I’d been dreading June since the beginning of the year. The tenth anniversary of my best friend’s passing loomed like a big dark cloud on the horizon.
When my boyfriend’s parents booked him on a flight to join them on holiday at the same time as the anniversary, I found myself in a quandary. I could stay in Kingston on my own and either bury my head in the sand or spend the day being sad. I could go home and visit my parents, where I knew I would get lots of empathy. Or, I could disappear somewhere I could remember her on my terms instead of wallowing in self-pity.
My friend Magda moved to Italy last Autumn, and we chatted for a while about my visiting her. We hadn’t known each other for very long when she moved, but we had stayed in contact, and she made Italy look idyllic. I could see that she was thriving over there, and I was excited at the prospect of spending some time with her, exploring beautiful Italy.
So it was arranged. I would head to Italy for a long weekend to stay with Magda. However, this didn’t solve my problems about where to spend the anniversary of my friend’s passing. I was due to leave Magda’s on a Monday, but the anniversary was the day after. After some consideration, I decided to put my big girl travel pants back on and booked a further four nights in Italy.
Before I knew it, I had booked my trip. I would spend a long weekend in Ferrara with Magda and four nights on my own in Bologna.
Whilst I’d travelled solo before, I had never been on a solo city break.
More Travel Chaos
It would be my first solo trip abroad since lockdown, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t apprehensive.
Not helping my apprehension was the thought of returning to Stanstead airport! When I booked my flight to Italy, I hadn’t been to Stanstead for years. However, my flight to Italy was just two weeks after returning from Ibiza, and I had vowed never to fly from Stanstead again (to find out why click here).
This time, I decided to drive to Stanstead. I parked at the mid-stay car park (which cost me around £80 for the week). Thankfully, I arrived at Stanstead without feeling travel sick this time! However, the departure lounge at Stanstead was still massively overcrowded, and my flight was delayed (again!).
A delayed flight is one thing, but arriving somewhere you haven’t been before and needing to navigate the public transport system when you get there is something else.
When I’d travelled solo previously, I’d always booked my transfers as part of a package. However, I was winging it this time and relying on shuttles and trains.
Thankfully Magda was ready on the other end of the phone when I arrived at Bologna airport. She was able to help me find my way to the Marconi Express (which is super easy to find), which would take me to Bologna Central, where I would then catch a direct train to Ferrara.
All of this would ordinarily have been ok, except I had booked an evening flight. I was pushing it to get to Bologna before the last train to Ferrara departed!
Thankfully, I made it. And I found Magda waiting for me in Ferrara.
After warm hugs and hellos, it was time to walk through the city centre to Magda’s flat. It was lovely to see Ferrara in full swing. It looked beautiful, and I couldn’t wait to start exploring. But for now, it was time for some sleep before our adventuring began the next day.
After a good but warm night’s sleep, it was time to get up and get breakfast, Italian style.
Ferrara is a small city in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and it is easy to get around on foot. And my goodness, did we get our steps in that day! We spent the day wandering around the medieval streets, trying to keep out the soaring heat as much as possible.
I had my first proper Italian pizza, and my obsession with gelato began!
That evening, we headed to a local concert with some of Magda’s work friends.
The concert was in a big field on the edge of the city, and there was a lovely chilled family vibe. It turned out to be a burger festival, so whilst we waited for the music to start, we tucked into our burgers, and it was a chance for me to get to know some of Magda’s friends. The band came on around 10 pm (I had forgotten how much later evening starts in the rest of Europe!) and it turned out they were a well-known Italian band. I had never heard of the band or their music, but they covered a few familiar hits, so I enjoyed having a good sing-along and a boogie! It was lovely to do something with locals rather than tourists, and I felt myself getting a piece of real Italian life.
The next day, we decided to head to the city of Padua, which is just over half an hour’s train ride from Ferrara.
Padua had much more of a modern city vibe than Ferrara, although it is famous for being the home to the most ancient botanical garden in the world.
The weather was starting to warm up, so after finding somewhere for lunch, we found a nice little spot in the shade not too far from the botanical gardens.
After resting for a while, we headed to the botanical gardens.
It was a lovely place to escape the heat and to find some respite beneath the trees.
After having a walk around the gardens, we headed back into the city centre and had a wander around the shops before heading back to Ferrara.
That evening we dined out at a lovely restaurant, where I tried the local Ferrara dish, Tortelli di Zucca (pumpkin tortellini), which was delicious. I also tried Coppia Ferrarese, a traditional bread in Ferrara, although this was much less delicious!
Time to say goodbye
And just like that, my time in Ferrara was over. Although it wasn’t quite time to say goodbye to Magda (she decided to join me for the day as I travelled back to Bologna), it was time to say goodbye to Ferrara.
Ferrara has a feel to it that I’ve never experienced before. Within the city walls, Ferrara comes alive at night. There is a hint of magic lingering in the streets. It’s captivating. It is peaceful, yet people love to let their hair down and have a good time.
I can see why Magda has fallen in love with Ferrara. It has a charm like no other.
Ferrara – I will be back.