FERRARA IS THE REAL DEAL
Ferrara is the ideal city for students looking for an authentic Italian experience. We were stationed in the very center within the city walls. Every day, a walk down Via Mazzini (AKA Umbrella Street) quickly led us to the Castle, the Cathedral, and the Community Square.
The Ferrara community is largely made up of a college to 30's aged crowd, as opposed to Ravenna's young kids and family crowd, or Rome's party tourist crowd. On Wednesday nights, everyone would usually congregate in front of the Cathedral. It was definitely interesting seeing a bunch of young kids drinking and smoking on the Cathedral steps.
The locals speak Italian so students are forced to pick up some of the native language if they don't know it already. This is ideal for students really looking to emerge themselves in Italian language and culture. In more touristy cities, speaking English is all you need.
This city is ruled by bicycles, and for a couple of euros you can ride like a local too. If you don't want to rent a bike, walking and navigating your way through the Ferrara streets is still incredibly easy. In fact, walking from one city wall to the next may take less than 40 minutes.
Despite the homey feeling of Ferrara, the city's Castle, Terraviva Farms and history of the Estense family can still be a tourist's dream.