A Day Trip to Ferrara

If you’re looking for a town that can be easily visited from Bologna for a day trip, Ferrara is a very good choice. It’s full of interest and can be reached by train in a little over half an hour for just a few euros and there are frequent trains in both directions.

Ferrara is a beautiful medieval and renaissance town and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walking the short distance from the railway station, the first impressive site is that of the walls.

A view of Ferrara ca 1600. (Wikimedia)

They were constructed from brick largely between the years 1492 and 1520. As can be seen from the image above, the defences once included a moat fed from the then nearby River Po. However the river has shifted some 5km to the north since those days and now you can walk around the city either below or on top of the walls.

Ferrara walls
Ferrara – a view from the pathway along the walls.

Continuing straight ahead, you can’t miss the imposing castle, built by the ruling Este family in 1385. At this point in time, the family was far from popular in the city and an important motive for the castle’s construction was to protect themselves in the event of local disturbances.

ferrara castello estense
The Castello Estense in Ferrara.

A visit to the castle is an interesting way to spend an hour or two. You can find details on this site.  .

Ancient graffiti inside Ferrara’s castle.

In 1922, the ruins of the nearby Etruscan city of Spina were uncovered. They’d been covered by marshes for centuries and were only discovered as a result of drainage work. I’ve written another post about the Etruscans in the Bologna area, The Etruscans and Bologna. An impressive collection of these items is now on display in Ferrara’s  Archaeological Museum .

The necropolis yielded an incredible amount of ancient Greek pottery which was very popular in Etruria. Spina was a major port trading with Greece.

There are countless other items including bronzes and jewellery.

The museum is housed in the Palazzo Costabili which was built in the 16th century by Ludovico Il Moro or Ludovico ” the Dark One”. Seeing the palace itself with its renaissance decoration is worth the visit.

ferrrara ceiling
The ceiling of the Treasure Hall was decorated by Benvenuto Tisi “Il Garofolo” , in the period 1503 – 1506.

There are many museums to visit in Ferrara if time permits. Make sure to check opening times before you go.

Just wandering round Ferrara is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours. The southern end of the city is largely medieval.

ferrara back street 3
Ferrara’s Medieval Quarter.

The northern part was built in the reign of Ercole I  between 1492–1505 to allow for the expansion the city was experiencing. There any many large palaces such as the impressive Palazzo dei Diamanti  or the Palace of Diamonds named after the effect of its marble façade. The building houses the National Art Gallery of Ferrara.

Ferrara Palazzo diamanti
Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara.

One unusual place to visit is the Convent of Sant’Antonio in Polesine or Saint Anthony in the Marsh, located near what was the course of the Po River. If you knock on the door and ask nicely, a nun will show you the frescoes from the school of Giotto, executed between the late 13the and mid 14th century. Be sure to leave a donation.

Santantonio in polesine
Frescos from the School of Giotto, Sant’Antonio in Polesine. (Copy of postcard available at the convent)

One thing you must do whilst in Ferrara is try the local speciality,  Cappellacci di Zucca which is a type of filled pasta using pumpkin. There are many little trattorias tucked away in side streets.

Enjoy your day (or two) in Ferrra !


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