While feeling the light drizzle of a Ferrara afternoon as you bicycle through the city’s medieval streets and hidden neighborhoods, you can’t help but be transported to a time of intrigue and nobility. Ferrara is the land of Lucrezia Borgia, the infamous Estense family and filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, as well as the setting for such literary masterworks as Bassani’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. An UNESCO world heritage site, the city’s well preserved medieval quarters, ancient walls and sophisticated grid exude the mysterious allure of a community forever at the forefront of Italian history.
In no particular order, five things we love about Ferrara…
1. The rhythmic churning of bicycle wheels over cobblestone streets, as the sound echoes playfully through the city’s narrow corridors. The Ferrarese are ardently proud of their reputation as “The City of Bicycles.” With nearly 90% of Ferrara’s inhabitants owning a bicycle and the city center a strictly enforced “no car” zone, bicycles are a source of cultural pride for the people of Ferrara. Also regarded as an important status symbol, the Ferrarese view the bicycle as a natural extension of their own personal fashion and personality.
2. Ferrara’s Jewish Quarter is an incredible opportunity to explore an important and sobering part of the city’s cultural heritage. Over 1,500 of Ferrara’s Jewish citizens were sequestered in the neighborhood from 1627 until 1796, then released during the French occupation of Italy. The neighborhood was again closed off from 1826 until 1861, but was reopened when the unification of Italy took place. The neighborhood, while a solemn reminder of how the city’s Jewish community was treated for centuries, is also a testament to the ingenuity and perseverance of Ferrara’s Jewish citizens. With beautiful examples of Sephardic architecture and the Museo Ebraico di Ferrara (The Jewish Museum of Ferrara), the neighborhood is an essential stop for any visitor to the city.
3. The Palazzo Dei Diamanti is an awe inspiring masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. Built by the famous architect Biagio Rossetti in 1492 for Ercole D’Este, today the palace houses an impressive art gallery with works spanning from the medieval period through the 1700’s.
4. Ferrara’s ancient city walls rise from the Emilian countryside to embrace the perimeter of the city like a mighty ring of fire. Stretching a total of 9 kilometers, the imposing red brick walls served as Ferrara’s primary defensive barrier throughout the medieval and Renaissance ages. Today, the walls provide some of the best vantage points overlooking the city and surrounding countryside. Pedestrians and bicyclists alike can enjoy a scenic walk or bike ride along the city walls.
5. The decadent local treat Pampapato, is a chocolate covered spiced bread that dates back to 1465. The renowned Renaissance chef Cristoforo da Messisbugo developed the recipe to serve as a dessert for the noble Estense family, Popes and clergy. Today, pampapato can be found in most of Ferrara’s bakeries and restaurants.
About the author
Dejou Marano is Co-Founder of CountryBred and Founding Editor of The Bred Blog. Splitting her time between Los Angeles and Europe, Dejou seeks to bring the imagination and wonder of Europe to all travelers through her never-ending pursuit of undiscovered cultural gems and experiences, which she shares through her travel writing.
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