City of Renaissance
The origins of Ferrara are wrapped in mystery. Its name is mentioned for the first time in a document dating to 753 A.D., issued by the Longobard king Desiderius. In the earliest Centuries of its life the city had several different rulers, later it gained enough freedom to become an independent Comune. After some years of fierce internal struggles between the Guelph and the Ghibelline factions, the Este family took control the city.
The great cultural season began in 1391, when the University was founded, and afterwards culture and magnificence grew unceasingly. Artists like Leon Battista Alberti, Pisanello, Piero della Francesca, Rogier van der Weyden and Tiziano came to Ferrara and the local pictorial school, called “Officina Ferrarese” produced the masterpieces of Cosmè Tura, Ercole de’ Roberti and Francesco del Cossa. The best musicians of the time worked for the Dukes of Ferrara, who also inspired tha immortal poetry of Boiardo, Ariosto and Tasso.
Niccolò III, the diplomat, Leonello, the intellectual, Borso, the magnificent, Ercole I, the constructor, and Alfonso I, the soldier: there are the names of some famous lords of Ferrara, still recalled together with those of the family’s princesses: the unlucky Parisina Malatesta, the wise Eleonora d’Aragona, the beautiful and slandered Lucrezia Borgia, Renée of France, the intellectual follower of Calvinism.
Lying in the middle of the Po Valley, Ferrara still has the atmosphere of the past, which blends in harmoniously with the lively atmosphere of the present.
Ferrara’s most famous image is certainly that of its grand Renaissance, the age of splendour of the Estense court, which has left indelible signs everywhere: in the colossal Addizione Erculea project, in the impressive pictorial cycles belonging to the Quattrocento and Cinquecento. From 1995 on, UNESCO has included the historical centre of Ferrara in the list of World Cultural Heritage as a wonderful example of a town planned in the Renaissance and still keeping its historical centre intact. The urban architecture expressed in Ferrara at the end of XV Century – the so-called “Addizione Erculea” – had a deep and worldwide influence on the progress of town planning in the following centuries.