Ferrara is an interesting city in the Emilia Romagna region north of Bologna and south of Venice. The historic center of Ferrara has been included on the list of World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO as a great example of a town planned in the Renaissance that has managed to keep the basic design of its historical center intact into the modern period. The town planning in Renaissance Ferrara had a deep influence on the progress of Italian town planning over the following centuries.
Our map below shows the best central hotel we've found, and the attractions and restaurants in the historic center of Ferrara.
Ferrara is on the Florence-Bologna-Venice line, which is not a bad train line to plan a vacation around (see our Italy Train Map to put it all into perspective).
You can drive into Ferrara, of course, the parking lots are well-marked as you enter the city.
The main way to get around Ferrara is by bicycle or by walking. You can rent a bike near the train station, or possibly at your hotel. To save some hassle, Viator offers walking and biking tours of Ferrara.
Use the controls on the left to zoom out to see Ferrara inside the walls.
Recommended Places to Stay in Ferrara
Albergo Annunziata is perfectly situated; its front rooms have a wonderful view of the Este Castle (try for rooms 101, 201 or 301). Breakfast is advertised as "American" but I've yet to find an American buffet with caviar on it. That is to say it is a lavish buffet, even more amazing since the hotel is in Italy, home of the cellophane-wrapped industrial "brioche" which stands in for breakfast for an entire population of foodies. Bikes are available for your transportation.
Touring Hotel Ferrara is a good budget bet.
Top Ferrara Sights
The Walls - Yes, as in Lucca, Ferarra's walls, over 9 km of them are worth exploring--stroll or bike, your choice. The city walls were commissioned by Duke Ercole I d'Este and built between 1493 and 1505 with walking paths. You can download a printable PDF map or read about the wall excursions.
Palazzo dei Diamanti by Biagio Rossetti, built starting from 1493, is an interesting example of Renaissance architecture and houses National Gallery of Art in Ferrara (Pinacoteca Nazionale).
Ferrara's Renaissance Carnival is held during the carnival season (check here for dates). Food is one of the focuses, and restaurants will celebrate the local foods.
Around May, the Palio di Ferrara horse race is run (check web site for dates). The weekends before are full of medieval games and competitions. First recorded in 1259, it claims to be the oldest of these kinds of horse races in the world.
Just before the Palio, Ferrara puts on a really fabulous competition called "gare degli sbandieratori del Palio di Ferrara" or the flag-throwers of the Palio di Ferrara competition. See some pictures: Flag Throwing Contest in Ferrara.
Then you may wish to read my impressions of Ferrara: People and the Boredom of a Balanced Place.
An interesting day trip (or longer) takes you to the town of Comacchio, where you can take an interesting wetland tour that teaches you about the eel trade in the Po delta territory. A little over an hour on the train or by car takes you to the Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna. It takes about 15 minutes longer to get to Venice from Ferarra.
To see more details about an itinerary that includes the places you've just read about, see Suggested Itinerary: Ferrara and the Eastern Emilia Romagna
Here is a taste of what goes on at the flag throwing competition.