Hot air balloon festival - Ferrara, Italy


Ferrara, Italy - hot air balloon festival
Ferrara, Italy - hot air balloon festival
Hot air balloon festival - Ferrara, Italy
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Ferrara, Italy - hotair air balloons Ferrara, Italy - hotair air balloons
You may never be
earth-bound again

Don’t miss the Ferrara Hot Air Balloon Festival, held annually in September in the heart of
Emilia Romagna, Italy

Text Denise Hummel   
Photography Steve Hummel
When travelers think of historic Italian cities, they often think of Florence, Rome and Venice. But for those who know the real Italy, there are other incalculable riches. One such treasure is the town of Ferrara, protected by UNESCO on the World Cultural Heritage list as a priceless example of a living, breathing work of Renaissance art.

A vast portion of the town survives from the middle ages and in the off-season, before the arrival of eager tourists, a quiet morning walk in the pedestrian center, along the cobble-stoned streets, lined with brick and stone palazzos, will take you back hundreds of years to a less complicated existence. Now picture a crisp cool day in September and try to imagine the sky above that beautiful city filled with the dancing colors of hot air balloons. First one, then five, twenty, then thirty.

My son Alex and I braved an actual take-off, but even from the ground, the festival is filled with sights and sounds that most of us are not used to experiencing in everyday life. Imagine a flaccid piece of colored parachute-like material, slowly inflating to a balloon the size of a three-story building and then floating off into the sky amid the sound and sight of the flaming, forced air entering it. Let's face it, your adrenaline is going, even if you are not one of the lucky ones to take a celestial journey. It's not necessary to wait until next year. Ferrara has many other sights, none of which should be missed. But should you decide to combine your trip with the experience of the magnificent ‘mongolfiere’ the hot air balloons will be waiting for you next September.

Our favorite hotel is Hotel Ferrara +39 0532 20 50 48, in the main piazza of the historical center, overlooking the Castello Estense, an imposing 14th century castle and the symbol of power and refinement of the historical presence of Ferrara. There could be no better base for a visit of the town. Using the complimentary hotel bicycles, we were able to bike to the Balloon Festival.

The region of Emilia Romagna is known worldwide for its food and our dinner at the Ristorante Big Night da Giovanni (+39 0532 242 367), a restaurant that shares an entrance and collaborative relationship with the hotel, was no exception. We ate a crostata salata di ricotta, which is a ricotta pie topped with grilled radicchio. This was followed by pasticcio di macaroni alla ferrarese con tartufo, a wonderful macaroni pasta with truffles covered by paper thin and crispy pasta dough. Our second course was filetto di manzo in crosta con punti di asparagi, crema di Roquefort profumato al tartufo nero, which is a beef fillet in pastry with white asparagus tips, a hint of Roquefort and black truffles.

All dishes melted in our mouths and were some of the finest I have tasted. The entire dinner was topped off with a chocolate masterpiece, dolcetto di cioccolato fondente con crema alla vaniglia, gelato di pistachio e curry indiano. If you can picture this, it was a warm chocolate cupcake with a liquid center, with vanilla cream, homemade pistachio ice cream with a hint of Indian curry spice. It would be the one food I would request should I have the misfortune to find myself on death row some day. The chef, Fabio Zanella, would without doubt have been scooped up by an aggressive hotelier somewhere else in the world, were it not for the fact that he was born and bred in Ferrara and reluctant to leave.

Ferrara has many other sights, none of which should be missed. They include La Pinacoteca Nazionale (The National Picture Gallery), a home for a panorama of paintings from the mediaeval era to the 18th century and many other beautiful museums. The most heart-rending, however, and one not to be missed by those exploring their Jewish heritage is that of the Jewish Ghetto, beautifully preserved with its three synagogues.
Ferrara, Italy - city of bicycles
The Jewish community prospered here throughout the 1400s thanks to the particular protection of the Estense dukes who welcomed refugees to the city from other European countries. Later in the 1600s, the community endured taxes and other impositions, restrictions and segregations. Still later, under fascist rule, gates closed off the quarter. The history of these centuries, both beautiful and horrendous is preserved in the walls, the streets, the synagogues and the Jewish museum and serves as an enduring historic monument to all that was endured over the centuries. Much credit must be given to the people of Ferrara for their dedication in preserving it. Whether you wait for next September, or hop on a plane tomorrow, we will in all likelihood see you there.


Style Modern

Setting In the historic heart of the city, directly opposite the castle in the central plazza.

Wow factor The location and the view of the castle.

Good to know The next Ferrara Balloon Festival will be held in September 2008 at the Parco Urbano “Bassani” Ferrara. The highlight of the event will take place on Saturday evening, when a spectacular flight of lighted balloons will colour the dark sky.
More information can be found on Ferrara’s website or call +39 0532 29 93 03.

Address Largo Castello 36 44100 Ferrara

Phone +39 0532 20 50 48    
Fax +39 0532 24 23 72    


How to get there Fly to Venice or Bologna and take the train. Ferrara is situated south of Venice and north of Bologna and is an hour and a half by train from Venice.

If you are traveling by car from Bologna, take the A13 north; or from Venice, take the A4 southwest to Padua and then the A13 southbound to Ferrara.
Ferrara, Italy - castle at night Ferrara, Italy - café at night