It is situated 50 km
north-northeast of Bologna, on the Po di Volano, a
branch channel of the main stream of the Po river,
located 5 km north. The town has broad streets and
numerous palaces dating from the 14th century, when it
hosted the court of the house of Este. The town is
still surrounded by more than 9 kilometres of ancient
walls, mainly built in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Ferrara, which grew up around a
ford over the River Po, became an intellectual and
artistic centre that attracted the greatest minds of
the Italian Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Here, Piero della Francesca, Jacopo Bellini and Andrea
Mantegna decorated the palaces of the House of Este.
The humanist concept of the 'ideal city' came to life
here in the neighbourhoods built from 1492 onwards by
Biagio Rossetti according to the new principles of
perspective. The completion of this project marked the
birth of modern town planning and influenced its
The most prominent building is the
square Castello Estense, in the centre of the town, a
brick building surrounded by a moat, with four towers.
It was built after 1385 and partly restored in 1554;
the pavilions on the top of the towers date from the
latter year. Near it is the hospital of Santa Anna,
where the poet Torquato Tasso was confined during his
attack of insanity (1579–1586).
The Palazzo del Municipio, rebuilt
in the 18th century, was the earlier residence of the
Este family. Close by it is the cathedral of San
Giorgio, consecrated in 1135, when the Romanesque
lower part of the main façade and the side façades
were completed. It was built by Guglielmo degli
Adelardi (d. 1146), who is buried in it. The upper
part of the main façade, with arcades of pointed
arches, dates from the 13th century and the portal has
recumbent lions and elaborate sculptures above. The
interior was restored in the baroque style in 1712.
The campanile, in the Renaissance style, dates from
1451–1493, but the last storey was added at the end of
the 16th century.
Ferrara has many early Renaissance
palaces, often retaining terracotta decorations; few
towns of Italy as small have so many, though most are
comparatively small in size. Among them may be noted
those in the north quarter (especially the four at the
intersection of its two main streets), which was added
by Ercole I, from the plans of Biagio Rossetti, and
hence called the Addizione Erculea. Among the finest
palaces is Palazzo dei Diamanti, so named for the
diamond points into which the facade's stone blocks
are cut. It houses the National Picture Gallery, with
a large collection of the school of Ferrara, which
first rose to prominence in the latter half of the
15th century, with Cosimo Tura, Francesco Cossa and
Ercole dei Roberti. Noted masters of the 16th century
School of Ferrara (Painting) include Lorenzo Costa and
Dosso Dossi, the most eminent of all, Girolamo da
Carpi and Benvenuto Tisio (il Garofalo).
Video of Ferrara. A path
throught the beauties of Ferrara. Clic on ‘play’
botton on the video. By courtesy of Natalia Kourlovtch