We arrived at Malpensa airport on the morning of October 20, picked up our rental and set sail for Ferrara with a brief stop in Parma for lunch.
The rainy season arrives at the end of September in Italy and the weather near the Po river tends to be somewhat foggy and overcast. This year proved no exception as it has been both damp and relatively cold.
We had heard much about Ferrara but have never spent much time here. This walled city (well over 4 miles in circumference) is an important landmark in Renaissance Italy and the home of the famed Este family. Situated just south of the River Po, the formidable Este castle in the center of town speaks to the importance of this family and the city’s geographic significance.
While this lovely town remains faithful to its Renaissance traditions, it is still a vibrant community and far larger than we had expected.
As you walk around this enchanting town – preferably at night – you can easily imagine yourself going door-to-door in a small boat collecting taxes for some rich Duke. Now, cobblestone streets cover long-forgotten canals that once permeated this jewel of a town.
The imposing Este Castle, which dominates the center of town, is surrounded by a moat that was once fed by a tributary of the Po, located some 7 km to the north. One side of the nearby Cathedral is covered with scaffolding for repairs, but The Baptistery and interesting side facade on the Cathedral provides a functional workplace for small businesses and the many pedestrians and cyclists that traverse the town daily.
While there are many things to see and do in Ferrara, we strongly recommend the National Archaeological Museum (southeast corner of the town) which chronicles the discovery some years back of the port city of Spina which suddenly disappeared some 2500 years ago. Found in a nearby cemetery are incredible Etruscan and Greek artifacts that attest to the importance of Spina to maritime trade on the Mediterranean. I am not an expert in Etruscan artifacts, but these are the most beautiful and best preserved I have ever seen.
Catholic churches and monasteries abound and apparently there was a large Jewish community in the town before WWII as evidenced by a Synagogue and cemetery.
Ferrara appears to have been at the center to the resistance against Mussolini and the Germans during the War. Sadly, many leaders of the “new” government were executed by the Germans after Mussolini escaped capture in 1943. This sad story is very well documented in a Resistance Museum, but mostly from press clippings and letters in Italian.
Ferrara is a young and somewhat noisy town. We attended the Street Food extravaganza on the weekend, where bands played incessantly. While we had an unusual apartment on the attractive Via della Volte, our bedroom overlooked a popular bar/restaurant that was open until 2 a.m. Not my sort of scene anymore!
Ferrara is certainly worth an extended visit and the food is delicious. I recommend renting a bike.
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