Medieval Ferrara

After Christmas in 2009, through the New Year, I went to one of my favorite places, Bruges – as mentioned in previous posts such as My Magic Bruges.  On that trip, I was relaxing and warming up in the hostel common area when a friendly fellow backpacker wandered in.  His name was Joseph, and he spoke briefly with my friend and me.  I had plans to see my Belgian friends, and then we left the hostel the next day. But just in that short time, it was clear this person would become a nice friend.  Thanks to facebook, it was easy for that to happen.

We chatted online over the years.  Joseph is even more of a Europhile than I am, and with his duel French citizenship, he has lived in France and now Ferrara, Italy since he departed his hometown in Midwestern, Iowa.  When I was in Italy in the summer of 2011, Joseph gave me some great advice as my mother and great aunt prepared to visit the hometowns of my great grandparents in Emilia Romagna, his local region.  With our tight travel schedule, we didn’t get to meet up, although I appreciated his super helpful advice.

Last January, when I received the job offer in Italy, Joseph was one of my biggest proponents.  “Come to Italy,” he said.  “I’ll visit Genoa and we’ll paint the town red.”  I knew how happy he was teaching English language at the University of Ferrara, and I knew it was time to live my dream as an expat abroad.  It was extra encouraging to know I’d have a friend in country.

When I arrived in Italy, Joseph was there to chat on Skype, counsel me through the many translation or bureaucratic issues, and we shared many laughs and good times, becoming even closer friends.  Due to our busy schedules, most of the year went by before either of us had a chance to visit each other.  Finally, with my summer flight home booked, and the last of my visitors had departed, I set a date for the weekend of May 25th.  I was going to Ferrara, finally!  And I would see Joseph in person for the first time in 3 years.  Wow.

Over the years, I have been following Joseph’s facebook posts: stories and pretty pictures from the flat, charming, peaceful medieval city.  A month ago, I boarded a 9am train, departing soggy Genoa and arrived in sunny Ferrara.

Joseph met me at the train station, and we walked to have yummy piadine — I chose speck  and cheese with a creamy mayo sauce.  Yum.  We chatted over a beer, then I wandered through the center with a little bit of history from Joseph, explaining the Jewish ghettos and information about the various buildings we passed.  He had some things to do in the apartment, so I went for a nice wander. I deliberately did not consult a guidebook or too much on the Internet so things would be a surprise.  A wandering adventure.  I snapped many photos on my walk, then returned to prepare for our evening.

Joseph’s friend, a woman who owns the cafe down the street, invited him to an outdoor concert that night, featuring her husband’s band.  It got unseasonably cold, so we bundled up and Federica picked us up.

While we waited for the show, wandered in search of food, and ended up in a tent that was a fundraiser for a local church.  I tried the local treat cappellacci, made with squash and filled with yum. BLIpqfQCMAAPyX4.jpg-largeOur servers were parishoner children — it was just a really super special, super local night.  We chatted and ended up enjoying the show very much.  When Fedi noticed that I was into the music, she returned later with a surprise — an Inspiral album for me, which she then had all the band members sign. 🙂  What a special treat.  It was also fun hanging out with her because she helped me practice my Italian.

The next morning, we had lazy Sunday.  Joseph had delicious pastries and made fresh coffee, then we went out for a stroll around town, followed by another coffee.

Making friends on a Sunday stroll

Making friends on a Sunday stroll

 Before departure for my train, we stopped for pizza at a place he never tried before.  With so much good pizza in Italy and so many great places in Ferrara . . .Joseph was diasppointed that his 4 Formaggio was made with a premixed spread and that my pizza featured canned olives with pitts and awkward tomatos.  Not as good as expected.  He said, “We just got fu*cked.  They could at least kiss me next time.”

That aside, it was still a lovely day. We took a peek at some Palio-related events (this Palio is older than the famous Siena one). It was a nice atmosphere, but I didn’t see too much. Before long, it was time to board my train and head home.  I was lucky that I had business class for the stretch from Bologna to Milan on the high speed train, for a little spoiled comfort.  It was the same price as the 2nd class ticket because they still had some super economy fares left.  Woo!

Here are some photos from my adventure in Ferrara.  I’ll certainly be returning:

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