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A 30-minute train ride north of Bologna, Ferrara was the seat of the Este dukes, an eccentric dynasty that ranked as a major political force during the Renaissance. Their magnificent residence, Castello Estense, is the highlight of Ferrara's historic center, which UNESCO named a world heritage site, citing it as "a fine example of a town planned in the Renaissance that has managed to retain the integrity of its historic center." Also part of that center is the 12th-century Duomo, whose grand façade reflects the city’s long history. Its beginnings in the Romanesque style can be seen in the lower part, where St. George and New Testament scenes ...

A 30-minute train ride north of Bologna, Ferrara was the seat of the Este dukes, an eccentric dynasty that ranked as a major political force during the Renaissance. Their magnificent residence, Castello Estense, is the highlight of Ferrara's historic center, which UNESCO named a world heritage site, citing it as "a fine example of a town planned in the Renaissance that has managed to retain the integrity of its historic center." Also part of that center is the 12th-century Duomo, whose grand façade reflects the city’s long history. Its beginnings in the Romanesque style can be seen in the lower part, where St. George and New Testament scenes above the central door date from the early 1100s. The elegant Gothic loggia dates from the early 15th century. The abundance of Este gardens still remaining make Ferrara one of Europe’s greenest cities, and their legacy has also enriched the city with art treasures and the streets of Renaissance buildings with their marble and terra cotta facades. Many of these palazzi now house museums, including three in the Palazzo Massari. The most outstanding is the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, in the Palace of Ludovico il Moro, displaying art and artifacts from the Etruscan city of Spina, which had been submerged by Po Delta waters until reclamation in the 20th century. Finds from the thousands of grave sites excavated include Etruscan works and those from the various 6th- to 3rd-century B.C. civilizations from northern Europe to the coast of Africa with whom Spina traded. The Sala degli Ori displays jewelry of gold, silver and amber, while the frescoed Sala del Tesoro houses two boats from the late Roman period. The historic center is surrounded by 5 1/2 miles of 15th- and 16th-century walls with gates, bastions and towers.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Barbara Rogers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Year-round, but spring and fall have the nicest weather. The Po Valley can be drearily gray in the winter and hot in the summer.