Is Ferrara worth visiting? There are seven main towns and cities in the Italian food valley, the region of Emilia-Romagna. Ferrara is the main town in its province. A town that you must visit if you’re headed on a round trip in Emilia-Romagna! If you’re looking for day trips from Bologna, Ferrara is again a great pick! It is fairly close, and you can easily get there by public transport as well. You can read all the how’s at the end of this Ferrara blog, but for now, let’s see the best things to do in Ferrara Italy!
15 things to do in Ferrara Italy
So, is Ferrara worth visiting, you’re asking? As Ferrara is part of the UNESCO world heritage sights, the historic center is a great example of Italian medieval and Renaissance architecture. The city’s history is strongly connected to the Este family, who ruled in Ferrara for centuries. There are plenty of great reasons to visit the city, and you can see how some of them in this Ferrara blog! So here come the 15 best things to do in Ferrara Italy!
1. Historic center of Ferrara
Like every town in Emilia-Romagna, Ferrara has a unique, heart-warming charm. The medieval, colorful streets, the wooden window shades, and the architectural masterpieces are present all around the historic center. The charming alleyways, tiny streets in the historic center of Ferrara are just fabulous! Heading on a walk here is a must of the things to do in Ferrara Italy!
To find these random alleyways, and beautiful streets, you don’t have to do anything else, just google up the area of Via delle Volte. Then, just get lost in the area! There’s so much charm on every corner, so much color and life on every angle. When you’re visiting Ferrara, but basically any town or city in Italy, wandering around without a specific destination is something you must do! The beauty is always in the details, and this is very true for the historic centers of the Italian towns!
2. Cathedral of Ferrara and the cathedral museum
The 2nd best of the things to do in Ferrara Italy is the Ferrara Cathedral. On Piazza delle Cattedrale, opposite the Ferrara City Hall, you’ll see the San Giorgio Cathedral. The cathedral has an impressive architectural blend of Romanesque and Gothic style and basically, that’s what it’s most famous for. Unfortunately at the time of my visit in October 2020, the scaffolding was still up on the facade, so we couldn’t see just bits of this amazing masterpiece.
An interesting part of the San Giorgio Cathedral in Ferrara is, that its facade is covered in marble, while the sides were left unfinished. You can also notice Renaissance elements on the facade, that is combined with Romanesque. The lower part of the building was done in the 12th century, while the upper part was built later on. This has a visible difference in its architecture, and it also makes it unique.
3. Cathedral Museum in Ferrara
While the Cathedral Museum in Ferrara is linked to the Cathedral of San Giorgio, it is an amazing attraction on its own! You should definitely add it to your list of things to do in Ferrara Italy!
While visiting the museum, you’ll get a glimpse of knowledge of the fascinating history of the San Giorgio Cathedral as well as other religious buildings across Ferrara. The museum also showcases the blooming and evolution of Ferrara during the Renaissance. You’ll see a range of religious artwork, artifacts, and relics including pieces of an organ, but crucifixes as well as many other items.
The museum is right across the Piazza Trento e Trieste, on the right side of the cathedral. While visiting, you’ll get to see also this beautiful courtyard, that features a series of ornate arches and an ancient well in the middle.
4. Piazza Trento e Trieste
As I have mentioned above, Piazza Trento e Trieste is on the right-hand side of San Giorgio Cathedral of Ferrara. In the middle of the square, there’s a daily market. You’ll find here food, arts and crafts as well as all types of decorative items and souvenirs. The piazza is packed with restaurants and cafes with outdoor tables if you wish to stop by for a coffee or an aperitivo with a stunning view on the side! Let’s see some more things to do in Ferrara Italy, shall we?
5. Loggia dei Merciai
The next of the things to do in Ferrara Italy is another highlight of the Piazza Trento e Trieste, which should be on your list of things to do in Ferrara, is the Loggia dei Merciai. On the road that runs along the side of the cathedral, you’ll see the ancient merchant’s shops, that are tucked beneath the terracotta tiled roofs. Today the spaces of merchant’s shops are replaced with modern stores, but they will still give you a glimpse of the commercial trade of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
More things to do in Ferrara Italy
6. Torre dell’Orologio – Ferrara
After the Ferrara Cathedral, my second favorite building on Piazza Trento e Trieste is definitely the Torre dell’Orologio. It’s a single clock tower, connected with arches on two sides to the neighboring buildings. This is one of the main entrances from the south to the central piazzas of the city of Ferrara. Now we can move outside the main piazza with this Ferrara blog.
7. Este Castle – Castello Estense
The Castello Estense is definitely one of the best things to do in Ferrara Italy. As once Italy was composed of city-states, the noble families that have been ruling each area played a really important part in the development of those. Ferrara was ruled by the Este family between the 12th and the 15th century, and the Castello Estense was their home.
The castle was fortified, and it was surrounded by a moat, so it gave the rulers the highest protection possible. The castle is standing still intact, surrounded still by water. Castello Estense has four towers and a drawbridge as well. You can enter the courtyard for free to look around, but you can also visit the museum functioning inside the fortress.
8. Rotonda Foschini
An extra stop-by you can add to your list of fun things to do in Ferrara, while visiting the Estense castle is the Rotonda Foschini. It’s just across the road, literally 2 steps away from the castle. The courtyard is part of the Teatro Communale of Ferrara, and you can just walk in to look around. The elliptical Rotonda is a great spot for a shot, so those in love with photography will surely appreciate a stop by! So is Ferrara worth visiting? If you’re still not convinced, let’s see some more of the best things to do in Ferrara Italy!
9. Diamond Palace
Another of the best things to do in Ferrara Italy! The Diamond Palace is located on Corso Ercole d’Este, really close to the Parco Massari. The first reason why the Palazzo dei Diamanti is really popular is the more than 8500 pieces of faceted marble blocks covering the outside of the building. It is truly impressive and beautiful!
This was an early Renaissance architectural style that was introduced into Ferrara as part of the Addizione Erculea, which was a project of the Este duke, to remake Ferrara at the end of the 15th century.
You can also enter inside the courtyard to have a look around for free. However, if you’re already there, you can add to your list of things to do in Ferrara a visit into the art gallery! The collection contains pieces from the 13th to the 17th century, from remarkable local and regional artists mainly!
10. Via delle Volte
As I have mentioned before, the medieval and the Renaissance styles, and the combination of the two are present all over the city center. You can walk by the Renaissance architecture, and step right back into the Middle Ages. One of those streets that you must add to your list of things to do in Ferrara is a stroll on Via delle Volte! The cobble-stoned street that also has above you many passageways and residences is something spectacular! All this forms an arched tunnel of the medieval street, that’s really worth visiting!
11. Corso Ercole d’Este
Corso Ercole d’Este was part of the Este duke’s project at the end of the 15th century, while he intended to remake Ferrara. This street runs from Castello Estense, having on the other end the Diamond Palace. Steps away from that, also the Massari Park. The architecture along the street is another example of a combination between the medieval and the Renaissance. It’s really worth adding to your list of things to see in Ferrara while walking down to the Diamond Palace!
11. Piazza del Municipio
Another of the best things to do in Ferrara Italy! Piazza del Municipio is right across the square facing the Cathedral of Ferrara. The piazza is on the courtyard of the old Palazzo Ducale of Ferrara, and it’s a must-visit for your list of things to do in Ferrara! Piazza del Municipio is covered in vibrant orange colors, lined with beautiful buildings.
12. Scalone d’Onore
When you’re entering under the stunning archway flanked by the statues of members of the Este Family, you’ll see on your right the Scalone d’Onore. The 15th century Renaissance staircase is made of marble, and the walls are covered in orange. The view over the piazza from the top of the stairs is also beautiful!
13. Parco Massari
If you want to leave behind the historic center and explore some green areas, you should definitely add to your list of things to do in Ferrara the Parco Massari! As previously mentioned, the park is located right across the road near the Diamond Palace.
Walking under the huge old trees, visiting the water fountain as well as the Palazzo Massari can be a great activity especially for those who visit Ferrara with family! While you’re here, if you wish to explore more churches in Ferrara, you can also visit the Chiesa di San Cristoforo alla Certosa.
14. Le Mure di Ferrara
The walls of Ferrara, just as everything else inside the town center are UNESCO protected. The beauty of them is, that through the centuries, with wars and time passing, they are still intact. You can walk or cycle along with them, as there’s also a cycle path that’s including the 9 km long wall as well.
15. Where to eat in Ferrara?
Okay, so eating is one of the best things to do in Ferrara Italy, so it definitely can’t miss from this Ferrara blog post! The cappellacci is one of the most popular local dishes in Ferrara. The cappellacci di zucca (pumpkin) al ragu is definitely something you should try when you visit Ferrara! We have found a really great osteria called Osteria I Quattro Angeli, which was amazing! We’ve been with my Italian friends on a day trip in Ferrara, and everyone was super satisfied with the restaurant pick, so we can all highly recommend checking out this place! If you’re looking for food in Ferrara, definitely try the Cappellacci di Zucca al Ragu!
Also, if you want to find out more about the food in the region, check out my Emilia Romagna food guide! If you’ve been asking is Ferrara worth visiting, I’d say yes! If for nothing else, for the food for sure!
When to visit Ferrara and how to arrive?
As the whole region, Ferrara is also the busiest during the summer months! However thanks to the climate, it can be a great destination for a round trip in Emilia-Romagna in the spring or autumn too! If you’re picking the summer for a visit, you can also add Rimini and other seaside destinations of Emilia-Romagna to your list. However, if you are on a roundtrip in the region, I do suggest visiting Bologna, Modena, Parma, Reggio-Emilia, and Piacenza as well!
If you’re using public transport, you can either travel by bus or train to Ferrara. You have direct trains from Bologna as well as from Venice. If you’re headed from other destinations, you might want to check if there are direct trains, or you have to change somewhere! In case you’re arriving in Ferrara by car, keep in mind to look up for parking outside the city center! There are spots where you can enter by car until a certain distance in the historic center of Ferrara, however, finding a parking space will be definitely a challenge!
Where to stay in Ferrara?
Depending on your preferences, you can choose between a range of accommodations in Ferrara. As for a 4* hotel with a great rating you can check out Hotel Annunziata. If you’re looking for an apartment then another high-rated pick could be the San Guglielmo Apartments. However, apartments are plenty to choose from, and you can find many on booking.com just make sure to always check the ratings and reviews! Now that would be all for now that I wanted to include in this Ferrara blog psot, hope you’ve found everything you wanted!