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Ferrara and the Po Delta

This itinerary will accompany you to discover Ferrara, a city rich in art and history, and the characteristic lands ape of the Po Delta, where Italy's main river meets the Adriatic Sea, giving rise to a unique environment of woods and lagoons.
The itinerary can be done in two or more days, it is worth spending the night to explore these areas at a relaxing pace. You can choose from a selection of hotels in Ferrara for a stay characterized by relaxation and charm. For those who prefer a different type of accommodation, there is a vast selection of cozy bed-and-breakfasts in Ferrara or one of the numerous country guesthouses in Ferrara and the Po Delta.

Ferrara, a city on Unesco's World Heritage List, is striking due to its own special charm, a city suspended between the Middle Ages and Renaissance. We suggest visiting it by bike, the preferred method of transportation for 90% of its inhabitants. In the past it was the capital of the rich Este dukedom, which is why the inhabitants of Ferrara are still called "estensi".

The heart of the city is the medieval square the Cathedral stands on. The Cathedral, started in the 12th century, it is a harmonious mixture of different styles. The lower part of the three cusp facade is Romanesque, the upper part is a splendid example of Gothic architecture decorated with a grandiose "Universal Judgement: sculpted in the central part. The southern side is characterized by a portico of the medieval workshops. The interior, rebuilt in the 17th century, houses lovely works of art, including: on the altar next to the right transept, "Martyr of San Lorenzo" by Guercino; and "Universal Judgement" by Bastianino in the apse.

Estense Castle dating back to the 14th century, when it was built to defend the Este family from popular revolts. It became the official residence of the Dukes in the 16th century and was completely redesigned, becoming one of the most admired aristocratic residences of the time. The interior with 16th century frescoes can be visited in its entirety; the "Giardino degli Aranci" deserves special mention.

The Herculean Expansion: in 1942 Duke Ercole d'Este ordered the expansion of the city towards the north with a state of the art design. The new quarter shaped by wide straight streets, contains elegant buildings like Palazzo dei Diamanti and the famous Piazza Ariostea.
Palazzo dei Diamanti owes its name to the wonderful rustication facade which recalls the shape of diamonds. Its current appearance dates back to the end of the 16th century when Cesare d'Este chose it as his residence. Splendid decorated halls and even more importantly the Pinacoteca Nazionale can be visited inside it. The latter is home to works by Gentile da Fabriano, Ercole de'Roberti and Carpaccio among others. International level art shows are regularly held in the building.
Palazzina Marfisa is another flamboyant Este family residence dating back to the 16th century. It is worth visiting to see its extensive collection of art objects and antique furniture on display in its rooms.

From Ferrara the itinerary continues heading east to Comacchio, the entrance to the large Po Delta Natural Park, an area of 54 hectares filled with woods, rivers, lagoons and marshy valleys. It is the vastest protected wetland in Italy, an area filled with natural environments which are home to hundreds of animal and plant species. An infinite number of excursions on foot or by bike are possible in the Park. Numerous boats depart from the ports of Goro and Gorino and follow fascinating routes along the river.

Comacchio is the most original and fascinating town on the Po Delta. It was built during the Middle Ages on thirteen islands and based its development exclusively on the water. Today it is a city with intact and unique architectural characteristics, made up of canals, 17th century buildings, low, colorful houses and famous landmark bridges. The town overlooks Valli di Comacchio, a marshy lagoon of 13,000 hectares where the eel and a myriad of birds reign. It is possible to visit it on foot, by bike or in comfortable boats. The Museo delle Valli opens in the area called Casone Foce, an itinerary along the banks and canals inside the valleys which illustrates the age-old relationship between civilization and nature in these fascinating environments.

Pomposa Abbey is a Benedictine abbey situated at the edge of Mesola Wood. The abbey dates back to the 6th century and was a great center of culture and prayer. The interior of the church conserves the columns with Byzantine and Romanesque capitals and a wonderful series of frescoes. The over 50 meter Romanesque bell tower is famous.

Mesola Wood is what now remains of a very vast woody area dating back to the year one thousand. The wood is an intact reserve and has different landscapes, including areas with marsh vegetation and fauna. Do not miss the area called "Taglio della Falce" at the southern edge of the wood, where it is possible to see an extremely charming view. The wood can be visited on foot or by bike from March to October: Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and holidays. Bikes can be rented at the entrance to the Wood.

Photos courtesy of: APT Servizi, Regione Emilia Romagna, Comune di Bologna.

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