia, an acclaimed restaurant in Parma. We were again treated to exquisite pasta – unrivalled to London and an excellent waiter who “carried the hairstyle”. It wasn’t long before time started to haunt us and we hastily headed back towards the returning train to Bologna. With a few minutes to spare, we found ourselves an unoccupied cabin and contently enjoyed a comfortable nap home.
It’s surprising sometimes how people can affect your decision making. From an email titled “maybe we should go here..” we found ourselves, a few weeks later, on the way to Bologna – a large city within the Emilia Romagna region.
Bologna, famous for its “ragu allu Bolognese”, had a character unlike anything back in London. On exploring the old town, the “aperitivo” culture – unlimited small plates and beverages from ten euros – religiously adopted. Locals could be seen dominating the wine bars from six onwards – although a few could be seen to redefine the meaning of pre-lash! Oh, how we wish London was this laid back!
No trip would be complete without physical pain and so prompted by the taunting “Dos Torres” we ascended the 498 steps that spiralled the historic tower. After plenty of anti-social behaviour from Sharon and threats to overthrow innocent human beings, we arrived to panoramic views of the city. Absolutely worth it!
Walking through Bologna’s “Via Pescherie Vecchie” (Old Fish Street) revealed the city’s real enthusiasm for fresh food and quality ingredients. Furthermore to the fresh fish on display, charcuteries and cheese counters showed off their largest produce, dried porcini mushrooms amassed and graded into their different categories and home-made pesto from varieties of ingredients widely sold. For meat and cheese lovers, it was a bonanza.
We didn’t forget to indulge in one of the culinary hotspots of Italy ourselves, of course and finished a long day at Trattoria Oberdan. Served fresh to our table, we feasted on the home-made pasta – chewy and full of flavour – until our stomachs bulged.
We retreated to our hotel, where just before collapsing from fatigue, we stepped into the balcony, soaked in the stars and held our breathes ..for a little longer than what we’re used to.