Este family stronghold
You associate it with swords and swordsmanship and a first sighting of the tremendous Este Castle guarded by four gigantic towers and a real moat, transports you into a gory Renaissance drama. But the beauties of arts and architecture impose a more spiritual dimension.
Ferrara’s golden age lasted throughout the Estense dominion when for three centuries (1294-1598) those princes ruled like kings and patronized artists like emperors. The terrible castle contains state apartments softly decorated, arranged around the graceful courtyard. The duomo is a perfect fusion of Romanesque and Gothic. All the palaces and churches, distributed over the city, have an individual appeal. Most are built, like the castle, in rose-coloured brick and some have startling facades of patterned marble blocks – especially Palazzo dei Diamanti. Most are also jewel caskets of marbles, bronzes, paintings, terracottas and frescoed ceilings. Two of Italy’s greatest poets, Ariosto and Tasso, lived and worked here and you can still visit Ariosto’s elegant little 16thC mansion.
Ferrara lies almost at sea-level and is known as the ‘horizontal city’. As the Po silted up, the place decayed. Drainage of the lagoons and marshes over a long period brought a ghost town back to life. Now it flourishes as the centre of a prosperous farming region and it has the reputation (disputed with Bologna) of being the North’s gastronomic capital. It is an exceptionally clean place. The citizens look on their city of warlike towers and dignified mansions with affection and quiet pride.