City of the Renaissance
Continuing our tour for today after visiting the city of Ravenna and at only 70 kilometres to the north we arrived in Ferrara. Another jewel city in Italy, and UNESCO World Heritage Site listed as: “City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta”. While Ravenna, although of the same size as Ferrara in population number it seemed smaller, and with the fact of having less to see bearing its 8 UNESCO buildings, here in Ferrara you will need to plan a bit more time to be able to visit all the sights since the city is more grand and with many more elegant streets and buildings all around.
Ferrara is also an important tourist centre, where majority of visitors are day-trippers from “nearby” touristy-on-mass Venice or Bologna with Modena and Parma. It is a very worthy city to visit and with the more and more trips we are continuously doing where we are “running out” of destinations it is great to see how many hundreds of secondary cities are all over across Europe still to visit; so this will still keep us going for some years.
The good side of smaller cities like Ferrara, yet packed with history and sights, is that you won’t need long time for visiting it as opposed to larger cities where you will need minimum the entire weekend. This was for us already the second city we visit today after Ravenna, and I can ensure you there was good time for both cities without rush; but what made the difference in saving us a lot of time commuting between the cities was having a rental car. It is anyway possible to do the same by train or bus Bologna to Ravenna, Ravenna to Ferrara, and back from Ferrara to Bologna in the night if your base is there as was our case and all in one day.
Looking for places to eat was straightforward and took us no time. There are plenty of nice restaurants, all of which seemed to have the same prices one to another hence no reason why to keep searching around. They were very local, non tourist trap like, and served great food for very reasonable price. Well, we had something quite obvious, pizza and pasta anyway, and it is difficult to go wrong with that.
For more information about Ferrara check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Italy’s currency is the Euro. Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Ferrara
- City Walls The best preserved Renaissance walls in Italy, and also the longest ones at 9 kilometres. Entirely circling the historic city, with many bastions and gates.
- South and East of the city centre Where some of the most beautiful Renaissance palaces are.
-Sant’Antonio in Pilesine Monastery Located at the south of the city near the walls.
-Palazzo Costabili Meters north from the Sant’Antonio Monastery it is one of the most beautiful and largest of the fine palaces in the city, nowadays the Archaeological Museum. The inner court and gardens are key features.
-Sant’Apollonia Church Just across the road from the Palazzo Costabili.
-Santa Maria in Vado Church Following the road straight from Sant’Apollonia is this church built in 1495. Although a church was existing here before, it made famous for the miracle in 1171 when during a religious function and breaking the consecrated host, it bleed covering the altar.
-Palazzo Schifanoia Across the road from Santa Maria in Vado, was built in 1385 for Alberto V d’Este in Renaissance style. It is famous for the frescoes depicting the life of Borso d’Este.
-Casa Romei It was the residence of Giovanni Romei who married princess Polissena d’Este and had this residence built to show his high rank. It is the best preserved Renaissance building in Ferrara.
-Palazzo Renata di Francia Built in 1475 just across the road from Casa Romei. Nowadays is part of the University retaining key elements as the grand staircase.
-Palazzo Tassoni The next building attached after the Palazzo Renata di Francia is the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University.
- City Centre The historic core right by the intersection of the main streets, with the Castello Estense in the middle.
-Castello Estense Located in the very centre of the city at the confluence of both of the major roads. Built in 1385 is the landmark construction of Ferrara.
-Communal Theatre Built in 1797 it has an impressive auditorium and the famous internal court Rotonda Foschini. It lies across the east side of the Castello.
-Palazzo Municipale or City Hall was built in 1243 as the original residence of the Este family until the 16th century, when the court moved to the Castello, just meters north.
-Palace of the Archbishop Built in 1720, lies across the road from the Palazzo Municipale, but unfortunately not opened for visits.
-Cathedral of Saint George Just south of the Archbishop Palace. It is a major sight in the city. Consecrated in 1135, the entire building was not completed until the 17th century.
-Piazza Trento e Trieste One of the oldest in Ferrara. At one of its entire side is the Cathedral.
-Corso della Giovecca/Viale Cavour This is the main avenue running west to east through the historic city, with many palaces and important buildings along it.
-Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara On the section east from the Castello, Corso della Giovecca.
-Palazzo Roverella and Santa Maira della Pieta Chuch Both at opposite sides, with a small square in between.
-Old Stock Exchange By the north side of the Castello, now one of the top restaurant/bars in Ferrara.
-Central Post Office Of newer creation, 1930, in classical style and along Viale Cavour.
-Palazzo dell’Aeronautica Built in 1937 is the best example of rationalist architecture in Ferrara.
-Casa del Fascio Built in the 1920s is now a high school.
- North of the city Along the main street Corso Ercole I d’Este, in what is known as the Renaissance Herculean Addition and where you will find the 4 most notorious palaces, one at each corner among others.
-Palazzo dei Diamanti Named after the diamond points into which the façade’s stone blocks are cut. It is the National Picture Gallery, with a great collection of the school of Ferrara.
-Palazzo Turchi-Di Bagno Built in 1498. Like the others, nothing much special from the outside due to their austere design; but it is at the rich decoration inside.
-Palazzo Prosperi-Sacrati Built in 1493 by Francesco da Castello, chief physician of Ercole I d’Este.
-Palazzo Massari Built in the 16th century it is home to the Contemporary and Modern Art Museum.
-Massari Park Was original feature of the Palace, nowadays separate, and one of the largest parks within the old city centre.
-Piazza Ariostea Meters to the east from the Massari Palace, it was built in the 15th. In the middle you can see the pillar with a statue of Ludovico Ariosto.
There is no airport serving the city, being the nearest ones Bologna to the south, Venice to the north and Verona to the west. From the airport of any of these cities it is around hour and half to Ferrara with frequent trains or buses. Ferrara lies in the mainline rail routes north-south, east-west making it perfect for day-trippers visiting any of the larger and much more touristy cities nearby. Our flight was with British Airways to Bologna.
Within the city there is no need for taking any public transportation. The historic old town which lies inside within the city walls is easy to walk with short distances, with majority of the streets pedestrian friendly. However, along the main street Viale Cavour/Corso della Giovecca that runs west to east through the old town you have almost all the bus routes serving the city with the outskirts neighbourhoods.
I cannot recommend this time any hotel in the city as we did not stay over at Ferrara since we decided to make our base at Bologna and commute from there to our three destinations for this weekend: Ravenna, Ferrara and Parma. While the three cities are quite small, Bologna in the other hand is big with a choice of hotels much larger and with better deals.
Hotels in the city can be, in any case, higher than what you expected, but we found a great deal with British Airways when booking the flight and hotel together. This is something we are doing now more often, since you can get incredible deals that cannot be beaten if booking separately, not to mention that you get more air-miles this way. In any case, if you only need to book a hotel, a good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred hotel search engine websites such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the AC Hotel Bologna by Marriott, in 28 Via Sebastiano Serlio, meters from the central train station and 15 minutes’ walk to the beginning of the historic old town. A great choice in every sense. Location, comfort, staff and nice breakfast. And perfect for making your base to visit the cities nearby since the train and bus station are next door, or if you rent a car, easy free parking along the street. For a guide of Bologna with further details on accommodation of the time we visited this city, check the guide here.