Italian culture and history: Ferrara, people-friendly beauty
- WTI Magazine #125 Mar 16, 2020
But one of the most precious treasures in Ferrara is time. Take advantage of this by immersing yourself into the vital everyday life of this people-friendly city: here the traffic is dominated by bicycles and the history is intertwined with the life of its hospitable inhabitants.
At the palace of the Este
Let’s begin our tour of the city centre from Corso Ercole I d’Este, dedicated to the duke of Ferrara who in the late Fifteenth century and the early Sixteenth century entrusted the court architect, Biagio Rossetti, to create the most ambitious city plan of the modern era, named “Erculean Addition”. You will be enchanted by the lavish buildings of Corso Ercole I d’Este, among these, the Palazzo dei Diamanti stands out, it is one of the most famous monuments of the Italian Renaissance, today, it is the site of art exhibits of international importance.
At the end of the street you will find the weighty Castello Estense, a monument which is the symbol of Ferrara and the residence of one of the most powerful and illuminated families of the Italian Middle Ages and Renaissance. Many personalities such as Lucrezia Borgia and Ludovico Ariosto have roamed its halls. We recommend coming on December 31 in order to watch the Incendio del Castello: at the stroke of midnight a thrilling choreography of music and fireworks greets the new year from the towers and bastions.
A short distance from the Castle there are two symbols of Ferrara: the Cathedral, with its majestic façade, competes with the Palazzo Municipale (formerly Palazzo Ducale) to win over the admiration of the visitors. The right side of the Cathedral overlooks piazza Trento e Trieste, with its characteristic rectangular form. In its centre there is a pavement 120 metres long and 12 metres wide called the “Listone” and on the northern side, the Loggia dei Mercati, which today houses shops and commercial businesses.
The charm of the past shows through in all of the streets and squares of the city centre, like the evocative Via delle Volte, characterised by the arches which connected the warehouses on the river shore to the shops-dwellings.
In December 2017, the MEIS, Museo Nazionale dell’Ebraismo Italiano e della Shoa (the Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah) was inaugurated in Ferrara. Through historical objects, multimedia experiences and interactive itineraries, the museum recounts the two-thousand year-long Jewish presence in Italy, through cultural exchanges and dark times of persecution.
The Jewish community of Ferrara is one of the oldest and most important of Italy. At the end of Piazza Trento e Trieste, from the opposite side in relation to the Palazzo Municipale, Via Mazzini begins, main street of the former ghetto: the winding little streets twist and turn with the typical homes in red terracotta of the city overlooking them. These are the sites narrated by writer Giorgio Bassani, author of the well-known novel The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.
Beauty while cycling
The bicycle is the most loved means of transportation by the people of Ferrara, what better way to dive into the spirit of the city than hopping on a bike and covering it all on two wheels? The city centre is closed off to car traffic and therefore you can visit it by bicycle in absolute safety. The itinerary of the city walls surrounding Ferrara is beautiful: an easy 9 km route among fortresses, towers, tree-lined roads and trails which will give you the idea of being out of town while actually still in the city! Lastly, there are numerous cycling holiday itineraries for exploring the surrounding territories with trails suitable to everyone, from families with children to more adventurous athletes.
A tasty break
Has all this cycling made you hungry? It is the right moment to enjoy the typical cuisine of Ferrara, beginning with a wonderful dish of Cappellacci di Zucca, delectable recipe consisting of pumpkin-filled pasta already known to the Este court. Of a decidedly stronger flavour is the Salama da Sugo, a type of cured meat made of pork seasoned with spices and red wine, to be eaten raw as an appetizer or cooked and served with potato purée on the side. You can accompany your meal with a Coppia Ferrarese, bread with a characteristic shape of a twisted double horn which obtained PGI status in 2001.
The Regional Park of the Po Delta
The Regional Park of the Po Delta is a true paradise for naturalists, biologists, tourists and birdwatchers just a few kilometres from the city. It is one of the most important ecosystems in Europe, so much so that in 1999 UNESCO decided to extend its World Heritage site from the historic centre of Ferrara to the entire Delta territory, which includes the Park and the “Delizie”, residences used for leisure by the dukes of the Este family. There are many itineraries to follow and they reserve breathtaking sceneries where historic buildings and natural wonders live in harmony.