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Oct 19, 2009 08:55 AM

Emilia Romagna - Ferrara trip report

Hi all,
Just back from a trip to Italy mostly to eat and I thought I'd share what we found. Using internet research and two books, Slow Food Locande et Osteria d'Italia and the venerable Eating in Italy we tried to eat well and mostly succeeded. We drove from Switzerland to Ferrara, stopping in Bergamo, Sotto de Monte, and Mantua on the way.

We stayed at Casa Clelia ( in Sotto de Monte which is an agriturismo. We had a wonderful meal in their restaurant. We chose the tasting menu and started with antipasti plates - half cold and half warm. There was salumi, parma ham, rolls of meat with cheese inside, bread with lard and veggies, something called oranges which was breaded fried rice or risotto and pieces of goat cheese (local of course) with jam. For our primi there was a lovely risotto with apples (!) and a ravioli which was sweetened with amaretti and had bits of salumi in it. For our secundi there was Pecora (sheep) with polenta and rabbit with
pine nuts and veggies. We had a half-liter of white wine (chardonnay, muscat and sauvignon blanc) it was dark yellow and sherry-like. The red was cabinet sauvignon and merlot with something local. It was very dry. Both were produced on the farm.

We toured Mantua on our way to Ferrara and dined at Trattoria Giai which is on the P482 - a small road between the two cities. This one came from Eating in Italy. We had big fat macaroni with boar ragu and goose in balsamic vinegar and tagliatelle with pigeon and morels (which are called little sponges in Italian) and carpaccio with arugula and cheese. All of it was
very good. We decided to drink a Ripasso di Valpolicela. Espresso followed and one of us had a grappa of teroldega.

We rented an apartment for week through Home Away - they represent private owners. The apartment was the best we've ever rented. It was right in the center of Ferrara but very quiet.

We ate in several good places here. Enotecca al Brindisi is the oldest wine bar in Italy and we had the torttole de zucca (Ferrara specialty stuffed with sweet pumpkin) in a butter sage sauce.

Our best dinner was at L'Oca Giuliva (Slow Food recommendation). Really nice outside tables under the Portico. They brought sparkling wine right away and some bread and toasted almonds. One of us ordered local specialties. First a pasta almost like really long skinny stuffed
ravioli with ragu. Very good. For the secundi there was mashed potatoes topped with
spicy sausage which was surprisingly good. The other had macaroni for his primi and capon with veggies for a secundi. For a dolce we had a spongy cake surrounding a ball of gelato with dried bananas. We had a red Nadel wine - also local.

We had a dinner at La Provvidenza and the food was good - but I would not recommend it. They ruined it for us by pointedly mentioning the "service was not included" when they brought the check. I know from both reading and traveling that the service IS included in all Italian restaurants. This was a blatant attempt to cheat the tourist.

The only other notable restaurant on our trip to Emilia Romagna was in Bologna and I got the tip from Chowhound I think. Excellent Trattoria Gianni in the midst of the old market streets down an alley a little hard to find. We had the antipasti mista to share and then we just had to have tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce of course! All excellent. The antipasti mista had mortadella mousse, sliced mortadella, parmesan cheese drizzled with balsamico, bruschetta, fried polenta
with fresh soft white cheese melted on, gelatinzed balsamico, a little pastry with
truffle cream inside. I know I missed something. We had a sangiovese wine with lunch.

I hope this helps someone traveling in this area on a future trip. Happy eating!
Read entire trip report with pictures -

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  1. Wonderful report. Thanks!

    1. I know this thread is oldish, but I am hoping that you see this, shtinky. I enjoyed your trip report and was wondering what made you choose Ferrara as your base. I am beginning to plan a trip to Emilia Romagna and sort of defaulted to using Bologna as a base for the week. It sounds like you really enjoyed staying in Ferrara. What made you choose? Many thanks.

      2 Replies
      1. re: iamq

        Hi iamq - I hope you check back to read this reply. I chose Ferrara because it is smaller and less frenetic than Bologna. It is also the bicycle capital of italy an I thought that would also make it quieter and more walkable. It is also central to so many cities - Modena, Parma, Mantua, Verona, Bologna, Venice, Ravenna, etc. It's on the train line so easy to take day trips. It is a really beautiful city as well. So those were my main reasons. I wasn't disappointed except for one thing - I am an avid cook and would have liked to see more food markets, farmers markets in the city. I may have just not found out about them though. Bologna, if you read my trip report, has a wonderful little warren of twisty streets which are all specialized food shops. One could find anything there! I did like that and wished it was in Ferrara. Good luck on your planning!

        1. re: shtinky

          Thanks shtinky for your reply. I am considering extending the trip to at least 10 days now, renting a car for access to out of the way places and splitting the trip up between Parma and Bologna and including a day trip to Ferrara. Of course, my plans change everyday when I read something new. LOL.

      2. I wonder about going to Ferrara this summer so this was greatly interesting.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jostber

          We had planned to go to Bologna for a quick visit en route from Venice to our countryside tour of Le Marche. However, as it turned out, there was a large business conference there on the exact nights we were planning, and we couldn't get a hotel. So we opted for Ferrara instead. It was truly a charming city. Very beautiful, the people were extremely friendly, and it had very little touristy feel. That being said, I have never been to Bologna and would also love to go there.

          1. re: visciole

            Thanks! I was to Bologna last May and can really recommend that. :) Find some restaurants in the back streets that serve seasonal food and you will get some fine meals. They have good supplies in that area. Keep away from Al Fresco cafes where the waiters wear suites, they are expensive. Elsewhere the prices are good, and it's very much an Al Fresco town with people that like going out. If you have a late evening, the Giardini Regina Margherita park with the turtles lake is a fine place next day to chill out.