Biking Through Ferrara Italy: Where Old School Meets Modern

 In Europe


When I think of Italy I have visions of Audrey Hepburn sitting on the back of Gregory Peck’s scooter zooming through the streets of Rome. I see fast racecars stuck in traffic in Florence. Most of all I see bicycles, an endless stream of bicycles.

Long before the motorcar the bicycle was getting the citizens of Italy around their villages, towns, and cities. As modern technology invaded, automobiles gained popularity and bike sales dropped. However, according to a BBC report, bike sales surpassed car sales in 2011 for the first time in decades thanks to rising petrol prices and a weakened economy.

The bike was having a comeback. I needed to know what this phenomenon was all about. The kids were more than happy to tag along. Ferrara, Italy was the perfect place to see what all the fuss was about.


Ferrara-011As we entered the city walls of Ferrara in Mid-October 2012, I noticed bikes and cars sharing the roads. There were no bike lanes. These were simply alternative vehicles to get locals around their city. Larger cities in Italy might not be as bike friendly, but Ferrara seemed to have made room for transportation of a different kind.

Mothers whizzed by with school children on the back as they headed home from school. Couples lounged on the grass around the Piazza Ariostea with their bikes at their feet, enjoying a gelato as the sun set over the city. Others had baskets on the front of their bikes filled to the brim with the ingredients for their evening meal.

Bikes just seemed to be the way to go.


A few days after our arrival we finally mounted our own two-wheeled steeds to head into town and explore like locals. The friend I was visiting had enough bikes and kid seats for her two daughters and my two boys. Helmets for the kids were passed around and snapped on.

Helmets are still a bit of a novelty for the Italian locals. My American friend considers them a must for her kids, as do we. She did inform me that the government was trying to promote children wearing helmets; it just hadn’t quite caught on yet. Whether adults would ever don a helmet is another story. With the Italian fashion sense I doubt it would ever be brought up for public debate.


Biking to grab gelato makes it even more sweet


Exploring the city on two wheels was an entirely new experience for my family. We normally walked or drove everywhere. We have one bike at home that we have never even used. We’ve just been waiting for Dek to be old enough to go out with us. Silly I know.

My friend and I raced the kids through the streets of Ferrara, past the cathedral and Castello Estense, through city hall and down the back streets. Dek held onto my back and giggled with pure joy as the wind rushed past his face. Ty at 5 months old wasn’t so sure about the whole outing, but put up with it all the same.



You never know what you will see as you bike around the city, like these guys shooting a music video.

The beauty of discovering the city by bike was that we were not hindered by traffic, or delayed while trying to find a parking spot. Yes, there are rules to the road for bikes and where you can park them, but bicycles also have many of the same rights as pedestrians. They can even travel down pedestrian only roads and lanes.

Once Mike joined our escapades we snagged a babysitter so we could double date with our friends. There was no talk of driving into town. We were going to bike. Apparently so was everyone else in Ferrara. Friday night was packed with bicycles in front of wine bars and friends enjoying the start of the weekend. After drinks we pulled our bikes right up to the restaurant where we had reservations; no valet needed. We just locked the bikes together and strolled on in.

FerraraFerrara-005Quick trips to grab an afternoon gelato, pizza take-out, and even a trip to the weekly market to grab fresh produce, buffalo mozzarella cheese, and prosciutto would fill the rest of our time as we continued to enjoy all that Ferrara had to offer. We may have been beginners when it came to exploring a city by bike, but Italy has a way of seeping into your soul. Biking as a means of transportation had wiggled its way into our lives, just as it has done with local Italians for generations. Will oil prices continue to lead Italians towards two-wheeled vehicles? I don’t know, but I think it will still remain a symbol of Italy for a few more generations.

To read more about our foray into to the world of biking as a family read my guest post over at Family Ramblings.

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Showing 13 comments
  • lightofworldphotography

    Love the black and white pictures! What a fun way to travel! We too have bikes at home that hardly ever get used, but we really love renting bikes when we are traveling, go figure. Looks like a fun trip.

  • budget jan

    We did a bicycle tour in Barcelona and have now positioned it at the top of our preferred ways to see a city. It is a fun way to see more than you can on foot. Great for kids too. Cycling is very popular in Melbourne, where I noticed a plethora of them on a recent trip. It is a little too hot where I live to really get into them.

  • Muza-chan

    Thanks you for the interesting article! I enjoyed viewing the pictures…

  • Jackie Smith

    I absolutely love that shot of the red bike. It so captures Italy!

    • © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      Jackie it is my favorite too. One of my favorite from the entire trip!

  • jenny@atasteoftravel

    We’ve never got into biking on our travels but after reading this, I’m tempted. Most cities now have bikes for hire but I think I’d prefer to start in a smaller village. I love the photo of the red bike too …so Italy!!

  • I am always amazed by the number of bike riders there are in Europe! Still haven’t gotten up the nerve to travel in a city like this but I really need to do this 🙂

  • Many cities are beginning to see the benefits of bikes, if not for travel, at least for recreational exercise. I’ve visited two that were working hard to improve safety for bikers with bike paths, etc.

    It looks and sounds like you had a wonderful time. All of your photos are beautiful, but I especially love that very first photo of the red bike. That should be framed.

  • Becca@ R We There Yet Mom?

    You know, it honestly sounds heavenly, biking around all day. It would be difficult where I live, as everything here is so spread apart, but in Europe, I think it would be fantastic.

    As usual, your pictures are fantastic too! Sorry I didn’t get over sooner – it was a very busy weekend. Thanks for always linking up!!

  • Terumi

    I love your biking photos and gelato is a perfect biking destination. I never biked with the guys when they were younger and I wish I did. I think they would have loved it.

  • Bethaney

    Love the pictures! This looks like a lot of fun. I’m picturing myself moving to Europe and zipping around the little narrow streets on a bike… With Reuben on the back of course!!

  • Lisa Wood

    That is such a great way to explore a new place, and perfect way to avoid the traffic. We have a bike, but don’t use it much! Makes me want to get out and explore more.
    Love the idea of riding one on a date night.

  • eileen at FamiliesGo!

    how totally fun! I expected audrey Hepburn to pop up in a photo at any moment.