Ferrara: the ideal city to discover by bicycle
1. Where is Ferrara located and what makes it so special?
Ferrara, the magnificent capital of the Renaissance, is in one of Europe's most important protected natural areas, the Po Delta Park, a true paradise for naturalists, biologists and tourists on the outskirts of the city centre.
Lush nature blends with the artistic and architectural marvels associated with the three centuries of splendour experienced by Ferrara under the d'Este family, ruling from 1200, transforming it into the first modern city in Europe.
For more than 300 years, the Este court attracted generations of artists and scholars, including Ludovico Ariosto, who contributed to making this Northern Italian jewel, a few kilometres from Bologna, a reference point for art, music, architecture and town planning.
2. History and information on Ferrara
Officially founded in 753 by Lombard king Astolfo, the city passed from hand to hand until the arrival of the Este family, who succeeded in securing the Signoria and began the transformation of Ferrara.
During this period the city became a meeting place for artists from Italy and Europe, contributing to the splendour still there today.
With the end of the Este dukedom began a long period of decline until the renewed splendour of the Risorgimento.
3. Why Ferrara is a UNESCO site
The historic centre of Ferrara is an outstanding example of an ideal Renaissance city, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
The recognition was extended four years later to the Po Delta area, constituting a unique cultural landscape with the city.
4. The most beautiful places to visit in Ferrara
On foot or by bicycle, get ready to experience Ferrara.
The delightful historical centre is dominated by its undisputed symbol, the Castello Estense, rare example of a castle with a moat still visible in Italy. Erected in 1385 as a fortress of the Este family, the castle was transformed over the centuries into the magnificent court residence with marble balconies and sumptuous frescoed flats to visit in the museum tour.
Just a stone's throw from the Castle, two other symbols of Ferrara: the Cathedral, with its majestic white marble façade studded with loggias, small arches and rose windows, and the Ducal Palazzo Estense, today Palazzo Municipale, residence of the Este family until the 16th century. The Cathedral Museum, rich in works of art on the history of the building, overlooks the Trento e Trieste square.
Walk along Corso Ercole I d'Este to be enchanted by the magnificent buildings of the so-called Addizione Erculea, an ambitious urban plan commissioned by the Duke of Ferrara to court architect Biagio Rossetti. Palazzo dei Diamanti, one of the most famous monuments of Italian Renaissance, now houses art exhibitions of international standing.
On the other side of town, a few minutes' walk or bicycle ride away, visit the Casa Romei museum with its beautiful courtyard combining medieval and Renaissance elements and finely decorated interior from the second half of the 16th century by Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este.
Stroll along the picturesque Via delle Volte surrounded by 14th- and 15th-century buildings and treat yourself to a few hours at Palazzo Schifanoia, a place of rest and recreation for the Este court. It offers a museum tour for a taste of the splendour of the Renaissance era.
If you want a unique experience, hop on a bike and follow the route along the walls surrounding Ferrara: a 9-kilometre ride through bastions, towers, tree-lined avenues and paths.
5. 6 typical unmissable products and dishes of Ferrara
Has the ride whetted your appetite? Now is the time to let Ferrara’s most authentic cuisine tempt your tastebuds. Start with a dish of cappellacci di zucca, a delicious stuffed pasta recipe already known to the Este court.
A much stronger flavour is salama da sugo, sausage made of pork flavoured with spices and red wine. It can be eaten raw as an appetiser or cooked with mashed potatoes, perhaps paired with coppia ferrarese, loaf of bread with a characteristic double-cornet shape, awarded PGI status in 2001.
Mashed potatoes also go very well with bondiola, a sausage made from capocollo and beaten rind that has spread from Ferrara throughout the Veneto region.
Traditional marinated eel from the Comacchio Valleys will have you asking for an encore, and if you want to end the meal with a touch of dessert, treat yourself to the pampepato made of dark chocolate with hazelnuts, almonds, cinnamon and a pinch of pepper.