Ferrara: A pocket guide
Ferrara grew up around a ford over the River Po and became an intellectual and artistic center, attracting the greatest minds of the Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Copernicus was a student in Ferrara, and Ariosto wrote Orlando Furioso here. Ferrara is still associated, even today, with the towering figure of Lucrezia Borgia, who married Alfonso I d’Este, the duke of Ferrara in 1502.
The city center surrounds Castello Estense, a fortified castle with moat and drawbridge, commissioned by Nicolò II d’Este in 1385. It was under the rule of the House of Este that Ferrara became an internationally known capital with great importance for the arts, economics, philosophy, and religion, and many of the city’s historic landmarks date from that period. The frescoes and stucco mouldings that adorn the Ferrara palaces were done by some of the greatest artists of the Renaissance–Piero della Francesca, Jacopo Bellini, Andrea Mantegna. Worth seeing, in particular, are the Castle of Schifanoia and the Palazzo dei Diamanti (a diamond was the emblem of the House of Este).
Ferrara reaches the culinary heights of the Emilia-Romagna region. Its cuisine, influenced by the town’s important Jewish community, can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Typical dishes include cappellacci di zucca, a kind of ravioli with a filling of butternut squash and Parmesan and a sauce of butter and sage; and cappelletti, meat-filled ravioli served in chicken broth or with a white sauce made from cream and, optionally, local truffles. A particular specialty is pasticcio di maccheroni, a domed macaroni pie made of a crust of sweet dough enclosing macaroni in a béchamel sauce, studded with porcini mushrooms and ragù bolognese.