Ferrara

Part of Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy, the city of Ferrara is one of the most unique locations in the region and Italy itself, belying its seeming provinciality.

Remarkably lacking any solid ancient history, Ferrara only appears in records in the 8th century AD as part of the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna prior to the Lombard takeover. Establishing itself as an independent commune in 1155, it was nevertheless only in the 15th and 16th centuries that Ferrara came to prominence, courtesy of the dominant Este family. Starting with Ercole d’Este I in the late 15th century, the Este Dukes of Ferrara proved great patrons of the arts (particularly music) and cultivated the city’s reputation as a cultural centre. Although absorbed into the Papal States in the late 16th century as the family’s star waned, the city’s fame was such that Titian, Pisanello and Piero della Francesca were all residents at some point.

Incorporated into the new united Italy in 1859, Ferrara today bears the marks of modernisation with the usual tourist conveniences, while also retaining its fabulous architecture and overall cultural heritage. As such, it is one of the most underrated and attractive locations in the country.

Attractions

Recently classified a UNESCO World Heritage site, Ferrara’s architecture is some of the best in Italy. One particular delight is the Duomo di San Giorgio in the city centre. Completed in 1135, the Cathedral’s romanesque façade is simply awe-inspiring, while the renovated 18th century interior acts as a fantastic Baroque foil along with the adjoining 15th century campanile (bell tower).

Also found in the city centre is the 14th century Castello Estense, another of Ferrara’s prominent buildings and notable not only for its four towers but also its moat.

Ferrara is awash with Renaissance palaces like the 14th century gothic-styled Palazzo della Ragione and the 18th century Palazzo del Municipio, former residence of the Este family. However, two in particular stand out. Found on the Corso Ercole I d’Este, the Palazzo dei Diamanti takes its name from the façade design, making fabulous use of diamond pointed stone blocks. Meanwhile, the interior houses the National Picture Gallery, which specialises in the late 15th and 16th century Ferrara school, containing works by Benvenuto Tisio and Cosimo Tura.

Elsewhere, the 14th century Palazzo Schifanoia on the Via Scandiana may lack the Diamanti’s remarkable façade but this Este family home’s interior makes up for it, being covered with allegorical frescos by Francesco del Cossa and Cosmè Tura as well as containing a collection of antiquities and medals.

Alongside the aforementioned palace museums, Ferrara hosts the Museo di Storia Naturale (naturally specialising in natural history) on the Via de Pisis, the Museo Lapidario (focusing on ancient history) on the Via Camposabbionario and the self-explanatory Museo del Risorgimento e della Resistenza on the Corso Ercole I d’Este.

Among the many annual festivals and events in Ferrara, two of the most important are the Ferrara Air Show at the local airport in September and, reflecting the city’s musical pedigree, the Delizie Destate Classical Music Festival between June and September.

Shopping

For a mixture of local craftworks and more recognisable department stores, try the Via Bassa, the Via Pomatelli and the Via Mazzini. The locally made ceramics are particularly impressive.

An antiques market takes place on the first Sunday and the last Saturday of each month in the Piazza Savonarola and the Piazza Castello. Furthermore, an open-air market is held on Monday and Friday in the Via Baluardi, Piazza Travaglio and Corso Porta Reno.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Ferrara’s local cuisine is one of the city’s attractions, with dishes like pasticcio alla ferrarese (sweet bread stuffed with pasta and meat) and pasticcio di maccheroni tartufato (pasta, meat and truffles with puff pastry) as well as delicious desserts such as the panpepato chocolate cake. Highly recommended places to eat are Quel Fantastico Grovedi down Via Castelnuovo and Borgomatto in Via Concia.

The city enjoys a vibrant nightlife thanks to the local university, with plenty of bars and a few nightclubs into the bargain. One popular meeting point with some decent bars is the Piazza Savonarola.

Alternatively, you can find the Teatro Comunale on the Corso Martiri della Libert , offering a diverse selection of performances and concerts.

Tourist Information

IAT Tourist OfficeCastello Estense44100FerraraTel: +39 (0)532 209 370infotur@provincia.fe.itORTourist Information OfficePiazza Municipiale, 1144100FerraraTel: +39 (0)532 419 474

Airport

Ferrara does have its own airport but the closest international airport is Bologna Airport, some 50 km away. Fortunately, trains, buses and taxis can all be used to reach Ferrara itself.

International and domestic connecting flights are available fairly regularly to destinations in the continent.

British Airways (London-Gatwick) uses Bologna Airport to and from British destinations.

All car hire locations in Italy