I must confess that we hadn’t heard of Ferrara before this trip but we elected to take the morning guided walk there instead of a full day to Bologna. I’m glad we did as this is another UNESCO designated site, in the Emilio-Romagna region of Northern Italy, which still has many of its medieval and Renaissance features. Some of the old buildings look surprisingly modern, as in the other towns and I even checked with the guide on a couple of occasions to confirm the age.
The town was once a Duchy of the Este family who built the university in 1391, which could boast Copernicus as one of its students in the early 1500s. We walked through the archways of the ancient Estense Castle which has a drawbridge as well as the only moat still filled with water in Europe! As we strolled across the drawbridge, we were told to glance through the arch to our left. The guide pointed out a particular window in the apartments across the town street – this evidently was where the infamous Lucrezia Borgia once stayed. She is buried in the convent of Corpus Domini.
Overlooking the Piazza is the impressive twelfth century Cathedral of San Giorgio with its interesting mixture of Gothic and Romanesque styles. There are also several palaces and museums to visit which warrant far more time than we had available. As we wandered through the town, it became increasingly obvious that everyone cycles here and you do have to be constantly aware of the bikes once in the narrower cobbled streets, away from the wide main streets. I couldn't resist a photo of one of the ham shops as we passed by.
It was worth our walk in the heat as we were taken through the famous Jewish section where one of the unique little quirks of Ferrara met our eyes. Stretching the whole way ahead, colourful umbrellas seemingly hung from the sky between the buildings on either side and were quite a sight! They were obviously suspended by wire or similar and when we asked about them we were told: “they hang there so that tourists can talk about them and people will want to visit Ferrara.” It’s certainly the best advertising I’ve ever seen and I’m now doing my bit to bring attention to this interesting medieval town.
Later next week, I'll be talking about Ravenna.