Ferrara, the beautiful Renaissance city of the d'Este family
Located just a few kilometers south of river Po in region Emilia-Romagna, Ferrara is an elegant city, that has been dominated by the d'Este family for around 300 years, starting from the 13th century. Thanks to them, Ferrara has become one of the most refined, lively and culturally important cities in Italy during the Renaissance. Its prestigious University and a great array of artistic, cultural and architectural treasures have harmonically combined with the prior Medieval urban structure. For these reasons, Ferrara was declared human heritage by UNESCO in 1995. Today, it is a relaxed city, where people like to move by bike and live in a laidback way.
The tour of Ferrara starts from its real symbol: Palazzo dei Diamanti (Palace of Diamonds) (pic n°3) designed by Biagio Rossetti in 1493 at the request of Sigismondo d'Este. The Palace has been named that way because its walls have been covered with 8,500 diamond-shaped blocks of white marble conferring the building that particular appearance. Inside, Palazzo dei Diamanti features a beautiful Renaissance-style courtyard, temporary art exhibitions in "Galleria Civica di Arte Moderna", and "Pinacoteca Nazionale di Ferrara" on the first floor, with masterpieces by Andrea Mantegna, Jacopo Bellini, Battista Dossi, Garofalo, and many others, ranging from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century.
Another milestone of Ferrara is Castello Estense (pic n°1), built in 1385 at the request of Marquis Nicolò II d'Este as a fortification of defense (namely, the Marquis wanted to defend himself from external attacks, but also from the increasing dissatisfaction of the Ferrara people). The majestic castle, built by architect Bartolino da Novara, is characterized by four big towers, linked by walls. Since 1450 the castle has begun to turn into a noble residence. Today, visitors can explore many of its parts, such as the Royal Residency, the jail, the kitchen and many other frescoed and decorated rooms and halls, but also the garden (Giardino degli Aranci) and the chapel (Cappella di Renata di Francia), jumping in that way into the everyday life of a noble family lived here many centuries ago.
Cathedral of San Giorgio (pic n°2) from the 12th century is the main church of Ferrara, and it is another must-see. You will be amazed by the wonderful façade, built with white marble and with a beautiful central gate. The façade depicts various scenes dedicated to Saint George and other Christian characters, and there is also a unique loggia in the middle of the façade, where scenes of the Judgment are depicted. The three-nave interiors are worth a visit, as well as "Museo della Cattedrale", with wonderful paintings and other works of art.
When in Ferrara, you can not miss a visit to Palazzo Schifanoia, built by Alberto V d'Este, although it was Borso d'Este who has made it famous. In order to celebrate its investiture by Pope as a duke, Borso d'Este inaugurated in 1470 inside the palace the worldwide-famous "Sala dei Mesi" (pic n°4) featuring one of the biggest cycle of non-religious frescoes in the world, which depicts and celebrates the duke with allegories.
Palazzo Municipale (Municipal Palace) (pic n°5) is the ancient residence of the dukes until the sixteenth century, built in 1245. Do not miss a visit to the interiors, with impressive frescoed halls, and the courtyard (Giardino delle Duchesse), embellished by porticos.
Culture lovers should save some time and visit Museo Archeologico Nazionale (National Archeologic Museum) located inside a wonderful fifteenth-century palace.
In addition, if you would like to wander around Ferrara and discover its most picturesque corners, we suggest that you stroll around:
- Piazza del Municipio, (Town Hall Square) with a beautiful staircase built in 1481 by Pietro Benvenuti degli Ordini;
- Mura di Ferrara, namely the "City's Walls": they are 9 kilometers long, and were built during the Middle Ages but restored in the fifteenth century. They are perfect for a lovely walk surrounded by nature and history;
- The district called Ghetto, home to a large Jewish community, defined in 1627, with quaint alleys and streets;
- Via delle Volte (pic n°6), a real paradise for photo lovers and one of the most ancient and evocative streets of the city. It is covered with pebbles and with a series of pointed arches, it is quiet, a bit mysterious and very romantic.
Some pictures of Ferrara:
Castello Estense (pic n°1); Cathedral of San Giorgio (pic n°2); Palazzo dei Diamanti (Palace of Diamonds) (pic n°3); Sala dei Mesi (Palazzo Schifanoia) (pic n°4); Palazzo Municipale (pic n°5); Via delle Volte (pic n°6);