The first modern city and one of the culturally most important Italian Renaissance city states, Ferrara was one of the European capitals of culture, arts, politics, gastronomy, in addition to being a reference point for artists, poets and minstrels. The Estense dynasty was a great family of eccentric and well-educated patrons which transformed a rural centre in a Renaissance masterpiece declared a World Heritage Site in just the space of three centuries. Under the Este domination in fact, Ferrara experienced its golden age, hosting the most important contemporary artistic and literary figures and playing a key role in many fields.
Thanks to its impressive fourteenth century grandeur symbolising the balanced power of one of the most important European families, the Estense Castle represents the city of Ferrara throughout the world. Its imposing castle walls were the backdrop for the events, deeds, love tangles and whims of the many figures who marked the history of the Este family; a history which can still be felt in the splendid rooms of a monument which has lived a double life: first an impregnable castle, then a splendid and enviable court palace
The city of Ferrara took shape between the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth based on a totally new urban design concept by Biagio Rossetti and became part of the Unesco World Heritage in 1995. It ranges from the original medieval core of the city to the spacious Renaissance buildings, the maximum expression of the Este revolution, where wonderful palaces were built as homes for the Lords, still intact and capable of narrating their stories: above all, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Palazzo Schifanoia and the small Marfisa d’Este Palace.
The par-excellence “city of bicycles”, Ferrara is inextricably linked to a two-wheel culture, a town where cyclists are kings of the road. There are hundreds of kilometres throughout the city and the countryside which have been thought, created and moulded for pedalling pleasure. One of the most interesting rides within the town is along the city walls which surround the historic centre for practically nine uninterrupted kilometres, constituting one of the most important Medieval and Renaissance defensive systems.
The home of “good food”, Ferrara boasts a culinary tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, with typical dishes which must be sampled. One of the symbols of Ferrara’s cuisine is certainly the cappellacci di zucca, which were already enjoyed during the Este era. They have a particular shape of a hat (hence the name) with a soft pumpkin filling, whose sweetness creates an exceptional sweet and sour taste delighting the palate.
This is a city to be experienced at every season: there are many events animating Ferrara throughout the year aimed at an eclectic public and at satisfying everyone’s taste! From the famous Palio of St George with its parades, exhibitions and competitions between the districts to the extravagant “Balloon Festival”, one of the largest and most important festivals in the world; from the “International” festival, which collects some of the most prestigious Italian and foreign journalists, writers and intellectuals to the constantly characteristic “Buskers Festival” which transforms the city into a temple of free music, attracting musicians and artists from all over the world.
Next to the Cathedral, you will find the characteristic premises “Al Brindisi” (the toast), whose documentation proves it dates back to 1435, thus representing the oldest wine bar in the world, attended by important figures such as Tiziano Vecellio, Nicolò Copernico, Torquato Tasso and Ludovico Ariosto. Tourists flock here, but so do the city inhabitants, and it is a must-do for anyone visiting Ferrara, not just because of the chance of tasting excellent traditional local dishes, but also and mainly because of the multiplicity of wines on offer.
The splendid Palazzo dei Diamanti, located at the centre of the Herculean Addition and particularly renowned because of its more than 8000 white and pink diamond or pyramid shaped bugnato-ashlar blocks which cover the two facades and give it its name, now hosts prestigious contemporary exhibitions. From Gauguin to Chardin, from Chagall to Mirò, Boldini, Picasso and Monet: the palace has hosted a great number of internationally renowned artists over the course of the years, and annually organises a couple of high-visibility exhibitions.