TORRE DEI LEONI
The house of Este is essential when talking about Ferrara. This, representative of one of the longest-lived European families, is identified among the descendants of the dukes linked to Charlemagne.
The Duchy of Ferrara was under the rule of the House of Este from 1209 to 1471. Later, other cities such as Modena and Reggio Emilia were also included under their rule. Even today the old capital of the duchy is witness to the great splendor that made the city great between the XV and XVI centuries. During that time it welcomed illustrious per-sonalities, important writers, and painters such as Ariosto, Tasso, Piero della Francesca, and Mantegna.
Ferrara is also known as the city of bicycles, thanks to the beautiful historic center where few cars circulate and there are plenty of pedestrian spaces to visit with total tranquility.
It is no coincidence that it has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Many jewels kept for a long time conserve its magical atmosphere over the centuries.
The predilection for art and beautiful things is the mark left by the House of Este. Is the feature of this Emilian city that fascinates visitors from all over the world. Unexpected surprises are usually revealed, such as the huge gardens hidden in the grandiose palaces.
Undisputed symbol and main monument is the colossal Estense Castle, which is still perfectly preserved with its fortress appearance, the moat that surrounds it filled with water, and the prisons.
The rooms of the different apartments decorated with frescoes are accessed by a charac-teristic drawbridge.
It was built at the request of the Marquis Nicolò II of Este in 1385. Over time it became the headquarters of the militias. It disposes of armories, stables, and workshops. Later, it became a noble residence where the court´s daily life took place. The Este family used to live in the upper part of the building, while the lower floors maintained the defensive function.
The 360 ° view from the Torre dei Leoni offers a magnificent spectacle of Ferrara’s landscape.
As the duke or a lady of the court, visitors can admire from above the slow flow of city life: the sound of the bells of the nearby cathedral, the bells of bicycles, the voices and noises of the Piazza Trento Trieste market, the silence of the inner courtyards hidden by the high walls of the private buildings until losing your gaze on the horizon of the green countryside.
Built before the castle, the ancient Torre dei Leoni served as a watchtower and walls garrison on the north side of the city. It was mainly used to defend the nearby Porta dei Leoni, where in ancient times there was a small village that carried the same name.
The smell of ancient stone will transport us to another dimension. Visitors mind gets back to the time of the ancient dukes and ladies of Este who once toured those same places admiring the town from above.
Address: Largo Castello, 1
THE PERFECT COUPLE
Ferrara can boast of disposing of the Perdonati Bakery, the only one in the city where the Coppia Ferrarese Protected Geographical Identification (IGP) is handmade.
The father of this family of bakers, Otello Perdonati, opened his bakery on October 3, 1949, in Via San Romano 108, the same place where it is still present today.
His great professionalism is such that even today the name Perdonati is synonymous with high-quality bread and products, with organic flour and yeast.
The name Coppia (couple in English) derives from the form obtained by joining the two parts of the dough.
Ferrara bread, in dialect is called ciopa or ciupeta.
The Coppia production area covers the entire territory of the province of Ferrara. Its origins are ancient. Is mentioned for the first time in a text written by Cristoforo da Messisbugo in 1536. He describes a Carnival banquet offered by Messer Giglio to the Duke of Ferrara. There, he talks about a "twisted" bread that could be identified with the coppia.
But probably something similar existed before since some Municipal Statutes of the XIII century mention a bread with similar characteristics.
Another testimony goes back to 1694, when the historian Antonio Frizzi praised the painstaking work of the Ferrara bakers, overcoming the monotonous concept of the ba-guette.
On February 27, 2004, the Consortium for the protection of the Ferrarese IGP coppia was established.
The mixing of the ingredients to obtain the so-called "hard pasta" is done by placing type 0 soft wheat flour, water, and lard. All is mixed in a fork blender for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterward extra virgin olive oil, sourdough yeast, salt, and malt addition com-plete the recipe.
In addition to lard, Ferrara bread is also distinguished by other organoleptic characteris-tics that make it unique in the world. The size must be between 80 and 250 grams; the crust must be golden color, with lighter twisted veins; and the consistency must be crunchy; the crumb must be white color, soft and compact and at the same time brittle; the taste must be fragrant and tasty. Regarding the expiration date, the discipline rec-ommends selling the bread within 24 hours after it is made but it can be stored in closed paper bags and a humid place for a few days.
A peculiarity of this bread lies precisely in the flour that is used: that from the mills near the Po River, which gives it the right degree of humidity and makes it ideal for baking.
There are two types of production systems: production by hand, which is carried out as in the past, and modern production through a special machine.
Concerning the Perdonati Bakery, we obviously talk about artisanal elaboration.
Address: Via San Romano 108 / B
Since the Middle Ages, earthenware artisan production has been one of the most im-portant art expressions in the Ferrara area and the Romagna regions.
The first examples of engraved and glazed pottery were found around the year 1200 near the Po delta. They show simple motifs called archaic. These motifs were repeated along about two centuries more.
It is natural to think that Ferrara´s slip-coated earthenware is an evolution of the Greco-Etruscan art that we know well and that is abundantly exhibited in the National Archae-ological Museum. But this is not the case: its roots come from much further afield, from China, where this technique was already in vogue during the T´Ang dynasty. Because of the expansion of Islam and its conquests in Turkestan and the neighboring Byzantine Empire, this art style spread throughout the Middle East. Later, the commercial contacts, first with Ravenna and then with Venice, but especially the return of the crusaders from Syria, completed the art expansion, causing the new ceramic technique to land on the Adriatic coasts.
In Ferrara, in the first half of the XIV century, there was a very active production: workshops and ovens are everywhere, at least judging by the finds. The colors consisted of mixtures of metallic glazes: copper, antimony, and lead for the green; iron, antimony, and lead for yellow; iron oxide for brown. Just in the XVI century, cobalt blue and manganese violet were used.
Potter was a highly valued trade.
Even Duke Alfonso I, in his free time from wars or diplomatic charges, loved to delight himself, in his workshop in the Estense Castle, making and decorating ceramics. "Vases and clay dishes, the more honorable, since they were made by the hand and industry of that Prince ..." (Paolo Giovio, The Life of Alfonso d´Este, Duke of Ferrara, Venice, 1597).
Another typical material is terracotta, used to make whistles and perfume burners. Over time they have become authentic collector´s items.
Widespread is the processing of paviera, a marsh reed that grows spontaneously along the canals. The artisans, especially those from Argenta, weave it to make bags, mats, baskets, and containers for agricultural activity.
This material has an important property: it floats in water and is used for fishing baskets.
The paviera reproductions of ducks and other birds of the Delta have become popular.
The trades that still survive today in the area have a thousand-year-old tradition, such as wrought iron that is carried out in numerous workshops in Final di Rero, Tresigallo and Ferrara. Pewter, precious metals, and copper are also worked here in Ferrara.
Address: La Marchesana Vía Cortevecchia, 38 (Historic Center)
PALAZZO DEI DIAMANTI
The Palazzo dei Diamanti is one of the most important architectural complexes in the city of Ferrara. This palace represents the wealth of the city in the Renaissance period, but also the very high level of skill and evolution reached by the intellectuals who turned around the Este court.
It is located on Corso Ercole I, in the so-called Quadrivio degli Angeli, as the center of the city expansion project designed during the XV century by Duke Ercole.
In fact, the duke himself and his architects had set out to expand the ancient medieval city. The chosen place, the crossroads of the Angels was perfect for the city´s expansion.
The project, which started with great momentum, was never completed.
The great political crisis faced by the Este family, made them lose their supremacy in the city.
The Palazzo dei Diamanti palace is a Renaissance-style building. Its facade is made up of thousands of small diamond-shaped pyramids. No one has ever counted them. An approximate count, ranges from 8,500 to 12,000 items.
It seems that only one of them contains an authentic diamond hidden by Ercole I d´Este, it is also said that it is the diamond of his crown.
Only he and the master-builder knew the exact place where the diamond was hidden, a matter for which neither the duke nor the master-builder could sleep soundly. They had different reasons.
It didn´t take long for the master to be secretly summoned by the duke, who cut out his tongue and blinded his eyes so that he could not communicate the secret.
Ercole I d´Este started a fundamental work for Ferrara: the Hercúlea extension.
For this project, he relied on symbolic and astrological schemes and worked with archi-tects, surveyors, and astrologers, such as the famous Pellegrino Prisciani.
The search for geometries related to the stars and numerology was common at that time. This is due to the strong interest in the past in alchemy, in seeking harmony with nature, with the celestial forces, and therefore, with God.
The urban plan, although today hardly distinguishable, is pentagonal-shaped (the penta-gon is a symbol of defense), with a branch of roads to the Estense Castle, which consti-tutes the center of the city.
The diamond, if it exists, should be located in a very specific position, so that telluric energy could be concentrated directly inside the building, where, as supposed, intense sessions of astrology and alchemy were carried out with renowned erudites.
This palace was created to attract the positive forces of the Universe.
According to the new map of the city is said that the Palace of Diamonds is placed in a particular emplacement to indicate a very bright star on earth.
With all this you now know, could you leave Ferrara without a photo of this place?
Address: Corso Ercole I d´Este, 21
TO THE FIRE!
It was needed the annexation of the city to the Kingdom of Italy to end the ferocious court of the Holy Inquisition, active in Ferrara at least since 1265. This was abolished and restored several times. Cases of confessions extorted by torture without evidence of accusation were not rare.
The Ariostea Library, among the hundreds of thousands of works it houses, offers us an interesting document in this regard, the ´Book of the Executed´. It details 853 death sentences in the middle of the Renaissance period, not only for heresy or contra Dei crimes but also for crimes related to the civil sphere, such as theft and murder. Con-cerning heresies or forbidden cults, it must be said that Ferrara did not miss anything, including Templars, Cathars, and Jews!
However, the ´Book of the Executed´ also reserves another surprise: of all the names listed, only twenty-two are female, helping to dispel the myth of the witch hunt.
All the trials took place in the same place, the square in front of the Church of Saint Domenic, a church that still stands, despite being the most devastated religious building in the 2012 earthquake.
The spire of the Saint Dominic bell tower broke off due to the earthquake, breaking through the roof and ending up inside the building.
The building was erected in 1726 in place of an older church, oriented on the West-East axis: you entered with the darkness of the West to approach in the light of the altar fac-ing East.
The current building has the opposite orientation, but from the old church, dating back to the XIII century, only the bell tower and the Canani chapel, that is the primitive apsi-dal structure, remain. Inside, the church welcomes us with various wonders: paintings of important Ferrarese artists, the magnificent wooden choir of 1384, one of the oldest in the region, and the floor almost entirely covered with ancient tombstones.
Already in the square, one story, in particular, would attract the attention of anyone: it is that of the magician Benato. Accused of using his magic against the Marquis Leonello d´Este, he was sentenced to death and burned at the stake. When the fire was con-sumed, a terrible earthquake struck the city and someone thought of Lucifer or the forc-es of the underworld.
But this is not the only story. In 1744 the physicist and engineer, Bartolomeo Chiozzi, was born in Mantua.
Years later he arrived in Ferrara, where he settled in a large palace. One day, while rum-maging in the cellar, he found a book of magic formulas to invoke the devil. And at this point, the sources split: on the one hand, it would seem that Chiozzi had a faithful serv-ant named Magrino; on the other hand, it seems that Magrino was malicious.
After having sold his soul to the devil, and repented of it, he went to the church of Saint Dominic to purify himself. Magrino, servant or devil, didn´t agree, so he took a goat shape and gave a paw on the door stamping there the devil´s footprint.
Address: Via degli Spadari, 8
NINE KILOMETERS OF HISTORY
Ferrara’s city wall can be explored on foot or by bicycle, any time of the day is ideal for a walk.
It has been there, elegant and imposing, for more than 500 years.
This architectural gem marks out the historic center of Ferrara, declared a World Herit-age Site by UNESCO in 1995.
For centuries it has played an important military and defensive role, protecting its inhab-itants from any type of danger.
The old defensive system is one of the most complete and varied wall circuits existing in Italy. It was studied by the genius Michelangelo Buonarotti as an example of military art.
Nowadays it no longer fulfills that function. In the present time, it maintains a funda-mental role in the city´s landscape since over time it has been transformed into a magnif-icent outdoor garden dedicated to Giorgio Bassani, a writer famous for his Ferrara nov-els.
Walking among defensive towers, gunner towers, gates, and passages, the walls can be visited in their entire length, enjoying some evocative points about the city.
In the trait between the gate Porta Degli Angeli and the Tower of San Giovanni is possi-ble to see on the one side the monumental complex of the Charterhouse, the Jewish Cemetery, and the gardens, among which, noteworthy is Via Delle Erbe, a particular urban campaign enshrined in the heart of the city centre. On the other side is the "Ur-ban" Park Bassani (former game reserve of the Este family).
An essential point in the geography of the walls, and the scene of various events is Porta degli Angeli, better known as the “House of the Executioner”.
It is sited at the end of Corso Ercole I d´Este and considered one of the most beautiful gates of the Renaissance period in Europe. According to tradition, Cesare d´Este, last duke of Ferrara, crossed it while exiting the city, when its city was ceded to the Papal State.
After the restoration of Porta degli Angeli visitors can now go up to the top of the gate and have a panoramic view of the city as it was in the XVI century.
The walls remain an important milestone of Ferrara: not just an imposing witness of a glorious past but rather a lively heart of the city’s social life. In the daytime, usually on Friday, the area of Porta Paola turns into a farmer’s market, rich in local products com-ing from the surrounding countryside; at night, though, the enchanting Tower of San Giovanni becomes a meeting place for Jazz lovers.
Excitement is what fills the days of the walls in Ferrara, which fades away only at the end of the day, when the city and this important character of Emilia-Romagna´s history fall asleep, waiting for another day to come.
Do you dare to travel its 9km in length?
Address: Porta degli Angeli, Rampari di Belfiore, 1
The Cathedral of San Giorgio, in Ferrara, hides many mysteries.
Its façade is as fascinating as mysterious and is still today the subject of constant study, but, what is the reason?
Truly majestic and full of mysteries, the Cathedral is a fascinating set of recurring al-chemical symbols, numbers, and sacred geometries that have always attracted onlookers and scholars.
It dates from 1135 and has two different styles: the lower part of the façade is Rom-anesque style, in the upper part is Gothic style.
Studying the facade carefully it is possible to remark the presence of vegetation among the motifs that cover the entire Christian structure,in fact, the Garden of Eden is repre-sented, with various symbols of Creation.
This is an alchemical nature representation that transforms the entire cathedral into a gigantic tree of life.
Each item deserves an in-depth look, considering that nothing is randomly placed.
The vine leaves recall the wine and therefore the blood of Christ, the palms take us back to the martyrdom of the saints, the acanthus is a bridge between us and the Egyptian kingdom.
At the entrance of the Cathedral of Ferrara, it is impossible not to notice the monstrous figures on the façade. We wonder why such monstrosities have been chosen for the en-trance to the Christian temple?
Maybe the intention was to remind believers of the presence of evil in the world, ready to corrupt the soul at any moment.
On the facade, there is also a representation of hell, where Lucifer tries to swallow the soul of the damned. According to some scholars, this scene recalls the trial of Osiris, an Egyptian image with a monster that swallows the heart of the pharaoh who failed the test to weigh his soul.
Sacred geometry is observed in the architectural perfection of the work, which must represent the house of God on earth. Everything that was asymmetrical and imperfect was considered the work of the devil.
Also of great interest are the columns of the Duomo, located on the right side of the cathedral. They were made by the Comacini masters, famous for their tendency to leave in their works hidden messages relating to alchemical symbolism and hardly fully under-standable.
Address: Piazza della Cattedrale
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR
They were so-called because the first nine knights placed their residence in 1118 in the Holy Land, in a palace erected on the remains of the ancient Temple of Solomon.
The day after the first crusade, they decided to protect the pilgrims and oppose the Muslim presence in places sacred to Christianity.
Over time, they became very powerful. They arise the first modern banking system, and it was precisely the economic affairs that led to their extermination.
Their wealth came from the offerings of the penitents, from the military services, and from the enormous land extensions donated by kings and popes.
Even Innocent III Pope established that they owed no obedience to any state or reli-gious power, except the Pope.
They were also exempt from paying any taxes.
The Order became a consultant, administrator, and depositary of the treasures of various kingdoms. France, with its King Philip IV, so-called Philip the Fair, generated an enor-mous debt with the Temple Order.
This debt and some disagreements with Philip the I cost the lives of the Knights of the Temple, forced them to confess sins never committed, and causing the final dissolution of the Order, on the night of Friday the 13 October 1307. Hence the superstition linked to this disastrous day. They were arrested in mass: it was the beginning of the end.
They had a widespread presence throughout Europe, including Ferrara.
Among the testimonies that we can still find today, there is a bas-relief on the facade of the Cathedral. It represents a Templar knight, Guglielmo III degli Adelardi, governor of Ferrara, who had contact with the Templars in the Holy Land and took the vows. He became a Professed Knight, a high rank that was symbolically represented in the family coat of arms.
In the old church of San Giacomo, now ex-consecrated, Hugo de Payens, the founder of the Order of the Templars, rest for almost a thousand years.
It was a Templar church of great importance since in this same place, the initiated spent the "Vigil of Arms", or the night in prayer before receiving the investiture as a Knight Templar the next day.
Near the Estesi castle, there is the small church of San Giuliano, where meetings and rituals related to the initiations to the Temple were held.
Santa Maria del Tempio or della Rosa is the Templar church par excellence of which, unfortunately, nothing remains today, except the cloister that has been renovated in re-cent times. It was founded in 1156 and dedicated to the Virgin of the Temple, Maria, the woman loved and venerated by the Knights Templar.
Only a few fragments of shields and tombstones linked to the Order remain from this building.
In this church there were Templar initiations and esoteric rituals, perhaps this is one of the reasons why the church no longer exists today.
Thus, on the route of the Templars, there are already several places to visit.
Address: Church of San Giacomo, Vía del Carbone 18; Church of San Giuliano, Largo Castello; Church of Santa Maria del Tempio or della Rosa, Viale Cavour 50
NUEVE KILÓMETROS DE HISTORIA
La muralla de Ferrara se puede recorrer a pie o en bicicleta; cualquier momento del día es ideal para pasear, cualquier excusa siempre es bienvenida.
Al fin y al cabo, está ahí, elegante e imponente, desde hace más de 500 años.
Esa joya arquitectónica acota el centro histórico de Ferrara, declarado Patrimonio de la Humanidad por la UNESCO en 1995.
Durante siglos ha desempeñado una importante función militar y defensiva protegiendo a sus habitantes de cualquier tipo de peligro.
El antiguo sistema defensivo es por otro lado uno de los circuitos de murallas más completos y variados que existen en Italia, estudiado por Miguel Ángel Buonarotti como ejemplo de arte militar.
Hoy en día ya no cumple esa funcione pero, mantienen un papel fundamental dentro del paisaje de la ciudad ya que con el tiempo se han transformado en un magnífico jardín al aire libre dedicado a Giorgio Bassani, escritor famoso por sus novelas de Ferrara.
Entre torres, cañoneras, portones y pasajes, las murallas pueden recorrerse en toda su longitud, disfrutando de algunos puntos evocadores sobre la ciudad.
Este es el caso, por ejemplo, del tramo que va de Porta degli Angeli y Torrione di San Giovanni, desde aquí, es posible admirar por un lado el conjunto monumental de la Certosa, el cementerio judío y las huertas, incluida la famosa Via delle Erbe, un paisaje urbano particular, ubicado en el corazón del centro histórico, mientras que por el otro lado veremos el Parque Bassani, antiguo coto de caza de los Este.
Punto esencial de la geografía de las murallas, y escenario de diversos eventos, una mención especial es para Porta degli Angeli, más conocida como la “Casa del Verdugo”.
Situada al final de la recta del Corso Ercole I d´Este, considerada una de las calles más bellas de la Europa del Renacimiento, cuenta la tradición que Cesare d´Este, el último duque de Ferrara, salió por este camino cuando en 1598, la ciudad pasó al Estado Pontificio.
Tras la restauración de Porta degli Angeli es posible subir a pasear con una vista de 360° como era en el siglo XVI.
Sin embargo, las murallas de Ferrara siguen siendo un lugar vivo de la ciudad, un punto de encuentro y no solo un testigo inerte de un pasado glorioso. Durante el día (generalmente los viernes), la zona de Porta Paola se convierte en un mercado de agricultores, rico en productos locales del campo circundante; por la noche, sin embargo, los amantes de la música jazz se encuentran en la encantadora torre de San Giovanni .
Un frenesí constante caracterizan sus días que sólo se apaciguan cuando la ciudad se va a dormir y con ello también la vida de esta protagonista de la historia de Emilia-Romaña.
¿Te atreves a recorrer sus 9 km de longitud?
Dirección: Porta degli Angeli, Rampari di Belfiore, 1
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