Ferrara Tourist Attractions
SituationFerrara, capital of the province of the same name, lies 5km/3mi south of the River Po in the fertile north Italian plain. The distance from Ferrara to the Adriatic coast is about 50km/31mi.
Ferrara, see of an archbishop, and with a small university, was once the splendid capital of the dukes of Este and an important trading center. Its wide streets, forbidding castle and sumptuous Renaissance palaces still bear witness to the great days of its past.HistoryThe town first appears in the records at the time of the Great Migration. In 1332 it fell into the hands of the Este family, one of the oldest noble houses in Italy (961-1598), which reached its period of greatest splendor in the 16th century Ariosto (1474-1533), the greatest Italian poet of the day, and the poet Torquato Tasso (1544-95) lived at the brilliant Renaissance court. Girolamo Savonarola was born in Ferrara in 1452. In 1598 the town was incorporated in the Papal State and in 1860 it was united with the Kingdom of Italy.The flea market, Piazza Travaglio, opens every Monday.
In the center of Ferrara is the picturesque Castello Estense, the four-towered moated castle of the Este family, begun in 1385 and partly rebuilt after 1554. The castle contains frescoes by pupils of Dosso Dossi (1489/90-1542). The roof gardens are also open to visitors.
South of the Castello in Ferrara is the Piazza Savonarola, with a monument to Savonarola, the great preacher and reformer. Here, too, we find the Palazzo Comunale, once the palace of the dukes of Este (originally built in 1243, rebuilt in the 14/15th century), with a facade of 1924.
A little way southeast of the Castello in Ferrara rises the cathedral, with a magnificent facade in Lombard Romanesque style (12th-14th century); it contains pictures by artists of the Ferrara school; near the altar are two 15th century bronze statues (St Maurelius and St Georg); in the transept are busts of the apostles, and a very fine painting of "Mary with the Saints".
Address: Via Guglielmo Degli Adelardi 2, I-44100 Ferrara, Italy
Opening hours: 8am-12pm, 3pm-7pm
Entrance fee: FREE
Over the narthex in the cathedral in Ferrara is the Cathedral Museum, with pictures and sculptures, among which are the "Madonna del Melograno" by Jacopo della Quercia, as well as a Dutch tapestry by J. Karcher, based on drawings by G. Filippi and Garafola.
About 500m/550yd southeast of the cathedral in Ferrara stands the church of San Francesco, a brick-built Early Renaissance building (15th century) roofed with a series of domes. Immediately east is the University (founded 1391).
Sights in the South
Schifanoia Palace and Municipal Museum
In Via Scandiana in Ferrara, is the Palazzo Schifanoia (late 14th century; remodeled in 1466-93), an Este summer residence, now incorporating the Municipal Museum (Museo Civico), with miniatures, medals and fine frescoes by Francesco del Cossa and his pupils (c. 1470).
About 500m/550yd south of the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara is the Palazzo di Ludovico il Moro (16th century; unfinished), with a beautiful courtyard and fine frescoes, early examples of trompe-l'oeil painting (c. 1500). It now houses the Archeological Museum (Museo Civico d'Arte Antica), which has a splendid collection of vases and other finds from the Greek-Etruscan necropolis of Spina, near Comacchio.
Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea
Southwest of San Francesco, in Via delle Scienze (No 17) in Ferrara, is the Palazzo del Paradiso, occupied from 1586 to 1962 by the university and now by the Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea, with Ariosto's tomb and some of his manuscripts.
Sights in the North
Palazzo Sacrati or Prosperi
In the north of Ferrara, at the intersection of Corso Ercole I d'Este with Corso Rosetti/Corso di Porta Mare, are two fine palaces. On the northwest corner is the Palazzo Sacrati or Prosperi (c. 1500), with a fine doorway.
Opposite the Palazzo Sacrati in Ferrara, to the south, is the Palazzo dei Diamanti, a superb example of Early Renaissance architecture (1492-1567) which takes it name from the faceted stones of its facade. It now contains the National Gallery, with works by 15th-16th century painters of the Ferrara school.
At Via Ariosto 65 in Ferrara, is the house in which Ariosto lived; on the first floor is the room where the poet died.
The Certosa in Ferrara is a former Carthusian house founded in 1452 and dissolved in 1796, now a cemetery; here also is a fine 15th-16th century church.
From the Certosa in Ferrara it is only a few steps to the building complex of the Palazzo Massari-Palazzina Cavalieri di Malta, which houses the Boldini Museum (Museo Boldini e dell'Ottocento Ferrarese) and works by other painters of Ferrara. Boldini (1842-1931) painted portraits and scenes of the Parisian street-life.
Municipal Collection of Contemporary Art
The surroundings of Ferrara include the town of Comacchio and the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria di Pomposa.
Abbazia Santa Maria di Pomposa
North of Comacchio lies the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria di Pomposa (founded in the seventh century), of importance during the Middle Ages but abandoned in the 17th century because of the prevalent malaria. The church, built in the eighth-ninth centuries and enlarged in the 10th-11th centuries, has an impressive atrium and a campanile 48m/158ft high; inside are a mosaic floor and 14th century frescoes. Near the church are the chapter-house with well-preserved frescoes, the refectory (c. 1420) and the Palazzo della Ragione (now a college of agriculture).