We always enjoy trying local foods during our travels, so when we visited Ferrara (as a day trip from Bologna) in June 2010, my girlfriend and I studied the cuisine section of our guidebook with interest.
Being in Italy, we were not surprised to read that Ferrara's most famous dish is one that features pasta; Cappellacci di Zucca.
More specifically, Cappellacci di Zucca is a dish that features parcels of ravioli filled with a sweet butternut squash puree.
Our guidebook even recommended a place where we could sample the local dish; namely "Hostaria Savonarola". We found the restaurant close to Castello Estense in the centre of town and sat at a sun-drenched outdoor table.
The Cappellacci di Zucca was listed under the "Primi Piatti" section of the menu. We took this to mean "Starters" but, since the dish was priced at 9.50 Euros, we decided that it would do as a main course and so we each ordered it.
The dish came with "ragu o burro e salvia" (meat sauce or butter and sage) – we both opted for the latter.
When our dishes arrived, we realised that they probably were ideal as starters rather than mains; each contained only 6 or 7 ravioli parcels, sparsely covered in a butter sauce and with a few accompanying leaves of sage. Thankfully, we had a rather generous basket of bread to accompany our meal (and a carafe of red Lambrusco wine!), so we didn't go too hungry.
The Cappellacci di Zucca itself was delicious. I preferred the sweet butternut squash filling to the usual meat filling that I had always previously encountered in ravioli. It was a little expensive for what was effectively a starter, but I'm glad that we got to try the local speciality!
Cappellacci di Zucca – ravioli parcels filled with sweet butternut squash puree. Delicious!! Give it a try if you're ever in Ferrara!
The most impressive group of revelers to participate in palio festivities were alfieri, the flag bearers.
They performed choreographed formations, tossing banners into the air. Up close, we got to watch them practice their moves on Piazza Castello. It was a thrill.
I liked watching the young boys being instructed by the experienced men in the art of flag tossing (see photos #1 and #2).
One of the joyful sights at il Palio di San Giorgio was the participation of the children. They seemed genuinely interested in the proceedings. This is their heritage and they are proud of it at such a young age. That is a good thing.
“Of course, Ferrara was not incorporated into a living nation against her will, and I therefore marveled the more that she had become a portion of the present kingdom of Italy. The poor little State had its day long before ours; it had been a republic, and then subject to lords; and then, its lords becoming dukes, it had led a life of gayety and glory till its fall, and given the world such names and memories as had fairly won it the right to rest forever from making history.”
— from “Italian Journeys” 1867 by William Dean Howells
MAKE A JOYFUL SOUND: the young men and women who paraded with trumpets really did play the instruments.
“This is the Palio degli Contrade, ‘the palio of the districts.’ The races went at murderous pace; they were held in Ferrara on Saint George’s Day.”
— from “Fun and Games in Old Europe” 1986 by Walter Endrei and László Zolnay
A DAY AT THE RACES The races were not always between the city’s contrade, neighborhoods; but were contested among the nobility from near and far. They would bring their best horses to compete. Foot races for men and women and a race for donkeys rode by jockeys were added over the years, with their own rules and prizes.
The third race was for donkeys, or she-asses, asine; it is also known as il Palio di San Maurelio. Riding a donkey named Baracus, Cristiano Occhi won the prize for Borgo San Paolo.
I have no idea what this building is and to which part of the town it belongs. All my efforts to find any usefull informations regarding it was in vain. Can't believe that any other visitor wasn't captured by the beauty of the sight. It is most certainly one of the most beautiful corners in whole of Ferrara.
Any help in finding out what this building represent is very welcome.
Eversince the medieval times Ferrara is known for its tolerance to the other ethnic or religious groups. The huge colonny of Jewish people excisting here from the times of d'Este rules of Ferrara, long before it happened in other Italian towns. It is nice to see the places, such as Ferrara is, where different people or races live one next to another.
The fear of unknown, stupid predjudices and narrow minded leaders creating the spirit of untolerance which soon can lead to the clashes and terrorism.
Almost every building, which can be found in Corso Ercole I, has important significance for the town of Ferrara. At no. 19 there is Museo del Risorgimento e della Resistenza. Risorgimento is revival - renaissance a point zero for the reunification of Italy. This museum cover the time from the French occupation to the period of the Carbonarist Movement and the independence war. It also containing a large documentation of legendary "Bersaglieri del Po", a volontary army crops formed in 1848 which took part in numerous fights. The museum contains original parts from the demolished Papal fortress and flags of Cispadane Republic.
“Ferrara! in thy wide and grass-grown streets,
Whose symmetry was not for solitude,
There seems, as ‘twere, a curse upon the seats
Of former sovereigns, and the antique brood
Of Este, which, for many an age, made good
Its strength within thy walls, and was of yore
Patron or tyrant, as the changing mood
Of petty power impell’d, of those who wore
The wreath which Dante’s brow alone had worn before.”
— from “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” by Lord Byron
When the last race was run and won, all participants filed back to the town center as orderly as when they arrived. Below the windows of Palazzo del Municipio, facing Piazza della Cattedrale, the flag of the contrada of each winner was placed.
At the far left window was the winner of the Boys’ Foot Race (see photo #2), Palio di San Romano; Karim Bouic, from Borgo San Giovanni, was the victor.
The next window was the place for the winner of the Girls’ Foot Race (see photo #3) Palio di San Paolo; from Borgo San Benedetto, Giorgia Mancin was the winner.
The third window from the left is the spot for the winner of the She-ass Race (see photo #4), Palio di San Maurelio; riding a donkey named Baracus, Cristiano Occhi won the prize for Borgo San Paolo.
And the window on the far right end is where the winner of the Horse Race, Palio di San Giorgio, gets to display the flag of his contrada (see photo #5). It was won for Borgo San Giorgio by Alessandro Chiti riding Grein.
The crowd went wild with cheering when the flags of the contrade were put in place; and each time the victor appeared at the window.
Winners and their contrada had earned bragging rights for a full year.
“Will you thank Mengaldo on my part for the Ferrara acquaintance, which was a very agreeable one. I stayed two days at Ferrara, and was much pleased with the Count Mosti, and the shortness of the time permitted me to see of his family.”
— from a letter dated 6.June.1819 written by Lord Byron to Richard Belgrave Hoppner. Count Mosti was the Podesta at Ferrara.
The final race was for horses, cavalli. It was won for Borgo San Giorgio by Alessandro Chiti riding Grein. This palio is such big news in the area that Signore Chiti was interviewed for local television (see photo #5).
The horse race was not without incident. One horse refused to fall into line with the others behind the starting rope, resulting in a lengthy delay. There was even a false start. Finally the race began; and as the pack ended the first lap and began the second, one horse took a spill (see photo #2). Luckily, an ambulance was on hand, throughout the races, to tend to the animal and its rider.
Next came the girls, putte, foot race; it is known as il Palio di San Paolo. From Borgo San Benedetto Giorgia Mancin was the winner.
Following the race the scene of celebration was repeated. The excitement was contagious; it was impossible not to be happy for the winning contrada.
There was once a women’s race until Duke Borso banned it because prostitutes entered in droves and unseemly incidents followed.
”Sometimes the prize was fortified by a more material gift, as at Ferrara and Bologna by a horse.”
— from “The Modern Language Review” 1906 by Modern Humanities Research Association
PRIZE WINNERS Over the years the word palio has come to refer to the race and the festival leading up to, and following, the race. Yet its origins is not the race, but the prize. It was a cloth banner awarded to the winner of the horse race. Palio derives from the Latin pallium, the word for cloth.
The first race run was the boys, putti, foot race; it is known as il Palio di San Romano. Karim Bouic, from Borgo San Giovanni, was the victor. We were surprised by the depth of involvement by all the participants throughout the parade. But when the boy’s foot race ended and members of Borgo San Giovanni leapt on to the track, hoisting Karim on their shoulders, singing and giddy with glee, we were caught off guard by their enthusiasm.
“Indeed, though disposed to condole with Ferrara upon the fact of her having become part of modern Italy, I could not deny, on better acquaintance with her, that she was still almost entirely of the past.”
— from “Italian Journeys” 1867 by William Dean Howells
At il Palio di San Giorgio we were well protected by 21st-century knights-of-old.
“In Ferrara the streets are marvelously long and straight. On the corners formed by the crossing of two of the longest and straightest of these streets stand four palaces.”
— from “Italian Journeys” 1867 by William Dean Howells (1837-1920)
The parade that proceeds the running of the races at il Palio di San Giorgio winds its way through the streets the Ferrara. The parade is largely organized into the contrade, or neighborhoods, of the city.
At the head of each contrada is the banner carrier announcing which neighborhood follows. Those who carry the contrade banners are called gonfalonieri.
There are eight contrade within Ferrara. They are San Benedetto; San Giacomo; San Giorgio; San Giovanni; San Luca; Santa Maria in Vado; San Paolo and Santo Spirito.
Unfortunately we arrived between that time and had to wait until 4 PM to do some shopping... In the meantime, we walked a bit through the historic city and wondered where all these people riding their bicycles go to...