YOUR NEXT DESTINATION? FERRARA!!
Tips about what to do, what to see and where to eat in Ferrara
A short guide to our local life
Choosing to go to the city and province of Ferrara means experiencing Italian history, nature, art and culture up close. UNESCO’s recognition of the city and its territory is a guarantee of the value of this unique urban and natural landscape. Ferrara was home to one of the most important Renaissance courts, in which art, culture and philanthropy thrived – the Este Court - at the forefront of one of mankind's greatest periods.
Ferrara is a destination in itself, a place where you can spend many days and never tire of its charm - something like Florence without the crowds which can be maddening in the summer season. Ferrara is a place for strolling along the narrow lanes in the centre, a city of bicycles, the access route to some of the most famous palaces in the world, stopping for a while in the inner court of the magnificent Estense Castle, with enthralling visits to its many museums and savouring the traditional dishes of its gastronomic roots that go back to ancient times. There are multiple reasons for visiting, infinite reasons for staying.
In just three centuries Ferrara went from a modest rural centre to a Renaissance masterpiece with a highly enviable historical centre. Marvellous palaces built as homes for the nobility are still intact, like Palazzo dei Diamanti, Palazzo Schifanoia, Palazzo Marfisa d’Este and many others. And then there’s the Castle, the symbol and heart of the city that still retains all the fascination of an extremely appealing history.
But what the city, and as a result the entire area, has to offer really is wide-ranging. For example, Ferrara is indissolubly bound to a passion for two wheelers and hundreds of kilometres have been designed, built, and moulded around pleasing cyclists in the city and its province. The entire province has an impressive network of bicycle tourism routes that wind through the city and countryside, taking in protected oases and villages on the plains.
For those who love golf there are five courses in the Ferrara province, including that in the city that, at less than a kilometre by bicycle from the historical centre, allows guests a very easy visit to the city and its environs.
And then, what can one say about its food and wine? The roots of Ferrara’s cuisine go back to the Estense period and even today these traditions are vibrant and tasty, full of history and pleasure – real works of art to be admired and, above all, savoured! Specialities include Salama da sugo [pork sausage speciality], cappellacci di zucca [pumpkin-filled ravioli], pasticcio di maccheroni [oven-baked macaroni dish], the typical coppia ferrarese [typical bread product of Ferrara], and pampepato [round, spicy, cake-like dessert], and whoever has more gives more!!
And all of this is really right there to hand! In fact, getting to Ferrara has never been as easy, thanks to the Get a ride project, with its numerous direct links with Bologna's "Marconi" Airport: taxis, car rentals with drivers and self-drive, and trains combined with the Bologna Aerobus, but above all the new, convenient link formed by the “Ferrara Bus & Fly” shuttle service, with 16 trips a day and three stops in the city. With “Get a ride” the world is closer to Ferrara!
Known as the “City of bicycles”, Ferrara is about half an hour away from Bologna, and is renowned not only for its good cuisine but also for its artistic heritage, for the numerous touristy spots and for its unique events.
Ferrara experienced its most flourishing period during the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when it was ruled by the Este family. That was when the city turned into an artistic centre of great importance at both a national and a European scale, and got to host popular personalities such as Ludovico Ariosto, Torquato Tasso, Niccolò Copernico, Tiziano, Pico della Mirandola and Pietro Bembo. The city was awarded the World Heritage status by UNESCO for the first time in 1995 as well as Renaissance city. Finally, in 1999, the Este city received another award for its Po Delta and for its Delizie Estensi, 19 villas located in the Ferrara province, which were used by the Este as recreational and relaxation venues.
WHAT TO VISIT IN FERRARA
Ferrara's historic centre is one of the best preserved Medieval cities, characterised by a vast number of monuments, palaces, churches and historical roads. Here below are the most important tourist attractions:
- the Castello Estense (Este Castle) dating back to 1385. It is considered to be the city's most emblematic attraction and is also known as "St. Michael's Castle" as the first stone was laid on the 29th September, St. Michael's day. Initially the construction was conceived as a military fortress but in 1476 it became the aristocratic residence of Duke Ercole I d'Este;
- the St. George's Basilica was initially located outside the historic city walls in the Borgo San Giorgio area, only to be moved to its current site, a short distance from the Este Castle. It was the city's first basilica, constructed in the 8th century on the right bank of the Po di Volano. In 1135 the Episcopal see was moved to the cathedral and the basilica fell into oblivion.
- Palazzo Paradiso, constructed in 1391, is home to the Ariostea Municipal Library which contains the most complete collection of editions including Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, some letters of Torquato Tasso as well as a Bible which belonged to the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola. Prior to its conversion into the Ariostea Municipal Library, Palazzo Paradiso was home to theUniversity ofFerrara.
- the City Walls of Ferrara, approximately 9 km long and remarkably well preserved, mostly unchanged from Medieval times. In ancient times they were entirely surrounded by a moat for defence purposes and characterised by important gates including Porta Paola to the south, Porta San Giovanni to the east and Porta degli Angeli to the north.
- Ferrara Cathedral (in Italian Basilica Cattedrale di San Giorgio Martire), is the Archdiocese's Episcopal See, the city's largest church as well as one of its most important monuments. The Cathedral is located at the heart of the city and hosts the most important diocesan celebrations. The blessing of the Palios occurs in Spring, four painted fabrics which constitute the prize of the four competitions of the Palio of Ferrara. Pope Urban III is also buried in the Cathedral.
- The Ferrara Ghetto, which was established in 1627 in the most ancient areas of the city, is located just a short distance from the Duomo and the Castello Estense. Despite its closure in 1859, the ghetto continued being the focal point of the Jewish community in Ferrara.
Giorgio Bassani immortalized this district in his novels: Il giardino dei Finzi Contini and Cinque storie ferraresi.
- The Palazzo dei Diamanti, one of most famous monuments of both Ferrara and the Italian Renaissance, is located in Corso Ercole I d'Este 21.
The palazzo was designed by Biagio Rossetti in 1492 on behalf of Sigismondo d'Este, brother of the Duke Ercole I d'Este. It was then built between 1493 and 1503. It was initially used as the Este dwelling and as from 1832 the building was purchased by the Municipality so as to house the Art Gallery and the Civic Museum. The name of the building derives from the use of stones in the shape of diamond tips that create powerful perspective effects.
- Palazzo Schifanoia (1385) is the Este family’s ancient leisurely dwelling; it is the only "delight" to be found in the city and its name comes from the meaning to "avoid boredom". The palazzo is famous for hosting the Salone dei Mesi, one of the most representative expressions of 16th century Italian frescoes;
- Piazza Trento and Trieste is Ferrara’s most important square and it is located in the heart of the historic city center. The square is located in the city center and its shape is rectangular.
Its construction dates back to the Middle Ages, when the cathedral was built: from that moment onwards the square became the city’s center of attention around which the most important seats of power were concentrated;
- Piazza Ariostea is an important square in Ferrara and today it has become a meeting place for both the local people and for some sporting events that take place there.
Furthermore, on the last Sunday of May it hosts the Palio di Ferrara (horse race), which was established in 1279 and is considered the oldest palio in the world;
- Massari Park is the most visited city park by the people of Ferrara. It has a large circular fountain near the main entrance and many pedestrian paths. The park was built in 1780 and anciently it had seven imposing access gates, but today there are only two left, the main entrance on Corso Porta Mare and a second one which overlooks Corso Ercole I d'Este. It was also famous for the number of statues that decorated it besides the large amount of present plants;
- The Cathedral Museum of Ferrara, located in Via San Romano, a few steps from St. George's Cathedral, collects some masterpieces coming from the cathedral itself.
- The Civic Museum of Natural History, located in Filippo de Pisis 24. It was born as a core group of the museum in the eighteen century enriched in 1850 by a collection of zoological specimens from Africa and further expanded thanks to theFerraraUniversity.
- The Synagogues and the Jewish Museum of Ferrara, which are located in a building on Via Mazzini 95, in the area of the old ghetto. The Jewish settlement in the area dates back to 1485.
- The Small Marfisa D'Este Palace, a magnificent example of noble residence of the sixteenth century was built by Francesco d'Este and then inherited by his daughter Marfisa who lived there until her death, refusing to leave Ferrara after the devolution of the city to the Papal State, when her family moved to Modena.
- The Small Bonacossi Palace, built in 1469 as wished by Borso d'Este on Diotisalvi Neroni’s design, became in 1527 a kind of communication node between the adjacent Small Marfisa d'Este Palace and the delight of Schifanoia Palace, as wished by Francesco d'Este. The Palace, part of the city museum circuit after a long restoration that has among others brought to the light the decorated Baroque style ceilings and the antique coffered wooden ceilings of the sixteenth century, is also home to the museum management of ancient art.
Visitors to Ferrara certainly cannot miss an encounter with traditional Emilian delicacies. Start with the fragrant bread. With its unmistakable "couple" shape, it has become one of the symbols of this city.
Among the typical dishes of the area, we recall:
- cappelletti in broth: which are the Ferrara version of tortellini, and legend has it that they were created in the image and likeness of Venus' navel. The recipe calls for a meat "batù” wrapped in home made egg pasta;
- pumpkin cappellacci: a very special dish with a pumpkin and parmesan filling, wrapped in a thin egg pasta shape that was inspired by one of the hats of Lucrezia Borgia, who was Duchess of Ferrara from 1505 to 1519;
- salama da sugo: a sausage stuffed with pork, wine and spices, seasoned for a whole year. It is usually served with mashed potatoes to bring out its distinctive flavor;
- eel: a specialty from the town of Comacchio, this dish boasts approximately 48 various recipes;
- tagliatelle cake: made with a shortcrust pastry base, a layer of dark almond marzipan covered in soft egg noodles, this traditional Emilian dessert was inspired by the Lucrezia Borgia's blonde hair;
- tenerina: is a dessert made entirely of chocolate without the use of flour;
- pampepato, or pampapato, is a round shaped dessert made of dark chocolate both in the dough and glaze, with hazelnuts, almonds, cinnamon and a hint of pepper. The origin of the name is found to have a double meaning Bread of the Papacy or Pepper bread, because it's spicy. Pampapato is a Ferrara specialty: flavored gently with orange, peppered with almonds throughout, and all coated again in dark chocolate.
- zuppa inglese: a Ferrara specialty dessert from 1600. It is a pudding made of sponge cake or ladyfingers soaked in alchermes liqueur that is layered alternating with a layer of pastry cream and cocoa. It is delicious and beautiful to see the variety of colour it displays.
EVENTS NOT TO BE MISSED IN FERRARA
- The traditional annual contest known as the Palio di Ferrara was made official in 1279 and is considered to be the oldest of its kind in the world. The contest sees Ferrara's eight districts compete against each other, the four neighbourhoods inside the medieval walls and the four villages outside the walls.
- Vulandra - Kite Festival
This international kite festival is traditionally held in the Bassani Park from 23rd April, the Day of San Giorgio (the patron saint of Ferrara) to 25th April, Italy's Liberation Day ('Festa della Liberazione').
- Ferrara Buskers Festival, one of the best shows in the world dedicated to street artists, is aimed at enhancing the image of street artists, buskers themselves, who transform streets, alleys and squares into their stage and turn passers-by into their audience.
- Ferrara Balloons Festival is a festival dedicated to hot-air balloons and the world of “air”. Running since 2005, the festival is held in September in the Bassani Urban Park, just a few metres from the old town centre.
- Ferrara Sotto le Stelle ('Ferrara beneath the stars') is one of the important musical performances of the city of Ferrara and in Italy, hosting both national and international stars as well as emerging talent, covering all kinds of musical genres. Performed in the Piazza del Castello, concerts are usually held in the summer during the months of June and July.
- New Year in Ferrara
Every year, Ferrara prepares to celebrate the last night of year in the Piazza del Castello which is filled with music and includes the traditional firework display, which also gives the impression that the castle is on fire.
WHERE TO EAT IN FERRARA
LA STALLA (antico fienile vicinissimo al B&B)
Via Pelosa, 20
Tel. 0532 65154
I PIACERI DI LUCREZIA
Via XX Settembre, 61
Tel. 0532 472501
LE NUVOLE (intimo, pesce comprese crudités)
Via Fondobanchetto 5
Tel. 0532 0532-1931133 cell:347-2591995
LE DUE COMARI (elegante, pesce)
Piazza Sacrati, 22,
Tel. 0532 773676
OSTERIA 4 ANGELI (informale, anche aperitivo)
Piazza Castello, 10
Tel. 0532 211869
TRATTORIA DA NOEMI (trattoria tipica)
Via Ragno, 31
Tel. 0532 769070
CUSINA E BUTEGA (distesa all'aperto)
C.so Porta Reno, 26/28
Tel. 0532 209174
IL SORPASSO (cucina tipica rielaborata)
Via Saraceno, 118
Tel. 0532 790289
Hostaria Savonarola (trattoria tipica con tavoli all’aperto)
P.za Savonarola 14
Tel. 0532 731443
Tel. 0532 242503
Casolare LE CIVETTE (con piscina/cucina griglia)
Via Vecchio Reno, 26
Tel. 0532 909281
Enoteca AL BRINDISI (spuntini e pochi piatti della tradizione, ampia scelta vini)
Via degli Adelardi, 11
LA ROMANTICA (ristorante tradizionale)
Via Ripagrande, 36
Tel. 0532 765975
Via della Vittoria, 44
Tel. 0532 763557
Pizzeria Pub SEBASTIAN (ottima pizza, barca sull’acqua)
Via Darsena, 53
Tel. 0532 768030
IL FRANTOIO (trattoria tipica)
Via dei Baluardi 51
Tel. 0532 761698