The point at which Via Mazzini meets the south-east corner of Piazza Trento e Trieste was once the location of one of the gated entrances to the Jewish ghetto.
You’ll find the gates and other places I mention on my Google map.
Although Jewish people had been living in Ferrara for centuries, between 1627 to 1861 they were required to live in the ghetto while under papal rule. Even after that time, it was the centre of Jewish life in the city.
Via Mazzini was the main street of the ghetto while the side streets were Via della Vittoria and Via Vignatagliata. These cobbled streets with their irregular buildings are pretty much unchanged since the fifteenth century.
I came for lunch at an old-school Jewish restaurant here…
Osteria del Ghetto (Intermediate B+), 26 Via della Vittoria, www.osteriadelghetto.it
I started with some local cured hams served with Pinzini, or what in Parma were called Gnoccho Fritti (my post here) and in Modena are Crescentine Fritte; little pillows of deep-fried dough over which charcuterie is draped and eaten.
The pasta course involved Cappellacci di Zucca Ferraresi, the local ravioli (a larger version of Cappelletti) stuffed with pumpkin, for which the restaurant is well-renowned. I had mine with ragu but sage and butter is another typical option. Recipe here, nonna video here.
The only part of the meal I didn’t enjoy was the second course of Salama da Sugo, a local sausage made with different pork cuts including coppa di collo (neck), lardo di gola (neck fat), pancetta (belly), fegato (liver), and lingua (tongue) which are minced and seasoned with salt, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and red wine. Typically the sausage is boiled and served hot, with mashed potatoes. The Ferrarese love this sausage, and they do know their food, so I tried it twice, but sadly couldn’t enjoy it either time. Nothing prepares you for how salty it is and I guess it’s best stirred into the unsalted mash. A shot of ‘herbal extract’ for the road cheered me up a bit though.
It was a nice restaurant though, and I would go back. Another attractive option though is Trattoria da Noemi, just around the corner at 31 Via Ragno. Also Balebùste at 44 Via della Vittoria is another place where you can try good Pinzini Ferraresi.
Parallel to Via Ragno, very near the ghetto, is Via delle Volte, which is for me the most charming medieval street in the city.
Laid down between the 7th and 9th centuries, this street marks the linear axis by the river along which Ferrara originally developed.
The street is named after the 14th and 15th-century vaults dotted along the street.
The vaults support overhead passages that connected the merchants’ warehouses on the banks of the river to their workshop-houses further inland.
Off to the new part of town next…