Majestic and imposing, Renaissance Estense Castle is the symbol of the city itself. It’s not just a common castle, but rather the epitome of all fortresses of Europe, most of them having been inspired by it. Originally intended as military stronghold to the benefit of Este Dukes, the castle offers you a unique view, still surrounded by a moat filled with running water. And it is one of the few castles in Europe still to do so. Topped by four majestic towers, it served as seat of Este Dukes court, here ruling. Don’t worry: I will be mentioning about the lavish extravaganza and luxuries of Este Dukes court, competing with the one of the Medici family, in Florence. Also, I will be mentioning about the tragic stories of many a few unfortunate ones having been languishing in its prisons, as well as infamous Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara, the lady of the poisons. Believe me, it’s not a chance ghosts are still hunting the place!
Just flanking the Castle, majestic Ferrara City Hall served as Palace of the Dukes before moving inside the Castle: I shall be showing you the lavish, Venetian-style marble staircase, glorious entrance to the Palace itself, as well as the Renaissance statues the Dukes built for themselves, dressed up as Roman emperors. Apparently, showing off was quite the concept back in the day, too.
Ferrara Medieval district, core and cradle of the city, surrounds the ancient, one thousand years old Cathedral of the town: looking as a compromise of Romanesque and later Gothic style, the majestic building is topped by a glorious, pink-marble built Renaissance bell tower. This is where I’ll introduce you to Master Nicholaus, ancient 12th century sculptor who was said having been turning living people into stone: that’s how dangerously realistic his statues were! On the flank of the Cathedral is Merchants Loggia, intended to host ancient, one-thousand years old merchants’ shops and booths, facing the Main Square of the city, elegant open-air drawing room of the city itself. On the top of them, a forest of strangely-shaped columns, said to be twisted by Satan himself, envious of the glory of Ferrara.
All around the Square is a maze of narrow, curvy alleys flanked by all bricks-built buildings: I shall be leading all across them up until reaching picturesque, stunning 11th century Vaults’ Street, where dozens of vaults stretch from one side of the other of the street, joining palaces together: these used to be ancient storages of the merchants of the city, back at the time the docks were just close by.
Ferrara hosted one of the most ancient Jewish communities of Europe: ancient Jewish ghetto of the town is the district Jews were unfortunately forced into from 17th century onwards. This is where Synagogues’ Palace is located, featuring three different synagogues, including the German School, the Spanish School building located just a couple of blocks away. Jewish school and bakery used to be located here, too.
Final stop is the stunning Renaissance district of the town: this is where modern urbanism was invented six hundred years ago by the Dukes of Ferrara. Majestic Renaissance palaces follow one another. Taking inspiration from ancient Roman urbanism and breaking with previous medieval tradition, they designed a new, modern layout for the city, later adopted all throughout the world. At the centre of the newly-founded Ferrara area is the stunning Angels’ Crossing. Here, Diamonds’ Palace (Palazzo dei Diamanti) served as official seat to the heir to the throne of the Duchy. The Palace is surrounded by a stunning, unprecedented texture of more the 8500 diamonds-shaped blocks, legend mentioning a real diamond was hidden in one of them, its architect having been later killed not to reveal true location of it.