This small Emilian jewel has a mysterious origin, an intense and fascinating story that has left evident traces in the urban landscape. Declared "world heritage" by Unesco, Ferrara is the city of bicycles and bread, the so-called "coppie", the "salama da sugo" and the secret gardens told by Bassani.
The symbol of the city is the 14th century Castello Estense, a majestic construction and a typical example of military architecture, its appearance made more gentle in the mid-15th century when the Ducal family decided to transform it into the court palace. Entirely surrounded by a trench, which still exists today, the inside is accessible through the ancient drawbridges.
The Castle marks the border between the medieval part and the renaissance part, the latter being the fruit of the so-called Addizione Erculea, the extension of the city decided by duke Ercole d'Este which gave Ferrara the title of the "first modern city in Europe ".
Strolling along the medieval city alleyways is a fascinating experience, even on foggy days, which are certainly not a rare occurrence in these parts. Parallel roads via Ripagrande and via delle Volte are evidence of the origin of Ferrara as a linear city and a river port. The characteristic "vaults" are the passages that enabled merchants to connect the stockrooms with shops and habitations.
The Cathedral, built in the 12th century, has a Romanic façade in the lower part and a gothic one in the superior part, whereas on the southern side there is the 15th century lodge of the haberdashers.
The fulcrum of the Addizione Erculea and centre of the renaissance Ferrara is Palazzo dei Diamanti; built towards the end of the 15th century and designed to be seen sidewise, from the opposite corner of where it rises, it owes its name to the 8500 diamond-shaped ashlars that cover its façades.
The events that Ferrara offers on a constant basis are few but prestigious and absolutely enthralling. The Palio, Italy's most ancient, involves a number of happenings, from the blessing of the races, the flag-wavers and the musician contests, the historical procession, all the preparatory rites take place during the whole month of May and they end on the last Sunday with the proper races. The setting for the contest between the eight city districts is the ring in Piazza Ariostea.
Another unmissable appointment is the Buskers Festival, the international festival for street musicians which every year attracts a growing number of artists and visitors. In the medieval centre, in the last week of August, there are musicians, jugglers and actors from all over the world, who are absolutely determined to break the peace and quiet of the Este city, dragging any passer-by in a vortex of cheerfulness.