A Travellerspoint blog

Mid-size towns pack a king-size punch

Ferrara, Gubbio, Modena, Padova, Parma, Ravenna, Vicenza

semi-overcast 16 °C

One of the reasons for choosing to base ourselves in Bologna was its status as a key transport hub in Northern Italy. Milan, Venice, and Florence are all less than 90 minutes away, but what we had severely underestimated was the allure and charm of the smaller towns that we have been exploring over the last few months. Our favourites are listed below :

FERRARA (Emilia-Romagna) pop 134,000

Famous for the almost completely intact city walls (13th century), and Castello Estense, both built courtesy of the d'Este family who ruled for 300 years. Ferrara is a terrific town to cycle around, and sample the local delicacy of cappellaci di zucca - a hat-shaped pasta pouch filled with pumpkin and herbs, and basted with sage & butter.

to paraphrase Lance; in Ferrara, it's all about the bike

to paraphrase Lance; in Ferrara, it's all about the bike

two hands for beginners ... Nonna handling her machine with aplomb

two hands for beginners ... Nonna handling her machine with aplomb

Castello Estense - the moat was extra wide to ward off heavily taxed citizens!

Castello Estense - the moat was extra wide to ward off heavily taxed citizens!

GUBBIO (Umbria) pop 33,000

A bit off the tourist beaten path in Umbria, we enjoyed a delightful two days in this attractive town perched on the slopes of Monte Ingino. We were fortunate enough to run into the annual tartufo (truffle) festival whilst visiting, staged right beside the impressive Palazzo dei Consoli. The undoubted highlight however was a return ride on the very quaint Funivia Colle Eletto - a caged contraption that shuttles you up and down the monte.

murky weather can't conceal the beauty of this Umbrian gem

murky weather can't conceal the beauty of this Umbrian gem

Nat on the Funivia ... fearless as always!

Nat on the Funivia ... fearless as always!

MODENA (Emilia-Romagna) pop 179,000

Birthplace of Pavarotti; home of 'aceto balsamico di Modena' (world's best vinegar to you and I); Ferrari motor cars manufactured just up the road in Maranello; maker of Lambrusco (lightly sparkling red wine) - there is plenty to like about this under-the-radar town thirty minutes from Bologna. Throw in a significant cathedral, attractive piazzas, and "some of the best restaurants no one's ever heard of" as Lonely Planet cleverly put it, and a trip is mandatory for those living in the area.

Piazza Mazzini - an attractive green space so often lacking in Italian towns

Piazza Mazzini - an attractive green space so often lacking in Italian towns

Torre Ghirlandina stands at an impressive 87 metres

Torre Ghirlandina stands at an impressive 87 metres

not-so-long and winding roads always worth a look in Modena

not-so-long and winding roads always worth a look in Modena

PADOVA (Veneto) pop 213,000

A lively university town (uni was established 1222) - it can be just as fun sitting down for an aperitivo with the studenti as it is viewing the sites. You will be richly rewarded however by a visit to the stunning Giotto frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel, and a wander through the world's oldest botanic gardens still in their original location - Orto Botanico. Another favourite of ours is the unusually designed Gothic Palazzo della Ragione from the 13th century, which divides the attractive Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta ... no prizes for guessing what was sold here over the centuries!

insalata days in Piazza delle Erbe

insalata days in Piazza delle Erbe

Gabi braves the elements to showcase the eye-catching Palazzo della Ragione

Gabi braves the elements to showcase the eye-catching Palazzo della Ragione

Orto Botanico ... Lisa at her photographic best above and below

Orto Botanico ... Lisa at her photographic best above and below

Pv_ob2.jpg

PARMA (Emilia Romagna) pop 177,000

A prosperous and attractive town, you need at least a couple of days to fully appreciate all that the home of the famous parmesan cheese and parma ham has to offer. When you have had your fill of the delicious local cuisine - Trattoria Corrieri served us well - there are myriad significant buildings to visit, and a beautiful park (Parco Ducale) to walk off the excesses of a lengthy lunch. Of the buildings, the gorgeous Battistero, and the substantial Palazzo della Pilotta (which houses Teatro Farnese and the Galleria Nazionale) captivated us the most.

kids hamming it up at the famous Salumeria Garibaldi

kids hamming it up at the famous Salumeria Garibaldi

ceiling of the stunning octagonal shaped Battistero ... construction started in 1196 but took another 110 years due to pink marble shortages

ceiling of the stunning octagonal shaped Battistero ... construction started in 1196 but took another 110 years due to pink marble shortages

Parco Ducale ... these nifty machines were called mosquitoes, and could certainly zip along

Parco Ducale ... these nifty machines were called mosquitoes, and could certainly zip along

Castello di Torrechiara - 20 minutes out of Parma and well worth a visit

Castello di Torrechiara - 20 minutes out of Parma and well worth a visit

RAVENNA (Emilia Romagna) pop 153,000

Deservedly famous for its' Byzantine mosaics, Ravenna also serves as a stopping off point to the Adriatic in summer. It is a very peaceful town to visit, and presents the Unesco listed treasures without too much fuss.

Basilica di San Vitale - looking up - very hard to capture the brilliance on film

Basilica di San Vitale - looking up - very hard to capture the brilliance on film

Basilica di San Vitale - floor mosaics - pretty divine

Basilica di San Vitale - floor mosaics - pretty divine

another bit of traveller's good fortune; running into the bread festival of all things!

another bit of traveller's good fortune; running into the bread festival of all things!

too many churches Dad ...

too many churches Dad ...

VICENZA (Veneto) pop 115,000

The adopted home of Andrea Palladio, one of the most influential figures in Western architecture. Vicenza showcases many of his amazing buildings, now Unesco listed ... Lonely Planet describes his style as a marriage of "sophistication and rustic simplicity, reverent classicism and bold innovation". Lisa and Rosemary were especially taken by Teatro Olimpico, built in the late 1500's, and the oldest and first enclosed theatre in the world. It also showcases the 'trompe l'oeil' (deceive the eye) onstage scenery, which gives the appearance of long streets receding to a distant horizon.

Piazza dei Signori ... Palladio's genius on display

Piazza dei Signori ... Palladio's genius on display

Teatro Olimpico - Rosemary's looks misleading as she gave this masterpiece top marks

Teatro Olimpico - Rosemary's looks misleading as she gave this masterpiece top marks

Teatro Olimpico - the beautiful deception ...

Teatro Olimpico - the beautiful deception ...

beauty of the town not restricted to man-made structures

beauty of the town not restricted to man-made structures

.

Posted by happellfamily12 13:18 Archived in Italy Tagged towns

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Comments

Looks great team Happell.
What are you guys doing for Christmas ?
cheers
cam

by plant

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Login