Postcard from Ferrara, Italy: The magnetic pull of cemeteries

Taking a little sabbatical in the midst of writing the final chapter of a book about the families living around the Coker Settlement, an assignment that has me digging, figuratively speaking, through the graveyard for long-buried clues about their lives.

So where did we accidentally wind up on our first day in Italy trying to walk off the fog from staying awake all night to fly across the ocean? A cemetery.

A beautiful, parklike cemetery with acres and acres of Renaissance-style arcades and mausoleums. The grounds of Certosa di Ferrara originally belonged to a Carthusian monastery founded in 1461, but the monks found their compound within the walls of Ferrara when Ercule d’Este, now resting there, expanded and fortified the city in 1492. The final blow, however, was delivered by Napoleon when he confiscated all church lands at the end of the 1700s.

With such wonderful names engraved there  – Chiavissimo Zabardi, known for his austere ideals and honest work before he died in 1910; Achille Valli, an early publicista who departed this world in 1915; Illuminata and Giuseppe Solovagione, with their photos perched atop a whole family tree of their descendants who later joined them – I could have wandered for hours wondering about their stories.

Yet, this was our first day in Italy. How could I spend it among the dead?

So the Mister tugged gently on my arm, and we left to begin exploring the more vibrant areas of Ferrara in Emilia Romagna, Italy.

Cemeteries are such peaceful places, but, after all, we will have much more time than we desire to spend in one later. Much later, I hope.

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