Visit Ferrara in one day

Estense Castle © Assiolo
Estense Castle © Assiolo

FERRARA: one of the most beautiful of Italian cities, was formerly the capital of the Estensi and has been resuscitated in modern times from the degrading decadence into which it fell with its inclusion into the Papal States. We enter through Porta Po and going down Corso Porta Po come to Corso Ercole I d’Este, a crossroad of glorious buildings: the Palazzo Prosperi-Sacrati, Palazzo di Biago and, above all, the fantastic Palazzo dei Diamanti, the architectural masterpiece of Biagio Rossetti (1492), who built it for Sigismondo d’Este and which today houses the splendid Picture Gallery which is of fundamental importance for an understanding of the Ferrarese school of painting (Cosme Tura, Ercole Roberti, Cossa, etc.), but which also has works of Carpaccio and other Venetian artists.

Turning down the broad Corso Ercole I, amidst beautiful palaces and gardens, we come to the immense square Este Castle (1385), a marvel of medieval military architecture, completed over the following centuries and transformed into a luxuriously palatial residence, whose furnishings have unfortunately been dispersed: all that remains, to testify to its former splendor, are several beautiful frescoed rooms.

Leaving the Castle, we go up Corso della Giovecca, turn off to the right to visit the fine Renaissance Church of San Francesco (15th century), and then just a little further on, the 15th century Casa Romei; (frescoes inside), one of the most beautiful houses of Ferrara.

Ferrara street - Photo © ho visto nina volare
Ferrara street – Photo © ho visto nina volare

We return to Corso Giovecca to see the delightful Palazzina di Marfisa d’Este (1559), and across the road, the ancient St. Anne’s Hospital where Tasso was a patient. At the end of the Corso, we turn and walk along beside the walls, with their background of greenery, then down Via Scandiana, until we come to Palazzo di Schifanoia (1391-1465), famous for the Frescoes of the Months, one of the marvels of Italian Renaissance painting, and which still today testify to the luxurious and light-hearted court life of Duke Durso d’Este. In the adjoining Museum, among Renaissance bronzes and Greek and Etruscan vases, the sketch for Moses by Michelangelo stands out in importance.

Coming out of the Schifanoia Palace, we find immediately to our left the church of Santa Maria in Vatic, built by Biagio Rossetti and enhanced by important paintings and a fine cloister. Turning down Borgo Vatic, we come to the Palazzo di Ludovico II Morn, Rossetti’s masterpiece, which houses the Archaeological Museum, one of the richest in Italy for its Etruscan and Greek antiquities.

Continuing through the quaint streets of the old city, we reach the vast Piazza del Mercato at the side of the Romanesque Cathedral (1135). the architectural masterpiece of Wiligelmo, who designed it, and of the sculptor Nicole, with its graceful three-pointed facade and its interior adorned with marbles and paintings: in the choir there is an important fresco of the Last Judgment by Bastianino, a follower of Michelangelo. In the adjoining Cathedral Museum, there are paintings by Tura, a Madonna by Jacopo della Quercia, tapestries and magnificent miniatures. We should then visit the Palazzo Comunale, with its attractive Renaissance courtyard.

Itinerary courtesy of ENIT