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 (3)

Marfisa was the illegimate daughter of Francesco d'Este, who was the third son of Duke Alfonso I and his second wife Lucrezia Borgia. This small palace was built by her father beginning in 1559 and inherited by Marfisa in 1578 -- in 1598, when the city reverted to Papal ownership in the absence of a legitimate Este male heir, she refused to join the rest of her family in moving off to Modena and remained here with her husband, Alderano Cybo-Malaspina, the Duke of Ferentillo, until her death in 1608.

The palace was slowly abandoned over the years, then restored in the early 20th century and put into service as a museum in 1938 -- it's said to be one of the best examples of a late 16th century aristocratic home in Ferrara. The bikes are lined up for an informal music festival farther back on the grounds.

The Palazzina is interesting, but doesn't take a lot of time to look through ("No Photos!"). During the tenure of Ercole I d'Este, in the early 16th century, Ferrara became one of the leading artistic and cultural centres of Italy, and his son Alfonso I continued that tradition (as patron of Ariosto, for example) -- but it was during Marfisa's lifetime, under Alfonso II in the later 16th century, that Ferrara reached its cultural apogee (as patrons of nutty Tasso, for example, and any number of painters and musicians as well).

A disused fountain in Marfisa's gardens (guess where the water's meant to come out). As just mentioned, in 1598, in the absence of a male heir, the city and its lands were seized by the Papacy and remained part of the Papal States until repatriated in 1859 as part of the Risorgimento.

What's up next? We're back to the cathedral square (with the car show) . . .

. . . for an ice cream in the street before tackling . . .

. . . the Museo della Cattedrale, in the Church of San Romano just across the piazza.

The building is wonderful, the museum exhibits not so very inspiring. How many musty chausables do we need to see on one trip? There is a beautiful collection of illuminated musical books and a 13th century sculptural series representing seasons of the farmers' year that is really interesting ("No Photo!!!").

The cloister (now the museum entrance) dates from the 11th and 12th centuries and is wonderful.

The cloister of San Romano

Another view of the car show

The Via San Romano again

We're back in the Via delle Volte -- Yikes! Our restaurant (degli Angeli) is closed tonight.

So we'll have a go at the Trattoria da Noemi instead. With high hopes but it's a high bar to get over.

It was excellent, and inexpensive . . .

. . . and convivial.

The next day's our hiking day, but first a routine check of all the street markets . . .

. . . in case any bargains have shown up overnight. The street markets pop up on various streets and squares on a fixed rhythm, but for us it's just luck.

This is the Corsa "Porta Reno" (a napoleonic re-naming of the gate), leading from the Porta Paolo gate in the southern wall, near our hotel, to the cathedral square and Castello Estense. Potential bargains from one end of it to the other.

A benign police presence

Kristin is skilled at scanning street markets at speed and spotting the odd underpriced treasure, or not.

She scans the proffered goods so fast that sometimes we lose her in the crowd.

Ah, there she is. In fact, this is a different street market, in the Piazza Travaglio near the Porta Paolo gate (on the Via John Fitzgerald Kennedy).

The vendors are packing up at midday.

A police presence, just in case

Another police presence, just in case

Now we're up on the parapet of the city wall near the gate -- another street market -- as the vendors pack up for the day and the storm comes in from the west. Kristin is looking for someone selling umbrellas, but they're all standing outside the cathedral and Este Castle.

We're off for a walk around the city walls, 9 kilometres in all and a lot of it in the rain.

An old aqueduct bisected by the circumvallate () bike path

We've done the southern wall fairly well, waited out a downpour at the southeast corner, and got well up the eastern side of town.

The red dot is "you are here" -- the Torre di San Giovanni Battista (built, like most other things, by Biagio Rosetti for Duke Ercole I in the 1490s). We continue . . .

A well-earned pause

The Porta degli Angeli along the northern wall and the blockhouse that protected it.

Part of the walls

A disconsolate pope or cardinal condemned to sit out here in the driving rain . . . and we're in the home stretch. Time for an ice cream until the rain stops.

Thoughts are again turning to dinner.

We've wandered through medieval sections in the southeastern part of town, through the Jewish area (the gates around the ghetto were taken down in 1848), and we're looking for Lucrezia Borgia and her long-departed friends and relations.

The church of St Gregory

-- It's for sale. What do you think?

A lovely old square (we're lost)

The Monastery of Corpus Domini, where the best of the Este family's bodies are kept. No answer to our knocking -- perhaps there's no one home.

Ah, the secret. We walk round the block and whisper through the grill, and (it's a convent now) a very friendly nun comes back through the interior and opens the front door for us.

In a room behind the altar of Corpus Domini lay nine slabs, under which, three to a slab, lay every Este who was anybody, including Ercole I and his wife Eleanor of Aragon and Naples, Alfonso I and his wife Lucrezia Borgia, their son Ercole II, and then his son Alfonso II and his wives Lucrezia Medici, Barbara of the Holy Roman Empire, and Margherita Gonzaga of Mantova. All packed in there together somehow. No big showy monuments to photograph.

Street scene

Another street scene

Repairs for Macs, PCs, and iPhones

All winding little roads lead back to the cathedral.

The campanile. That's it for today.

The next day, we're bolting down Via John Fitzgerald Kennedy to catch the bus to the rail station.

Bicycles awaiting their masters at the end of the work day

From the Ferrara rail station, we're bound now for Ravenna.


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

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