Everybody told me Ferrara is less famous, but just as beautiful as Florence. So in my latest trip to Italy I just HAD to include it in my itinerary! Even if Mondays are the worst for museum freaks like me, I still managed to fill the day to the brim with things to do and see in this lovely Renaissance UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here are my recommendations for a 1-day visit to Ferrara!
The moated medieval Este Castle (Castello Estense) is definitely the symbol of the city and the most famous landmark in Ferrara. Built in the 14th century as a defensive fortress for the ruling Este family, it soon became the residence of the court. At the end of the 16th century, the dukedom moved its headquarters to Modena, so all the art collections form the Este Castle were moved there. Nowadays, the castle houses a museum where visitors can find out more about the building, the Este family and the history of Ferrara. My favourite spots: the Garden of the Oranges (Giardino degli Aranci), the Lion’s Tower with its beautiful panoramic view over the city and the superbly decorated ceilings of the 1st floor rooms.
The Estense Ducal Palace was built in the 13the century in front of the city’s cathedral. It was the duke’s residence up until the end of the 16th century; now it’s the headquarters of the Ferrara municipality (Palazzo Municipale). You can enter the interior courtyard, called Piazza Municipale, and go inside the palace through the Grand Staircase (Scalone D’Onore). There are beautiful frescoes and decorations in the interior halls, open to visitors.
Being the largest religious building in the city, the Ferrara Cathedral shouldn’t be missed. Dedicated to Saint George, this church is a 12th century masterpiece of art and architecture. Be advised that the facade is currently under renovation and that the cathedral is closed for a couple of hours at midday.
Another photo-worthy landmark in Piazza della Cattedrale is the Clock Tower. Also, opposite the Cathedral you can enjoy savoury pastry and delicious Italian gelato at the Leon D’Oro pasticceria & gelateria.
In Ferrara, almost every house is a Renaissance palazzo! Some are private residences, while others house local museums. Here are some that drew our attention:
The Palazzo dei Diamanti takes its name from the 8,500 white marble blocks on the facade, carved to represent diamonds. It’s an absolutely spectacular sight, which attracts many tourists and curious people. Art aficionados can visit the Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery and the National Painting Gallery of Ferrara.
Across the street, the monumental doors and stairs of the Palazzo Prosperi-Sacrati are a popular places for tourists to take photos.
Those who enjoy antiquities, coins and medals should head to Palazzo Schifanoia. This rather strange name is thought to originate from “schivar la noia“, meaning literally to “escape from boredom“. Since this palace and the nearby villas were the places where the Este court relaxed, the name describes accurately the building’s purpose.
The Palazzo Costabili (also know as Palazzo di Lodovico II Moro) is the house of the National Archaeological Museum in Ferrara.
For a change of scenery, go visit the Certosa Cemetery, known as the Certosa di Ferrara. Visiting a cemetery is always half cathartic, half creepy. But here, while walking under the porticoes decorated with sculptures, it is impossible not to feel a sense of calm and peace.
The 18th century Massari Park close to the cemetery is a nice place to rest in on a hot day. Must stop to take pictures with the impressive Lebanon cedar by the entrance!
If you’ve been to Ferrara, let me know what I missed. If you haven’t, buy your tickets! 🙂
Bonus random pics from all around the historical city centre below!