Ferrara: The Complete Guide
Ferrara is a city located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, situated near the eastern Adriatic coast and positioned at the top of Italy’s boot-shaped peninsula. This charming city is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. For a period of three centuries, Ferrara was under the rule of the Este family, whose Renaissance court was renowned as one of the finest in Italy. This court attracted notable artists and writers, including Ludovico Ariosto, the author of Orlando Furioso.
Ferrara is still surrounded by its well-preserved 6-mile-long defensive wall, making it an excellent route for cycling or walking, with green parks located outside the walls. However, not all parts of the city within the walls share the same historical significance. If you enter Ferrara through the broad Viale Cavour, you might wonder where the historic buildings are located. But by taking a side street, you’ll find yourself in the city’s intricate network of medieval and Renaissance streets. Exploring with a map, available from the tourist information office in the courtyard of the Castello Estense, is advisable, as these picturesque streets extend for quite a distance. While only a few lanes are pedestrianized, many of Ferrara’s residents prefer to navigate the city on old bicycles, even on its cobblestone streets.
This is complete guide is for first-time visitors to Ferrara and is ideal for those who are looking to plan activities for their one day in Ferrara. To make the most of your visit to Ferrara, I recommend this 3 hour walking tour of Ferrara with a local guide.
Visiting Ferrara for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Ferrara on the first visit. Top help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!
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This complete guide to Ferrara not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.
This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Ferrara and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!
In 1385, in Ferrara, a perilous uprising led Niccolò II d'Este to recognize the necessity of constructing formidable defenses to safeguard himself and his family. As a result, the Castello di San Michele was erected, serving as a fortress intended to protect against the threat posed by the populace.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Estense Castle!
Address: Estense Castle, Largo Castello, Ferrara, Province of Ferrara, Italy | Hours: 10.00 - 18.00 (ticket office closes 45 min. before). Closed on Tuesday. | Price: €12 | Website | Distance: 0.02km
The Cathedral of San Giorgio Martire or Cathedral of Saint George, designed by Wiligelmus and consecrated in 1135, stands as a remarkable example of Romanesque architecture. Over the centuries, the cathedral has undergone several renovations, resulting in an eclectic style that seamlessly combines various architectural elements. The central structure and portal represent Romanesque influences, while the upper part of the façade features Gothic design, and the Renaissance campanile adds yet another layer of architectural history.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Ferrara Cathedral!
Address: Ferrara Cathedral, Piazza della Cattedrale, Ferrara, Province of Ferrara, Italy | Hours: Every day 9.00-12.00 / 15.00.18.00.| Price: Free / Donation | Distance: 0.28km
Museo della Cattedrale, Ferrara
The Cathedral Museum, housed in the former church of San Romano, is a collaborative project between the Cathedral Chapter and the Municipality of Ferrara. Its purpose is to document the history of the Este spirituality and the significant sacred temple. The museum's collection comprises works owned by the church as well as the municipality. Notable pieces include a series of tiles created by the Maestro dei Mesi (circa 1225-30), a remarkable masterpiece, the grandiose Madonna of the Pomegranate by Jacopo della Quercia (1403-06), splendid tapestries illustrating the stories of Saints George and Maurelius (1551-53), woven by Johannes Karcher based on designs by Garofalo and Camillo Filippi, monumental organ panels depicting Saint George and the Dragon, along with the Annunciation, created by Cosmè Tura, and a series of 24 illuminated anthem books, initiated in 1481, featuring the work of Guglielomo Giraldi, Martino da Modena, and Jacopo Filippo Medici. These artworks provide insight into the rich history and spirituality associated with the Cathedral of Ferrara.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Museo della Cattedrale, Ferrara!
Address: Museo della Cattedrale (San Romano), Via San Romano, Ferrara, Province of Ferrara, Italy | Hours: 9.30-13.00 / 15.00-18.00. Closed on Monday.| Price: €6 | Website | Distance: 0.35km
National Picture Gallery, Ferrara
The Picture Gallery in Ferrara was established in 1836 as the first public collection of Ferrarese paintings. Its primary purpose was to prevent the dispersal of the local artistic heritage by creating a modern museum dedicated to preserving and promoting Ferrara's art and culture.
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Address: Pinacoteca Nazionale, Corso Ercole I d'Este, Ferrara, Province of Ferrara, Italy | Distance: 0.44km
Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara
The magnificent Palazzo dei Diamanti, located at the heart of the Addizione Erculea in Ferrara, stands at the significant intersection known as the Quadrivio degli Angeli. The palace was originally owned by Duke Ercole I d'Este's brother, Sigismondo d'Este.
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Address: Palazzo dei Diamanti, Corso Ercole I d'Este, Ferrara, Province of Ferrara, Italy | Hours: Visits are possible during the opening hours of the National Picture Gallery and of the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art.| Website | Distance: 0.46km
Palazzina Marfisa d'Este
Marfisa d'Este Villa is a remarkable 16th-century aristocratic residence that serves as a splendid example of the era. It was once surrounded by magnificent gardens that connected it to other structures known as Casini di San Silvestro. The villa derives its name from Princess Marfisa d'Este, who inherited the property from its builder, Francesco d'Este. Francesco was the son of Duke Alfonso I and Lucrezia Borgia and was responsible for its construction.
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Address: Palazzina Marfisa d’Este, Corso della Giovecca, Ferrara, Province of Ferrara, Italy | Distance: 0.96km
Santa Maria in Vado, Ferrara
The Church of Santa Maria in Vado, with ancient origins, was constructed near a ford (known as "vado" in Italian) that crossed one of the numerous canals in the area. Its religious significance is associated with a Eucharistic miracle that occurred on Easter Day in 1171. During the moment of consecration, blood miraculously spurted from the host, staining the apsidal vault above the altar. This event turned the church into a pilgrimage site.
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Address: Santa Maria in Vado, Via Borgovado, Ferrara, Province of Ferrara, Italy | Distance: 1.04km
Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara
Palazzo Schifanoia, an extraordinary testament to the Renaissance era, stands as an iconic symbol of the Este family's influence in Ferrara. Built between 1385 and 1391 as a suburban retreat, it was intended as a place to escape boredom, giving rise to its unique name, which translates to "chasing away boredom" in Italian. Subsequently, under the rule of Borso d’Este (1450-1471), the palazzo was expanded and transformed into a sumptuous residence, reflecting Ferrara's elevated status in Europe during that period.
Read our full blog post on Visiting Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara!
Address: Palazzo Schifanoia, Via Scandiana, Ferrara, Province of Ferrara, Italy | Hours: Open: 10.00-19.00. Ticket office closes at 18.00. Closed on Monday. The ticket includes the visit of the Lapidary Museum | Price: €12 | Distance: 1.12km
Civico Lapidario, Ferrara
The Lapidary Museum, located in the former church of Santa Libera, boasts an extensive collection of Roman marble works from the province of Ferrara. The exhibited pieces predominantly consist of funeral masonry, dating from the first half of the 1st century A.D. to the 3rd century A.D., a period during which the practice of inscribing on stone and marble began to decline throughout the Roman world. The collection includes numerous funeral steles and impressive sarcophagi, lavishly adorned, offering insights into the social and territorial organization of the delta during the Roman era. Noteworthy among the artifacts is the grand sarcophagus of the Aurelii (3rd century A.D.), a genuine masterpiece of Ravenna's craftsmanship, as well as the small sarcophagus of the child Neon, originating from Voghenza.
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Address: Civico Lapidario (ex Chiesa di Santa Libera), Via Camposabbionario, Ferrara, Province of Ferrara, Italy | Hours: 10.00-19.00. Ticket office closes at 18.00. Closed on Monday. The Lapidary can be visited with the same ticket used for Palazzo Schifanoia | Website | Distance: 1.20km
National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara
The National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara, housed in the Palazzo Costabili, showcases artifacts from the ancient Etruscan city of Spina. Spina thrived from the 6th to the 3rd century B.C. and continued to exist into the early centuries A.D. However, it was eventually submerged by the waters of the Po Delta, becoming a legendary name for many centuries.
Read our full blog post on Visiting National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara!
Address: National Archeological Museum of Ferrara, Via XX Settembre, Ferrara, Province of Ferrara, Italy | Hours: 9.30-17.00. (Ticket office closes at 16.30). Closed on Monday. | Price: €9 | Website | Distance: 1.33km
The ideal time for a visit to Ferrara, Italy, is from April to October, offering warm temperatures and minimal rain. July typically boasts the highest average temperature in Ferrara at 31°C, while January records the lowest at 7°C.
Ferrara hosts the Festival dei Buskers once a year, typically at the end of August, which fills the streets with a diverse array of street performers and buskers. In May, the town holds a Palio, a traditional horseback competition among its districts, accompanied by processions featuring historical costumes. On the first weekend of every month, an antiques market takes place, while the third weekend features a small market showcasing craft stalls.
Average Temperatures in Ferrara
- January 11°C 51°F 5
- February 13°C 56°F 9
- March 18°C 65°F 7
- April 22°C 71°F 8
- May 27°C 80°F 13
- June 33°C 91°F 8
- July 36°C 96°F 9
- August 34°C 94°F 8
- September 29°C 84°F 10
- October 24°C 76°F 8
- November 16°C 60°F 11
- December 10°C 50°F 6
Flying to Ferrara
The easiest and fastest way to reach Ferrara is flying to Bologna airport. Indeed, this is the closest airport to the city (about 45 km), even though other solutions are possible, such as flying to Venice, Verona or Milan Bergamo airports as well.
Ferrara by Train
Ferrara is conveniently situated on a railway line connecting Venice and Bologna, allowing for direct regional train connections to Venice, with a travel time of about an hour and a half. This makes it feasible to visit one city as a day trip from the other. For those arriving by train, there are two primary ways to reach the historic centre of Ferrara. The first option is to walk, which takes approximately twenty minutes. To do this, simply exit the train station’s ticket hall, cross the main road, and head to the left. Then, follow the bustling Viale Cavour as it curves to the right. This street runs straight through the town and leads to the Castello Estense. To help you navigate, there is a map displayed on a board outside the train station. Remember to always validate your train tickets before getting on the train if you have a paper ticket.
Travel to Ferrara by Car
Ferrara boasts excellent connectivity through the Italian road and highway network.
- From Bologna: Access the A13 Autostrada Bologna-Padova and exit at Ferrara south or north, a journey of about 45 minutes.
- From Ravenna: Drive along the SS16 into the eastern parts of Ferrara, covering approximately 79 kilometers in around 1 hour and 20 minutes.
- From Padua: Head south on the A13 for a 78-kilometer drive, taking about one hour.
Moreover, the A13 is seamlessly linked to the A1, a major artery connecting all significant roads in northern Italy. This integration ensures that Ferrara is exceptionally well-connected to major cities across the country.
Travel within Ferrara
Alternatively, you can opt to catch a local bus into the historic centre. Local city buses in Ferrara are operated by a company known as TPER (Emilia-Romagna Passenger Transport), and you can access their timetables (orari) on their website.
Guided Bike Tour of Ferrara
Ferrara is renowned as a “città della bicicletta,” where a significant portion of the population relies on bicycles for their daily transportation. Beyond the city center, roads feature dedicated cycle lanes, and within the center itself, traffic is restricted, even though the streets are predominantly cobblestone. The tourist office provides information on routes within the city and extending into the Po Delta Park. For an introduction to cycling around Ferrara try this Guided Tour by Bike!