Ferrara is a city in Italy, in the region of Emilia-Romagna. Its historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Particular of the Cathedral
Although it certainly has a thriving tourism industry, Ferrara is not on the typical foreign tourist's itinerary, which makes it perfect for those tourists who want to get off the beaten path of Venice-Florence-Rome and soak in some authentic northern Italian culture. It's characterized by twisting medieval cobblestoned streets, a Duomo (cathedral) with a looming Gothic facade, and--best of all--a castle straight out of storybooks, complete with towers, moat, and drawbridges (that you can cross during the day).
Thanks to the d'Este family of astute art patrons, Ferrara contains many beautiful objects de arte, but the genuine masterpiece is the city itself. Half medieval, half Renaissance, the dual cityscape was the vision of oligarch Ercole d'Este, who hired architect Biagio Rossetti to seamlessly meld the newer section to the old (the so-called "Addizione Erculea" ("Erculean Addition") at the end of 15th century. This careful planning earned Ferrara the title of Italy's first "modern city." Today, its captivating, anachronistic ambience is best explored on foot or by bicycle.
Ferrara has one of the oldest universities in the world, founded in 1391 by marquis Alberto V d'Este. The university draws many students from every part of Italy and the world giving the city a certain liveliness but not as chaotic as it might be in other bigger cities such as Bologna or Padua.
Touring the sites will occupy a day, but after that the best way to experience Ferrara is to relax at one (or several) of its cafes and enjoy la vita italiana going on around you.
The easiest option. Ferrara is on the line that runs from Florence to Bologna to Venice, and thus makes an easy day trip on your travels to the more heavily touristy sites. -From Bologna: 0.5-1 hr, €3-€7. -From Florence: 2-3 hr, €8-€20. -From Venice: 1.5-2.5 hr, €6-€12
The closest international airport is in Bologna, around 50kms away. Other international airports are Treviso and Venice.
Highway A13, exit Ferrara Nord or Ferrara Sud.
Take your cue from the locals and rent a bike (at the train station, near the Duomo or interurban companies). Everyone bikes in Ferrara--old ladies in fur coats, mothers and fathers each with a babyseat on the back, studentessas in skirts and stillettos, even the police officers themselves. It's really the most convenient way to get around this city made up of a twisting maze of cobblestone streets.
- Palazzo dei Diamanti, 21 Corso Ercole d'Este, 44100 Ferrara, ☎ +39 0532 205844 ([email protected]), . Open daily, including Mondays and certain holidays. Check website (English available) for most up-to-date information.. Palazzo dei Diamanti ("Diamonds' Palace") is one of Ferrara's landmarks, built between 1493 and 1503 at the time of the Erculean Addition. Its name derives from the marble blocks decorating the two facades. It hosts the National Art Gallery of Ferrara and the Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art as well as many temporary exhibitions. edit
- Il Castello Estense, . open Tues-Sun, 09:30-17:30, closed Mon during certain months. Check website (English available) for most up-to-date information.. Don't miss the delightfully medieval dungeons. edit
- Piazza Ariostea - a large square built in the late 15th century as part of the Erculean Addition. In the middle there's a pillar with a statue of Ludovico Ariosto.
- Palazzo Schifanoia, Via Scandiana, 23, ☎ +39 0532 244949. 9.30-18.00 Closed on Mondays. Built for the Este family in the 14th century, the palace today hosts a museum. Must see the frescoes of the Salone dei Mesi (Hall of the Months). edit
- MEIS (National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah), Via Piangipane, 79/83, ☎ +39 0532 769137 ([email protected], fax: +39 0532 711772), . Opened in 2017 in the old city jail. It traces the history of Italian Jewish from the Roman Age. edit
- Museo Archeologico (National Archeological Museum), Via XX Settembre, 122 (Palazzo Costabili, city centre), ☎ +39 0532 66299 ([email protected], fax: +39 0532 741270), . Mainly focused on the findings of the Etruscan town of Spina which was founded around year 540 BC and was submerged by river Po centuries later. Its name became a sort of a legend until early 20th century when the first necropolis was discovered during reclamation works. edit
- Via delle Volte - a medieval street featuring vaults, overhead passageways that connected the banks of the old river to the city centre. It is a must-see landmark in Ferrara.
- Take a stroll or a bike ride around the walls, either on the path that runs on top, or on the sidewalks in the park that runs around nearly the entire circumference. Good access at the end of Corso Ercole d'Este or of Via Quartieri.
- Ferrara is a fairly well-to-do northern Italian city and predictably has a good number of clothing shops, ranging from budget-fashion Zara to small, expensive boutiques. The main shopping districts are Via Mazzini (the street leading from Piazza Trento-Trieste where the campanile and Mel Books is) and Via Garibaldi (the street leading from inside the Palazzo Municipio), as well as the whole center of the city around the Castello.
- Every Saturday morning there is an open-air market set up in Piazza Trento-Trieste with a changing weekly theme--ranging from furniture to antiques to clothes to food and produce. One night a week the same piazza is devoted to an open-air candy market.
- Stop by Ferrara Frutta (the best one is on the very end of Via Garibaldi), a co-op that sells fresh local produce of excellent quality for very low prices.
Do not leave Ferrara without trying its trademark cappellacci di zucca (round pasta stuffed with squash/pumpkin), either "al burro e salvia" (with butter and sage) or "al ragu" (with meat sauce).
- Al Brindisi, Via Adelardi,11, ☎ +39 0532 471225 ([email protected]), . Wooden, atmospheric, and crammed with dusty wine bottles, this charming enoteca has not only of being the oldest tavern in the world but also as having had Copernicus as a tenant while he was a student in Ferrara. Although most come at night to drink, they also serve exclusively Ferrarese fare such as pasticcio and cappellacci di zucca for dinner (the portions are small, so make sure to eat a real Italian meal and order both a primo and a secondo). edit
- Trattoria Il Cucco, Via Voltecasotto 3 (on a backstreet near Via delle Volte), ☎ 0532-760026 ([email protected]), . this charming and inexpensive trattoria offers a variety of local Ferrarese specialties. Garden seating available in warmer weather. edit
- Osteria Savanarola, Piazza Savonarola, 18, ☎ +39 0532 200214. Located right next to the Savonarola statue, this restaurant offers a good selection of traditional Ferrarese fare. edit
In Italy it is customary for each person to order a whole pizza for him or herself. The crusts are thin, so one pizza is almost exactly enough for a filling dinner for one person. Generally cheaper than a full-course meal.
- Il Ciclone, Via Saraceno 36, ☎ +39 0532 210262 ([email protected]), . this friendly restaurant offers regular meals but its specialty is pizza. edit
- Al Frattino, Via Carlo Mayr, 155, ☎ +39 0532 760564. Follow Via Mazzini as it turns into Via Saraceno and turn onto Via Porta San Pietro at the top. On the corner of San Pietro and Via Carlo Mayr is a small, unremarkable-looking Sicilian pizzeria which serves without a doubt the best pizza in town. Try the "Diablo" and make sure to chat with the friendly owners, even if it's in sign language. edit
- Bar Settimo, Via Cortevecchia 49, ☎ + 39 0532 205145. Don't be put off by the dingy bar at the front. The food is simple but excellent and not at all expensive. Pizzas and Salama da Sugo con Pure are particularly good. For years it has been the favourite watering hole for performers at the Teatro Communale and Ferrara Musica. After concerts the place is very lively and, unusually for Ferrara, it closes late. edit
Panini and Piadine
In Italian, a piadina is the type of pressed, flatbread sandwich that is known in the United States as the "panini." Actual panini (singular panino) are merely normal sandwiches.
- Mordicchio, Piazza Sacrati. A little on the costly side, but for a quick bite head down Via Garibaldi to the piadina stand across from the Indian restaurant. Don't forget to try the perfectly cooked french fries. edit
- Birreria Giori, Piazza Savonarola, 1, ☎ +39 0532 209341. It's the bar that looks a little like a greenhouse set up right against the moat with tables outside. With a "make your own panino" option on the menu, friendly waiters, and an ideal location literally in the shadow of the Castello, it makes a perfect lunch stop. edit
- The Chinese restaurants are mediocre, but the Indian restaurant on Via Garibaldi is in fact quite good, even by non-Italy standards.
- Agapi mou on Via Saraceno is a small Greek restaurant with decent Greek food, though a bit pricey for the amount.
- The Piazza - If you're in Ferrara on a fair Wednesday night, do yourself a favor and go out to the main piazza. There you will find every young person in the city (and some older ones too) out socializing at the piazza in front of the looming Duomo facade with beer in hand (acquired at Settimo or Bar del Duomo for just around €2-4). An experience not to be missed.
- Tsunami - Located at Via Savanarola 2, just down the street from the University. Very popular with the students, packed most weekend and Wednesday nights, also Tuesday nights which are traditionally "Erasmus Night," dedicated to the many foreign students who spend the semester or year here.
- Il'Clandestino - If you can find it in the backstreets (Via Ragno 35/37), this bar has a lively atmosphere...not to mention the board games and the craft beer from the Biren brewery.
- Il Brindisi - The oldest enoteca in Europe that can boast of having had Copernicus as a tenant when he was a student in Ferrara. Located at Via degli Adelardi, the street just to the left of the Duomo.
- Maracaibo - Located just around the corner from Mel Bookstore, this bar is the best place for l'aperitivo in Ferrara, mainly due to the fact that a single drink will also get you a plateful of fantastic appetizers, out of which cheapskate students know they can make a dinner.
- Il Piccolo Particolare - On Via Boccacanale di Santo Stefano (a cross-street of Via Garibaldi), this intimate cafè/bar offers a good selection of wines, salads, sandwiches, and desserts with friendly service and, at one point in time, free wifi access.
- Pepe Rosa - At Via San Romano 99, this bar offers a generous and delicious buffet at aperitivo hour. Don't forget to order the spritz, a northern Italian apertif cocktail made up of prosecco and Aperol.
- Osteria Rosafante (5 minutes walking from the cathedral), Via Carlo Mayr, 21, ☎ +39 339 287 8835. A nice little spot where you can enjoy drinks and food. edit
- Torre del Fondo farm holiday, Via Coronella 27, 44049 Vigarano Mainarda (FE) (6kms from city centre), ☎ +39 333.8372487 ([email protected]), . Holiday apartments in a 3 stars farm holiday just 5 minutes from Ferrara. Excellent point from which to explore all of Emilia Romagna and Veneto. Historical building, completely restructured. Swimming pool, Internet Wi-Fi, Internet point, barbecues corner, large equipped garden, laundry room and internal car parking. Open all year round. Very reasonable prices. edit
- Albergo degli Artisit, Via Della Vittoria 66, . Clean, serviceable rooms at economic rates (around €25-30 per night), but beware of the curfew. No guests allowed upstairs. edit
- Hotel De Prati, Via Padiglioni 5 (Just in front to the Castle, about 15 minutes walk form the train station.), ☎ +39 (0)532241905 ([email protected]), . edit
- Astra Hotel, Via Cavour, 55 (city centre), ☎ +39 0532/206088 ([email protected]), . 4 stars hotel in Ferrara city centre, just a few minutes walking from the castle edit
There are many great locations around Ferrara. Bologna is around 40 minutes away by car or train. The river Po Delta Regional Park is 80 kms away but you'll need a car to get there. You can also get a train to reach cities in region Veneto such as Rovigo, Padua or Venice.
- Pomposa Abbey , near the town of Codigoro and the natural reserve of Bosco della Mesola. It is a beautiful benedictine monastery, one of the most important in northern Italy, built in the 9th century.
- Riserva Naturale Bosco della Mesola (Mesola Wood Natural Reserve)  - a 1058 hectares area, the remaining of a larger woodland. It is Part of the Po Delta Natural Park.