The city of Ferrara is located right under the river Po, which once crossed the city. The historical centre is encircled by the medieval walls which are well preserved and are a great location for a walk with its relaxed atmosphere.
The city of Ferrara reached a great development both culturally and politically under the Este dynasty which ruled the city until 1598. The 14th century Este Castle (Castello Estense) has been built as a shelter with a defending purpose by the Este family, and then became their permanent residence. Although the castle is nowadays hosting several offices, some rooms are open to the public like the Sala dei Giganti, Salone dei Giochi, Cappella di Renée de France and the dungeons.
A short distance away from the castle is located the 12th century Cattedrale di San Giorgio. The triple facade has a gothic style with roman influence, whereas inside it is notable a strong baroque influence. The Museum of the Cathedral hosts some great paintings of Cosmé Tura and of Jacopo della Quercia, plus some Giano’s Bas-reliefs and some tapestries.
The Museo Civico d’Arte Antica is located inside the 14th century Palazzo Schifanoia. The collection includes coins, medals but also archeological finds, bronzes and pottery. A must-see is the Salon of the Months, every month is represented and divided into three parts depicting scenes from daily life, zodiac and classical divinity. The painter of the scene has probably been Cosmé Tura the father of the Ferrarese School.
Another highlight of the city is Palazzo dei Diamanti so called after the diamond-shaped stones of its facade. Built in the 15th century is hosts the Pinacoteca Nazionale, gathering some of the best work from 14th to 18th century of Ferrarese artists (such as Tura, Del Cossa and Roberti) and the Galleria di arte Moderna with important pieces of contemporary art.
Casa Romei has been built in the 15th century by the merchant Giovanni Romei and is a great and unique example of medieval and renaissance architecture merged together. The rooms have a gothic style and are finely decorated and have ancient furniture. Worthy of attention is the Sala delle Sibille with great frescos of the prophets.
Lastly, Via delle volte, this 2 km mysterious tiny street, dominated by a series of arch of different dimension, is a suggestive and romantic place enriched by the view of gorgeous 13th century palaces.
What/where to eat
A visit to Ferrara cannot be said to be complete without tasting the traditional Emilian specialties. The first courses are a must, from cappellacci stuffed with pumpkin to macaroni pie, without forgetting the salama da sugo, a local sausage usually served with mashed potatoes. The Emilian desserts are also appreciated, including first of all the tenerina (a chocolate cake that melts in your mouth) and the pampepato, a dessert with dried fruit, nuts and spices. In Ferrara you will find modern trattorias and restaurants scattered throughout the city where you can taste traditional specialties. In particular, following our itinerary, I recommend these places:
Ariosteria. An intimate and quiet place a few steps from Piazza Ariostea where you can taste fresh homemade pasta and other genuine specialties.
Bigoi Ferrara. A new way to eat pasta revisited in street food style to have a snack while walking.
Hostaria Savonarola. A stone’s throw from the Estense Castle, an always rather crowded restaurant where you can taste first patti alla pumpkin, cold cuts and traditional desserts.
Cucina Bacilieri. A pleasant novelty in the historic heart of Ferrara, to savor traditional dishes in an intimate setting, with just 10 tables.
Trattoria Il Cucco. Among the oldest trattorias in Ferrara, where you can taste fresh stuffed pasta and other specialties in a rustic setting. In the summer, an outdoor space is also available.
Osteria i Quattro Angeli. Considered one of the best places in town, both for an aperitif and for a dinner. It offers a splendid view of the castle.
Maracaibo. Perfect place to have an aperitif in the University area. Delicious cocktails and beers to accompany cold cuts, wraps, appetizers, cold and hot dishes.
What/where to buy
Among the typical products that can be purchased in Ferrara there are undoubtedly the gastronomic ones. In the shops you can buy the cappellacci stuffed with pumpkin already packaged, the salama da sugo or the coppia ferrarese, a typical bread of the city. For gourmands there are pampepato and the torta tenerina, available in many bakeries and pastry shops.
In addition to the culinary scene, Ferrara is renowned for its artisan products: ceramic and terracotta are two of the most appreciated productions. The art of graffiti pottery, a technique with which ceramic is engraved, continues to be preserved today in the artisan workshops of Ferrara, giving life to richly decorated objects, ideal for furnishing the home. For fans of musical instruments, Ferrara is also the home of craft workshops specialized in the production of ancient instruments. Ferrara boasts many shopping streets: high fashion boutiques are concentrated in via Bersaglieri del Po which also continue on via Adelardi and via Voltapaletto. Other avenues are via Contrari, via Mazzini, via Garibaldi and via San Romano, dotted with affordable chains that alternate with herbalists, bookshops and grocery stores. If you are looking for craft shops and slightly more particular shops, then stroll along Via Saraceno, one of the most beautiful and historic streets of Ferrara. There are also shopping centers. If you want some advice for shopping, here are some shops to visit:
Ferrara Store. Shop for typical gastronomic products and quality souvenirs in the city center.
Libreria Editrice Belriguardo. Favorite destination for bibliophiles, with rare and ancient books, prints and drawings.
The Bottega delle Stelle. Beautiful craft shop offering ceramic objects, with even small lucky charms to give away.
Il Castello, a beautiful shopping center just outside the historic center, with many shops, spaces for children and a catering area.