One thing that’s been missing from our time in Europe so far is time in nature. Even our day trips to smaller cities like Modena still feel very urban. I found myself longing to be amongst a bunch of trees! So I did a little research and discovered that the town just to our south has a small mountain park that is walkable from the train station.
Our Montegrotto Hike
I was already intrigued by the little town of Montegrotto Terme when we passed it on our way to Bologna for our first day trip. “Terme” means hot springs, and I am a sucker for some hot springs, or anything water-related. Often where there’s springs there’s mountains, and that is the case in Montegrotto.
We took a mid-morning train to the little town and followed the southerly route along the road to a canal. We passed tons of resort hotels along this route and our northern route back to the train station later and I’d really love to do an overnight here someday to try out the hot springs. Maybe when we spend our month in Venice!
We then walked up along the canal to the park, which is called Parco Villa Draghi. We followed a well-marked trail up and it was exactly what I wanted – trees, views, birds, and a solid climb that got my heart pumping. But we were on a time-limit to catch the hourly train to Bologna, so after a brief time at the top we headed back down and through town back to the train station. Of course we arrived in plenty of time and had a little snack on a bench while waiting for the train.
An Afternoon in Ferrara
It was another 45-minute train ride down to Ferrara, which is just north of Bologna. This is another UNESCO town, this time known for its Renaissance architecture and city plan. It was a 20-minute walk from the train station to the heart of town and our first order of business was to find lunch. A main draw of Ferrara is their local speciality, Cappellacci di Zucca, which is pumpkin ravioli. I had researched well-reviewed restaurants that served the dish and had outdoor seating and we found a table available at our first choice, Osteria I Quattro Angeli, which is right next to an awesome castle.
Chad ordered the pumpkin ravioli in a butter and sage sauce and I got another local specialty, tagliatelle ferrarese. This was essentially tagliatelle bolognese, or the traditional meat spaghetti sauce most people think of with Italian food. Our best guess is that this is the city of Ferrara’s attempt to lay claim to the invention of this type of sauce, which most people associate with Bologna, which is 20 minutes south. Either way, it was delicious, as were the pumpkin ravioli, and we really enjoyed our Ferrarese lunch.
After lunch, we went to the castle. It was a real highlight with cool modern sculptures in the courtyard depicting stylized battle scenes. It really brought the castle to life.
Then we wandered through downtown, past the cathedral being renovated and wove our way through the old streets.
Finally, we went up to the city walls on the north end of the city. Our time was a bit limited because Chad had a Zoom commitment to be a guest speaker at a Stephens class and the train back to Padua is only hourly. So we caught the 3:45 p.m. train to arrive back in plenty of time. But walking along the old city walls to the train station was really delightful and provided more time in nature that we’d been missing a bit in Padua (as nice as our naviglio path and little park are).
This was our last day trip for our time in Padua and exactly what we wanted in terms of nature and food. We love Padua for itself, but one of the best parts of it has been being able to see more of the region. There are a lot of places we missed (like Vicenza and Chioggia), but we know we’ll be back to this region again in the future. There is so much to see and appreciate here.