This route leads through the heart of the city to explore its distant origins. During this excursion, there are plenty of beautiful churches to admire, each with its own unique history to tell, and you will discover the religious and military origins of Ferrara.

 

Duration: 2 hours
Length: 5 km
Road type: mixed paved/dirt road
Number of stops: 8
Departure/end point: Piazza Cattedrale
 
  1. ST. GEORGE’S CATHEDRAL
The interior can be visited; the façade is under restauration
The church was consecrated in 1135 and dedicated to Saint George, the city’s patron saint. The lower register of the façade is Romanesque in style, with its elegant portal, attributed to the sculptor Nicholaus, while the upper register is Gothic. The southern side, conceived of as a second façade, is covered in a series of arches (65) of different shapes and sizes. Exactly in the centre of them, dating to the early 1700s, the Porta dei Mesi (Door of the Months), was once decorated with small sculptures representing the agricultural work done in each month of the year (now kept at the Cathedral Museum).

 
  • After admiring the southern side of the cathedral, at the end of the square turn left on Via Canonica. After a few meters, turn right at Via Voltapaletto, once called Via San Francesco, which leads to the church of the same name.
 
  1. BASILICA DI SAN FRANCESCO
Partially open to the public
This church may be the most-tipically ‘Renaissance’ among the churches of Ferrara, with a Latin cross floor plan, three naves and eight chapels per side.
It was designed by Biagio Rossetti but there was a lack of founds to complete it. To be built, everyone set aside some money, including the Este family, the wealthiest among the faithful and even the Franciscan friars. After a number of other setbacks, it was finally consecrated in 1594.
The convent, very little of which is still standing, was the headquarters of the Ferrara Law School, whose most famous alumnus was the great Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus.

 
  • Continue on Via Savonarola and then on Via Cisterna del Follo. At the end of the street, follow the signage for Santa Maria in Vado.
 
  1. BASILICA DI SANTA MARIA IN VADO
Open to the public
Santa Maria in Vado is without a doubt the most famous place of worship in the historical centre of Ferrara.
This church is known for its blood miracle: according to local tradition, on March, 28th, 1171 (Easter), when the priest leading mass broke the blessed wafer representing the host, spurts of blood began gushing out of it, brushing against the small vault of the apse above the altar, which still today bears the mark of the event. The Sanctuary of the Holy Blood is found on the right transept.

 
  • Continue along Via Borgovado, turn left onto Carlo Mayr and continue until you reach the end of the street.
 
  1. CHIESA DI SANTA MARIA DELLA VISITAZIONE OR DELLA MADONNINA
Closed for restoration
The name Madonnina is connected  to a Marian image considered to be miraculous, found intact after the door on which it was hung was knocked down. People were so devoted to her that Duke Alfonso I d’Este had the church built to commemorate the event, consecrating it in 1531.

 
  • At the traffic light on Viale Alfonso I d’Este, turn right until reaching the bridge of San Giorgio. Having crossed the Po di Volano River, just to the right is a pedestrian crossing.
 
  1. BASILICA DI SAN GIORGIO FUORI LE MURA (SAINT GEORGE OUSIDE THE WALLS)
Open to the public
This basilica was the first cathedral in the city, built around 650 on a tract of land emerging from the marshes. At the centre of the façade, completely redone in 1722 based on the drawings of sculptor Andrea Ferreri, is a grandiose marble medallion representing Saint George slying the dragon.

 
  • Return to the pedestrian crossing and walk your bicycle over the bridge. Cross Via Volano and continue on the bicycle path to your left. After 500 m turn right to travel along the area just below the walls until Porta San Pietro. Go up the ramp, enter into Via Quartieri and turn right on Via Beatrice II d’Este, following the signage for Sant’Antonio in Polesine.
 
  1. MONASTERY OF S. ANTONIO IN POLESINE
Open to the public
This monastery has an enchanted, delicate aura, seeped with religious devotion. It was founded in the 1200s by Beatrice d’Este, daughter of Azzo d’Este. Known for her devot Christian faith, she died at the age of 36. Her cultus began when the faithful, having realized they had seen her for the last time, were given the water that had been used to wash her body by her fellow nuns. Of course, this water was nothing short of prodigious. Afraid her relics would waste away, it was decided to conserve them in an urn that, in turn, began to produce condensation that was gathered and given to the faithful. Today, her bones are kept in a silver and copper reliquary, while the Tears of the Saint continue to flow from the sepulchral stone of the cloister.

 
  • Now head towards the oldest part of the city, the Byzantine castrum. Take Via Gambone and, once you’ve come to Via XX Settembre, turn left. Go down Via Porta San Pietro and, at the intersection, turn left onto Via Carlo Mayr. When you see the arch of Via Cammello, head down that road.
 
  1. CASTRUM, THE ORIGINS OF THE CITY
Via Cammello, one of the roads surrounding the castrum, is so called because Antonio Cammelli once lived here, an artist linked to the Este court who dedicated over 400 sonnets to Isabella d’Este. Where you stand now was also once the left bank of the Po. This is the site of the U-shaped Byzantine castrum, a founding settlement of early Medieval Ferrara built by the Byzantine empire against Lombard invasions.
 
  • At the end of Via Cammello, turn left, then continue down the entire length of Via Saraceno and Via Mazzini until reaching the end of the route, which started with the St. George’s Cathedral and which ends with the museum of the same Cathedral.
 
  1. CATHEDRAL MUSEUM – THE FORMER CHURCH OF SAN ROMANO
Open to the public
From the street, you will already note the beauty of the inner courtyard, consisting of a series of ancient columns. Constructed in the 10th century, the church was used as a prison in the 1700s and a hardware shop in the early 1900s. Today, however, it is the headquarters of the Cathedral Museum. Among the pieces on display, the ancient organ doors from the cathedral stand out, an absolute masterpiece by Cosmè Tura, as do the sculptures from the Door of the Months, the Magnificent Madonna of the Pomegranate by Jacopo della Quercia, the grandiose tapestries and the illuminated choral books.


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