Today we head southeast to Ferrara, Italy. I am doing the driving and continue to learn more about Italian roadways. Boris has discovered SURI on his iPhone and plugged in Ferrara for point to point directions. It is working well. If I miss a turn it reroutes and gives us new directions. She has a much nicer voice than Boris’s barking at me.
We went directly into the medieval city and parked along the main thoroughfare, Via Cavour. Walking back toward the entrance to the Este Castle, also know as St. Michael’s Castle, I have already blown my theory on most remaining moats being dry. Here in the Veneto, I am two for two on wet moats at the large castles. This moat was originally much wider incorporating the Via Cavour.
Visitor access to the castle is through the courtyard. The first room you come to has a model of this huge structure. There are three entrances and originally three drawbridges. One drawbridge is still in existence. The castle also has four towers, The Tower of the Lions, The Marchesana Tower (with the clock), St. Catherine’s Tower, and St. Paul’s Tower.
The original prison was in the Lion’s Tower. We had the opportunity to visit the dungeons with their low and narrow openings. Walking through a beautiful painted hallway, we came to the Orange Loggia, or Duchesses’ Loggia, which was reserved for the ladies of the court. There are still orange trees there today. You also had a wonderful view of the city and Marchesana Clock Tower.
We passed through the apartment rooms with ceiling frescos. More painted ceilings for Natasha, many depicting athletic competition like those in the Games’ Room and Salon. There was lots of tape on the paintings; I assume as a preservation method. Throughout the castle they had mirrors positioned so it was easier to see the detail in the ceiling.
Other than the ceiling decoration and lots of blown-up maps from different periods showing the changes to the castle and Ferrara, there wasn’t as much on display in Este Castle. Perhaps the most impressive thing about it is its sheer size and the fact that a structure that large is still in place.
There had always been struggles between the Empire and the Papal States over the control of Ferrara. The habitation of this marshy area was also effected by the changes in the River Po where the city sits. In 1264, it was the Este family that took control and held power in Ferrara until 1598 when the lack of a legitimate heir caused the family to lose the Dukedom. The Pope had recognized the authority of the Este family in 1391 with the investiture of the city as University Seat. The Ecumenical Council was held in Ferrara in 1438 and in 1478 the Pope created the Dukedom of Ferrara.
The Este family was very invested in city planning, architecture, art, and music. The family brought great fame to the city. However after the family abandoned Ferrara due to a lack of heirs, the Papacy was again took control and the city was left to decline. Ferrara stayed under Papal control until 1860 when it became part of the Kingdom of Italy. In 1995, UNESCO named Ferrara a world heritage city.
After leaving the castle from the courtyard, we walked next door to the Town Hall, the seat of the Este court until they moved into the castle. The facade which faces the Cathedral was redone in 1924 respecting the original 14th century design. The statues of a figure on a horse (Niccolo III) and a figure on a throne (Borso) were replaced at the time of the renovations, the origins having been melted down and used for cannons by Napoleon’s troops.
Directly across from the Town Hall is the Cathedral, although you wouldn’t know it. At eye level, the front facade is covered in cloth and boards as restoration work is underway. The Ferrarese are serious about their siesta. The church was closing at 12:30, but by noon most of the lights were being turned off. Although in the major tourist cities this traditional midday break is not observed, in the small towns we have passed through as well as in Mantua and Ferrara most museums and shops are closed from roughly 12:30-3:30 pm. People head home to have lunch with their family or dine out. The best way to tour is to embrace the tradition and keep going in the morning until things close, then have a long leisurely lunch at a sidewalk trattoria with water and carafe of the house wine. You will be relaxed and recharged for later day exploring and will have avoided the midday sun as well.
Fortunately the side facade of the Cathedral of St. Geogio was not covered and we were able to see the Loggia of the Pedlars, actually multiple loggia running the length of the church. The Campanile, bell tower, at the far end is of a completely different style, Renaissance, as it was not completed until 1596. Work on the Cathedral began in 1135.
The Loggia of the Pedlars faces Piazza Trento e Trieste where you can also find the Cathedral Museum in the decommissioned San Romano Church. Next to it is a clock tower and archway joining the buildings near the town hall. The Piazza itself is on the site of the 10th century city walls. When the walls were demolished, this became the site of the fruit and vegetable market
Leaving the Piazza, we headed deeper into the medieval town to find a spot for lunch. We decide on an outdoor trattoria with a seafood special. This close to the coast, I enjoyed a wonderful platter of mixed fried fish. Our trattoria was set close to the Palazzo Paradiso and in addition to the people watching, I had a lovely view of this building which is now a library and cultural center.
After lunch we wandered around the Adelard addition to Ferrara begun after the building of the castle and with the support of the Este dynasty. The area runs south of Corso Giovecca and was on our way back to the car.
We are going to cook at the Villa tonight and enjoy the late Italian sunset after a lovely day in Ferrara.