There’s a small city in northern Italy that makes visitors feel as if they have stepped back in time–far, far back in time. This city is named Ferrara, and it’s one of the most underrated towns in the beautiful country of Italy. Ferrara (not to be confused with Ferrari) is an incredibly preserved medieval and Renaissance town, with old city walls, narrow cobblestone streets and grand cathedrals. And don’t even get me started on the food. I’ve traveled all over Italy, but some of my very favorite meals were in the small town of Ferrara.
On my recent trip to Italy, I wanted to venture out of the big, tourist-filled cities and explore old, authentic Italian towns, which is how I ended up in Ferrara. My trip to Ferrara was rather spur-of-the-moment, since I like to keep my travel plans flexible, so to book my accommodations I simply pulled up my HotelTonight app and found a great last-minute hotel in Ferrara. Once I had a room waiting for me in the heart of this beautiful old city, I hopped on the train from Florence and made my way to the lovely city of Ferrara, Italy.
When you visit Ferrara, you’ll be in awe of the beautifully preserved architecture of the historical buildings throughout the walled city. One of the city’s most impressive buildings remains the Castello Estense, a striking castle built back in 1385. With its medieval stone walls and its water-filled moat, Castello Estense looks like something out of a movie, and the interior of the castle is even more fascinating. Inside the Estense castle, you’ll find the exquisite living quarters of the nobility as well as dark dungeons where prisoners were held and tortured. The history of this castle is just as interesting as its architecture, so you shouldn’t skip it when you’re in Ferrara.
Located in the heart of the oldest part of Ferrara is the Jewish district, which still preserves the history and culture of the Jewish community of this Italian town. Ferrara had a strong Jewish population for centuries, and while the Jews of Ferrara succeeded in some eras, they faced staggering racial persecution during others. If you want to learn about the history of the Jews in Ferrara, you cannot miss this well-preserved neighborhood during your stay. In addition to its long, storied history, the old Jewish area features beautiful architecture, charming squares and fantastic restaurants.
As you wander through Ferrara, you’ll come across many squares that are full of beauty, charm and impressive historic monuments, but the Piazza Trento Trieste is certainly the square you’ll want to photograph the most. This square features the stunning Ferrara Cathedral, an architectural wonder that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Cathedral’s construction began in the 1100s, but it was updated throughout the centuries, so in just one building you can see architectural styles like medieval, Gothic and Renaissance. While the Cathedral is certainly the focal point of Piazza Trento Trieste, there are plenty of other reasons to visit this square, such as great dining options and beautiful architecture. During my visit to Ferrara, I quickly discovered that Piazza Trento Trieste is the beating heart of the city, so it’s a square you’ll probably want to spend a lot of time in during your stay.
Whether or not you’re interested in the history of the Monastero di S. Antonio in Polesine, you should search for this impressive complex just to explore the medieval area of the city. The streets surrounding the Monastery date back to the Middle Ages, and you’ll immediately notice the difference between this area and the grand, bright neighborhoods from the Renaissance. These streets compose the oldest part of Ferrara, so they’re narrow, tangled and lined with beautiful historic buildings. The area surrounding the Monastery was one of my favorite parts of Ferrara, and I’d recommend strolling through these winding alleys to anyone visiting this Italian town.
Like many old Italian towns, Ferrara is enclosed by old medieval walls. Ferrara’s walls, which were built to protect the city from invaders, remain some of the best preserved in all of Italy, so they’re well worth checking out during your stay. I decided to see the old walls on a bike, and I cycled past historic city gates, impressive towers and bastions, and it was one of the highlights of my Italy trip.
After spending a few days in the beautiful old town of Ferrara, I couldn’t quite understand why this isn’t one of the most popular destinations in Italy. Sure, it’s smaller than cities like Florence and Rome, but it’s full of incredible history, phenomenal architecture and delicious food. I enjoyed every moment of my time in Ferrara, and I certainly plan to return in the future. When I do plan my next trip to Italy, I will definitely rely on HotelTonight to book my last-minute hotel in Ferrara so that I can once again immerse myself in the beauty, history, and culture of this charming Italian town.