Ferrara is a city situated 44 kilometers northeast of Bologna. It has a beautiful Medieval old core, Some old mansions open to visitors, a castle and lots of churches.
The last time I visited Ferrara it was in 2017; if my memory serves me well.
One of the main sight of Ferrara is the Estense castle. Originally this castle was a tower; built in the XIII century. In 1385 by Niccolò II d' Este ordered the construction of a big fortress in order to defend himself and his family against the citizens' uprisings. Ferrara' s citizens protested against heavy taxation at that time. After a few centuries the danger of uprisings ceased and from 1450 the castle became a wonderful court residence. The d' Este family lived in the castle until 1589 when the city was put under the rule of the papacy. This family ruled Ferrara since 1332.
Once you bought your entrance ticket you can visit the castle on yourself or on a guided tour (this will costs you some euros more). You can go inside the dungeons; these have low entrances. Then you could visit the chapel of Renee of France; wife of Ercole II. It is decorated with marbles and frescoes. Other rooms to visit are; the Room of Dawn, the Small Room of the Games and the Room of the Games. A proper visit to the castle should take at least two hours.
Giardino degli aranci (the oranges garden). A small garden (balcony) inside the castle.
Piazza (i. e. square) Municipale. This picture was taken during a historical re enactment.
Newly wed on the staircase in piazza Municipale.
The palace which is now used as town hall was the ducal palace. It was built in 1245 and later enlarged. The ducal palce was where the Estense family lived until the XVI century.
The main entrance of the palace is through the so called Volto del Cavallo (the horse' s face); a big arcade. This is flanked by two sculptures. To the right is a statue of Niccolò III on horseback. To the left you see his son Borso; seated on a throne. These are not original statues, but copies.
If you pass through the Volto del Cavallo you get to piazza Municipale. This was once the ducal courtyard. Here you see a yellow staircase built in 1481. Next to it there is a chapel, now used as a theatre.
Inside the town hall (go up the staircase) you can visit the Duchesses' Room and the Sala dell'Arengo. This is decorated with frescoes painted between 1934 and 1938. The Duchesses' Room is a very small room decorated between 1555 and 1560. It was probably created for Eleanor and Lucrezia d' Este; Ercole II' s daughters. In this picture you see part of this tiny room.
Here' s another picture taken into the Duchesses' Room.
The cathedral was built in the XII century. It was restored and modified between 1712 and 1880. Its facade is divided into three sections. The lower part was built in Romanesque style. The upper part was built some decades later in Gothic style.
The cathedral bell tower was built between 1451 and 1493. It is unfinished even if the last works were done at the end of the XVI century.
One of the things I liked a lot inside the cathedral was a large crib created in the '700 by four artists living in the Naples area. It is made by 58 statues. Here' s some pics of this masterpiece.
The cathedral' s facade.
Along the right side of the cathedral there is a long portico with shops. This is the Loggia dei Merciai. It dates to the 15th century.
Via (i. e. street) San Romano.
Zazie is a hole in the wall under the arcades of via San Romano. Here you can have a smoochie, a salad, the soup of the day, yoghurts and something else.
There are some chairs and small tables inside this place and some tables and chairs outside.
All the drinks and food are served in disposable glasses.
I tried some smoochies at Zazie' s. I liked them much.
The first time I went there I had a salad with cous cous. It was good.
Via delle Volte. This long street takes its name from the arches that join the buildings along it.
Via delle Volte was a Medieval street where merchants had their warehouses and probably their houses. Long ago it was also a place where prostitutes used to work.
You can explore Ferrara for hours and discover lots of nice spots...
palaces, houses, churches...
Casa Romei is one of the mansions open to visitors. It was built by a merchant; Giovanni Romei in the XV century. It was enlarged for his second marriage.
There are several rooms to visit inside Casa Romei. On the ground floor you can visit the hall of the sybille and the hall of the prophets. These have beautiful and quite well preserved frescoes.
On the first floor there is the cardinal Ippolito d' Este' s apartment. Here you will visit some rooms. There is even a small chapel.
Casa Romei is also a museum with sculptures, paintings and frescoes.
Another mansion I visited in Ferrara is the Palazzina of Marfisa d' Este is a one storey palace built from 1559 on order by Francesco d' Este; son of Alfonso I and Lucrezia Borgia. From 1578 it was inherited by his daughter Marfisa who lived there until her death.
Inside this building you can see several rooms with beautiful frescoed roofs; partly restored in the XX century. The furniture you see there date from the XVI to the XVII centuries.
This building has a garden with a loggia that was used as a theatre.
Palazzo Schifanoia is a palace situated quite far from the center of Ferrara.
The name given to this large palace could be translated as "to spur boredom". Its was used as a building for enjoyment and to receive guests. It was built from 1385 and enlarged around 1470 on Borso d' Este' s orders. It was enlarged again in 1493.
On the first floor (piano nobile) there is a room with frescoes painted from 1469 and 1470. This is the "ciclo dei mesi"; (the cycle of the months). There is another room to visit on the same floor; the Sala delle Virtù; also called Sala degli Stucchi.
Part of this palace is closed to visitors due to the damages caused by the 2012 earthquake.
In this picture you can see part of Sala degli Stucchi.
Palazzo dei Diamanti is another main sight of the city. The name of this long and huge palace comes from over 8000 pink and white marble stones cut in the form of pyramids that cover its facade. I have read that the diamond was one of the emblem of the d' Este family. The works on this palace begun in 1493 by Biagio Rossetti. It was modified and completed in the next century. This palace was built for Sigismondo d' Este; duke Ercole I' s brother.
Most of the ground floor of this building is used for temporary exibitions. On the first floor the pinacoteca nazionale is housed. It is a large collection of paintings from XIII to the XIX century.
There is a botanical garden in Ferrara. It is not large, but it is a nice place to spend a couple of hours.
This garden is located not far from Palazzo dei Diamanti.
Sant Antonio in Polesine. This monastery was founded in the Middle Ages by the Agustinians monks. In 1257 Azzo d' Este bought the buildings and the area where this monastery was located from them. The following year his daughter Beatrice and her companions (nuns) went to live there.
There are two churches here. The inner one is used by the nuns. It has three chapels with lots of very old frescoes. The chapel on the left has frescoes with stories of Jesus as a child and the life of the Madonna.These were painted between 1315 and 1320. The chapel on the right has frescoes with stories of the Christ' s passion. These date from the end of the '200 to the half of the '300.
Other things to see at this monastery are a cloister and the sarcophagus of Beatrice II d' Este inside the monastery.
It is forbidden to take pictures into the monastery, but I was able to take this one.
The fourth saturday and sunday of every month; except in august; an interesting craft market is held in Ferrara. It is held opposite the castle entrance and at piazza Savonarola; which is just outside the castle.
This market is made of various stalls where you can find something nice to take home or buy for yourself. At the craft market you can find home decorations, garments, jewellery and many other things.
When I visited this market there were not many stalls, but there were lots of beautiful things.
This is the local bread. Its name is "la coppia". It is called "ciupeta" in the local dialect. The first written informations about this bread comes from 1536 when Cristoforo da Messibugo; the court cook at the Estense court reported about a kind of twisted bread at a carnival banquet offered by the duke. Perhaps a similar kind of bread still existed in the XIII century.
This bread is made of wheat flour of 0 kind, water, lard, extra virgin oil, yeast, salt and malt. It has a x shape with its end made of a kind of twisted bread sticks.
A typical Ferrarese dish you should try is the cappellacci di zucca. These are practically large ravioli (filled noodles) filled with a mixture of pumpkin, Reggian Parmesan or Parma Grana cheese; eggs, grated bread, eggs, salt, and nutmeg. Ginger and pepper were added to the mixture centuries ago. They are served with butter and sage or with ragu. The first written recipe of this dish dates to the 1584. Probably the name cappellacci comes from the resemblance of the huts worn by country men at that times.
I also have a typical Ferrarese cake to recommend. The pampepato. This cake is made with bitter chocolate mixed into the dough and covered with bitter chocolate. Other ingredients of this cake are; hazels, almonds, cinnamon and pepper. Its name could come from pampapato which was intended as "pan del papa"; the Pope's bread. Pampepato was possibly invented by the nuns of the monastery of the Sacred Heart in 1600. They got inspiration for this creation from an ancient recipe by a cook. The nuns used to send this cake to priests at Christmas time. This is a typical Christmas cake, but you can find it all year round at several bakeries in Ferrara.
Buy a My Fe; the city card. It allows you to visit several palaces, museums and the castle for a single visit for around 10 euros (2015 price). You will have discounts at some shops with this card. This card is very useful if you like to visit most of the attractions in this city. It makes you save lots of money. You can buy it at the castle or at some historical houses or museums.
I bought a two days tourist card and it was enough for me to visit all the main attractions in Ferrara. There are cards for more days on sale as well.