Ferrara, a city on Unesco's World Heritage List, is striking due to its own special charm, a city suspended between the Middle Ages and Renaissance. We suggest visiting it by bike, the preferred method of transportation for 90% of its inhabitants. In the past it was the capital of the rich Este dukedom, which is why the inhabitants of Ferrara are still called "estensi". The heart of the city is the medieval square the Cathedral stands on.
The Cathedral, started in the 12th century, it is a harmonious mixture of different styles. The lower part of the three cusp facade is Romanesque, the upper part is a splendid example of Gothic architecture decorated with a grandiose "Universal Judgement: sculpted in the central part. The southern side is characterized by a portico of the medieval workshops. The interior, rebuilt in the 17th century, houses lovely works of art, including: on the altar next to the right transept, "Martyr of San Lorenzo" by Guercino; and "Universal Judgement" by Bastianino in the apse.
Palazzo dei Diamanti (diamond palace) owes its name to the wonderful rustication facade which recalls the shape of diamonds. Its current appearance dates back to the end of the 16th century when Cesare d'Este chose it as his residence. Splendid decorated halls and even more importantly the Pinacoteca Nazionale can be visited inside it. The latter is home to works by Gentile da Fabriano, Ercole de'Roberti and Carpaccio among others. International level art shows are regularly held in the building.
Estense Castle dating back to the 14th century, when it was built to defend the Este family from popular revolts. It became the official residence of the Dukes in the 16th century and was completely redesigned, becoming one of the most admired aristocratic residences of the time. The interior with 16th century frescoes can be visited in its entirety; the "Giardino degli Aranci" deserves special mention.
The Herculean Expansion: in 1942 Duke Ercole d'Este ordered the expansion of the city towards the north with a state of the art design. The new quarter shaped by wide straight streets, contains elegant buildings like Palazzo dei Diamanti and the famous Piazza Ariostea.
Palazzina Marfisa is another flamboyant Este family residence dating back to the 16th century. It is worth visiting to see its extensive collection of art objects and antique furniture on display in its rooms.
Photos courtesy of: APT Servizi, Regione Emilia Romagna