The beautiful city of Ferrara, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List together with the Po Delta, lies in an isolated region of Emilia Romagna, between the valleys of Po and the sea.
This medieval and Renaissance centre has remained almost intact and is still the subject of studies by urban planners and architects thanks to its special atmosphere and proximity which make it a popular holiday destination all year round.
Chronicles mention Ferrara for the first time around 657 BC.
At first it was subjected to the Canossa family and then it became a free city-state, but Ferrara reached its zenith under the rule of the Este family who attracted great writers and artists to their court, and thanks to Ercole I made the city one of the most active centres of the Italian Renaissance.
Ferrara passed under papal rule in the late sixteenth century and then under that of Napoleon, and after 1815 was involved in numerous riots that ended with its annexation to the Kingdom of Italy.
What to see
The historic centre of Ferrara is a beautiful jewel of Renaissance art, rich in monuments, churches, cloisters, vast green spaces, historic streets and buildings.
The Castello Estense located in Piazza della Repubblica is stunning. This grandiose castle construction, built in 1385, was a defensive fortress which was transformed during the rule of Ercole I of Este into a court residence, enriched by elegant balconies and a pitched roof, while the towers were softened.
The yard was painted with portraits of all the ancestors of the House of Este.
The adjacent square holds the cathedral built in 1135 and remodelled several times: the facade has, in fact, both Gothic and Romanesque elements. The atrium of the church leads to the cathedral museum which houses many works of art, including Jacopo della Quercia’s sculpture of the Madonna of the Pomegranate (Madonna della Melagrana).
An absolute masterpiece of Italian Renaissance lies along Corso Ercole I d’Este: Palazzo dei Diamanti, with its unmistakable facade of rusticated spearheaded stone, is today the seat of the national art gallery.
The monastery of Sant’Antonio in Polesine, founded in 1249 according to the will of Beatrice d'Este II, the impressive church of Corpus Domini with the choir of Poor Clares which contains the tombs of many prominent figures of the house of Este and Palace Schifanoia with its famous frescoes, one of the main Este family monuments, who made it their place of entertainment and amusement, are also extremely beautiful.
Do not miss
The house of Ludovico Ariosto at number 67 of Corso Ercole I d'Este, a sober fifteenth century building.
By taking Via delle Volte you go on a discovery of medieval Ferrara, entering from Piazza Trieste to the district that includes the Jewish ghetto, created in the mid-fifteenth century, with its beautiful palaces and the synagogue, established in 1481 and once rich in vestments and precious volumes.
The headquarters of the university established in the late fourteenth century by Alberto V and housed in the Pareschi building, a 1400 building rebuilt in the eighteenth century, is very characteristic. Nearby there is Corso della Giovecca, an elegant street of the city overlooked by the building of Marfisa d'Este, an interesting museum of sixteenth century furniture.
Ferrara is a European arts centre and has been home to great writers and scientists of the past such as Tasso, Ariosto, Paracelsus and Copernicus; it has many museums, including the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art “Filippo de Pisis”, the Museum Giovanni Boldini, the National Art Gallery in the Palazzo dei Diamanti and it is also known because of the important Museum of Italian Judaism and Holocaust. The sixteenth century Palace of Ludovico il Moro which houses the National Archaeological Museum is also well worth a visit.
FERRARA I.A.T. (Tourist Information Office)
Castello Estense, Largo Castello, 14
Phone: +39 0532 209370/299303 Fax: +39 0532 212266
Weekdays: 9:00 to 13:00 / 14:00 to 18:00; Sundays and holidays: 9:30 to 13:00 / 14:00 to 17:00; January 1st: 13:00 to 18:00. Closed on 25th December
How to reach Ferrara
railway stations in Ferrara, Ostellato, Codigoro, Argenta, Alfonsine, Ravenna, Cervia