Ferrara ItalyThe lovely town of Ferrara is an easy drive southeast from Lake Garda along the SS434 for just over 130km. It is the capital city of the Province of Ferrara, hence its importance and legacy of fine architecture. The town is built on the banks of the Po River and has refreshingly wide streets with numerous 14th and 15th century palazzos lining them. Its beauty and cultural significance have earned it a place on the UNESCO list or World Heritage Sites, so it is well worth spending a day exploring.
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As you walk around the town you will see that many of the historic palazzos have small but interesting terracotta decorations. One of the finest of these palaces is the Palazzo dei Diamanti, or Diamond Palace, named after the 8000 diamond cut stones covering the façade of the building. Inside is the National Picture Gallery with works by local artists including Cosimo Tura and Francesco Cossa, from the noted group of painters known as the School of Ferrara.
The town still has more than 9km of its ancient city walls still standing. They are some of the best preserved Renaissance walls in Italy. The city has some very impressive buildings including the Castello Estense which has four towers surrounded by a moat. It was built in 1385 but the pavilions on top of the towers were added during restoration work in 1554.
The City Hall was formerly the residence of the influential Este family. Although most rooms are now offices, the Duchess Chamber is quite lovely. Nearby is the grand Romanesque Cathedral, begun in 1135 and dedicated to the citys patron saint, San Giorgio. Look carefully at the sculpture of St. George and the Dragon in the main portal which is signed by the artifex or architect, Nicholaus. The recumbent lions are replicas of the originals which are now protected from the elements in the narthex, or enclosed passage leading to the nave of the church. The Renaissance style campanile, or bell tower, is made of white and rose coloured marble. It dates back to 1493 and remains unfinished.
Ferrara has some beautiful churches which are also worth seeking out. The Church of San Francesco was designed by Biagio Rossetti, and the churches of San Benedetto, Santa Maria in Vado and the Renaissance church of San Cristoforo are among the most interesting to visit.
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