The taste of Ferrara

Salama da sugo is a New Year tradition in Ferrara which has lasted for five centuries

In Emilia, the larger region of Ferrara, two major painters from the 1900s left their priceless trace of magical realism - Carlo Carrà and Giorgio De Chirico. De Chirico left us pictures such as The disquieting muses, set in front of Castello Estense in Ferrara, the work depicts a fantastical mystery. Its charm is entirely Italian, theatrical and open to the sensuality and pleasure of living.

It is not by chance that Ludovico Ariosto was born in this area and took from here colours and sentiments with which he created the fantastic and affable characters in Orlando furioso, in which he tells of a fantasy warlike situation between Christians and moors and a cavalcade of amorous adventures and surreal duels.

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People often arrive in Ferrara having such premonitions.

The gentleman of this city take their attitude of collective celebration from the court of the Estensi princes, which finds its way into the local cooking. The placid and idyllic area around the Po delta, the presence of hemp, a plant cultivated here for centuries, all give Ferrara the feeling of sensuality and sartorial mysticism. Casanova, who knew it for a long time through his preferred activity, said that here you can find the women most inflamed with love, second only to Venetian women.

All of these things clearly appear in the local cooking, of which salama da sugo or salamella is a type of triumphant and noble reflection.

It is an enduring symbol because it has been prepared and eaten with reverence, for centuries. Yet another historic dish is pasticcio alla ferrarese which was invented in the court of the Estensi: it is part-cooked, small macaroni in an envelope of shortcrust pastry with meat and mushroom sauce, accompanied by bechamel sauce and baked.

Other dishes from Ferrara: cappelletti pasta, cappellacci with courgettes, anguilla (eels) di Comacchio, fried courgette flowers and prawns in white-wine sauce.

To finish, we have panpepato, a winter dessert: an Italian doughnut, almond, pine nuts, pepper and orange rind. It is sweetened with sugar or honey.

Even the Jewish colony, an ancient ethnic group which lived in Ferrara for centuries, left its mark in the literature, via the famous Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani and in the foods which won over the local population: dry cured goose ham buricco, or a large ravioli stuffed with chicken and veal, with goose rinds in hamin (the traditional Jewish stew), egg tagliolini boiled and baked to form a tasty crust seasoned with goose fat, raisins and pine nuts. To finish simply choose between the range of Jewish marzipan deserts.

We began by speaking about two painters from the modern era, but a visit to Ferrara also involves seeking out Renaissance artists such as Pisanello and Mantegna and especially the founders of the local school, the so-called Officina Ferrarese, such as Cosmè Tura, Ercole De Roberti and Francesco del Cossa.

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