Dwight Peck's personal website

A visit to Ferrara, late May 2013

No use asking to see the UNESCO World Heritage properties -- the entire city is a World Heritage property.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

More scenic adventures in Ferrara (2)

So we've waited out the staffers at lunch and we're back to visit the Castle of the Estes.

In 1385, following a lot of civic unrest, the Estes concluded that the safety of the family might require better defensive structures, less against other cities than against their own.

The Marquis Niccolò II began construction of what became this four-towered fortification, within the city walls and attached to their old residence, which is now the Palazzo Municipale across from the Duomo. It was developed throughout succeeding centuries, as the city walls were pushed northwards, more and more residential accommodations added, and the structure and exterior reached its present form in the mid-16th century.

The view from a castle balcony across the moat down the Corso Martiri della Libertà towards the Cathedral, the Municipal Palace, and the McDonald's.

Okay, we're finished. The interpretive presentations and signage (in Italian and English), on the history of the city, the castle, the Este family, the region, the customs and facilities of daily castle life (you name it), are extraordinarily well done, but it's too complex to convey any sense of it here. You'll have to go there.

Another street market, between the Castello and the Palazzo Municipale

Kristin promenading on the Corso Martiri della Libertà

The Piazza Savonarola (who was a Ferrarese native son), with the "Estes' covered passage" between the Este residence, now the Municipal Palace, and their fortress, the Castello Estense -- a quick getaway, when required (like the Pope's elevated dashaway from the Vatican to the Castel Sant'Angelo).

The Five Star Movement is on the street. All over Italy, Beppe Grillo's new insurrectionist political movement is reforming the sclerotic political system (and in 2013 the 'Movimento 5 stelle' won 25% of the vote in Italy's Chamber of Deputies).

A benign police presence

The Duomo

The mostly Romanesque façade of the Cathedral dedicated to the Virgin and to St George (Ferrara's patron saint whether he knows it or not) dates from 1135 and is very nice. Nicholaus was the architect (like many Afghans, early Ferrarese frequently used only one name). That lion has weathered the centuries well. (The guy on top of him is sometimes called an "Atlas" but he's arguably better called a "Telamon".)

This lion, its predecessor, has not weathered the centuries very well at all. Neither has the Telamon.

After an unfortunate fire in the 18th century, the entire interior of the cathedral was redone, so Kristin has gone back to hotel to rest up for dinner.

There are 14 or 15 chapels in the nave and two aisles, so holy, sacred, and blessed services can roll right through here non-stop. "Decoration" is the key word here, lots of it.

With a few spots left over for private prayer, etc.

Porphyry spiral columns

Another income-generating chapel source, not presently in use, but at the ready

But there's a sacred fellow down the way who's ministering to a rapt audience, so we'll be considerate and work our way around them without disturbing their reflections.

A fledgling Rider of the Griffin

The vertical look, with heads peeking out sadly

The wonderful façade, with the comforting as well as the monitory sculptures. It's said that pilgrims used to relax and take a short break here on their way to Rome.

Another look at the south side and campanile, along the Piazza Trento-Trieste

The interior courtyard of the Palazzo Municipale, with its Staircase of Honor (1481)

-- Hurry up. It's time for Art.

So we're back at the Diamond Palace, the Pinacoteca Nazionale (yesterday's photo) . . . for the Art.

This may become one of our favorite madonnas -- by the mid-15th century artist known as the Maestro dagli occhì ammiccanti (The Master of the Squinty Eyes).

Oh no; it's another obsessive weirdness from religious tradition (at least the old mohel pervert's not doing it with his teeth) (here's the worst of the worst, from the Sacro Monte of Varallo). This one's by Luca Longhi, the mid-16th century Mannerist painter from the region, father of noted painters Francesco and Barbara Longhi, all well represented here.

We've been collecting images for yonks trying to figure out what They were really eating at The Last Supper. Usually, the main dish just looks like a rat -- but this one, by Scarsellino, looks completely unidentifiable and even more unappetizing.

Madonna, Child, and Multiple Strange Saints (by Domenico Panetti, ca. 1500) -- the Saint with the cleaver for a hat is St Peter Martyr from Verona, a 13th century heretic hunter who got cleaved by assassins hired by the Cathars and recited the Apostles' Creed for a while afterward.

An early whistleblower (Zenone Veronese, early 16th century). Whilst Little Jesus is distracted by St Andrew, the Madonna is passing off some money to St Francis for his silence about something.

Happy Christians revel in their successes on the left, despondent Jews of the Old Testament bewail their fate on the right, and muscley arms stick out of the cross to rub it in.

We're returning from the men's room (actually, the ladies' room by mistake (sorry, lady)) -- Kristin's being unusually patient.

The Museum of the Resorgimento and Resistance Movement (next to the Palazzo dei Diamenti) is well-intentioned and well-presented, but like many such, it consists largely of musty military uniforms, some old muskets and bayonets, and documents I can't read.

Back past the Castello Estensis -- there's no way to avoid it.

One of the four towers was damaged in the May 2012 earthquakes, but it's hard to tell which one.

Street scene . . .

. . . and another street scene (across the same street)

The Corso Martiri della Libertà . . .

. . . and the Piazza Savonarola, with its market and its Dominating Presence overhead

Girolamo Savonarola, the 15th century religious nutter who took Florence by self-righteous holy storm and got the Medicis temporarily booted in favor of a talibanical "republic" called the New Jerusalem. When pressed to validate his visions, prophecies, and miracles, he didn't do so well and got hanged and burnt in 1498. The Medicis came back, but his 'Piagnoni' ("Wailers" [like Holy Rollers]) followers spread his enthusiasms throughout the lands that were soon afterward to become hotbeds of the Protestant Reformation.

Fra Girolamo grew up in Ferrara and attended university here, so for some reason the city fathers stuck up this statue of the unpleasant chap in 1857. (Especially odd, for a city with bookstores and second-hand book stalls on every street, given Savonarola's famous 'Bonfire of the Vanities'.)

Street scene

The Palazzo Bevilacqua-Costabili (1430), presently the Business Management Department of the University of Ferrara

Casa Romei, the well-preserved family home built in 1445 by a well-to-do businessman (Giovanni Romei had married into the Este family) -- it was inhabited by nuns of Corpus Domini for centuries and thus escaped being used for a granary, arsenal, or stables.

The Casa Romei is a fairly quick walk-through without too many distractions, but it preserves the layout of rooms and many of the frescoes very well.

And it's got a lion into whose mouth Kristin can put her hand (thus extending our collection by 4%).

The central courtyard of Casa Romei

Casa Romei frescoes

The courtyard again

One of Ferrara's great attractions, in the southeastern quadrant: the museum of the Palazzo Schifanoia, built by Alberto d'Este in 1385 as a hunting lodge, expanded by Duke Borso Este into a pleasure palace in 1465, and expanded again into its present form in 1493 by the ubiquitous architect Biagio Rossetti, who seems to have designed virtually everything in the city.

The interior gardens are the scenes of non-commercial musical performances, as in at least some other places in the city.

The museum boasts an enormous number of special collections (gems, coins, illuminated manuscripts, and what not), as well as lots of paintings by the 'Ferrarese School', but BLOOP -- almost immediately, we're out the exit, presided over by the Duke himself.

What's that about? Oh. It's nearly all closed off, presumably temporarily, following the awful northern Italian earthquakes of May 2012.

Ferrarese tourist wonders are frequently open, but not when you're banging on the door. At the moment, we're down by the city wall (near an ancient aqueduct into the city) waiting for the Palazzina di Marfisa d'Este to reopen.


Won't be long now.


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 22 June 2013.

Recent Events