|Castello Estense (construction started in 1385)|
Castello Estense (above) is probably the most iconic image of the town. We admired its bastions and moat every day during our sightseeing walks in town with the kids. Eddie called it "Windy Castle" (after Peppa Pig's castle, of course) and insisted on going through the main courtyard every time we walked in the centre. He doesn't associate it with any dramatic events and horror stories, yet as any castle or palace in history, it has its own share of gruesome stories.
One of these stories is a tragic love affair. Even today if you go down a steep narrow stairway, you can visit the cell that held the sad lovers Ugo and Parisina. Parisina Malatesta was the second wife of Marquis Niccolo III, who was much older than her. After seven years of marriage to the old rake, she fell in love with her stepson Ugo, and he was smitten with her as well. Their love affair was discovered, and two young lovers were beheaded on the orders of the Marquis. It happened in 1425. She was 20 years old, and Ugo was 19. Can you imagine to be married at 13 to an old goat? Cruel times.
Then there is a majestic Cathedral, or Il Duomo, consecrated in 1135. It is dedicated to St George, the patron saint of Ferrara. There are a couple of statues of Savonarola, the passionate Dominican friar. It seems that the Ferraresi are proud of their son. But I always feel uncomfortable, looking at his images, when I think that this radical and campaigner for moral purity was responsible for so many crimes against art.
Whenever we visit, my guys admire the lions and gryphons nearby Il Duomo, and here is Eddie the conqueror atop one of the lions. My husband says many generations of kids in Ferrara sat on those old sculptures, and he himself remembers climbing on them fondly.
|Old cloisters with the fountains|
|Outside Palazzo Diamante|
Wander through the narrow streets of the old town behind the Duomo, and get lost in time. Some parts of the town look exactly the same as they were many centuries ago. They have hardly changed at all.
|Peekaboo in the cloisters|
I love our walks and discoveries. There are so many beautiful houses and streets, some of them might be deceptively plain outside and look like a museum inside. On the last day of our stay in Ferrara, as we were leaving the house to go for a walk, an elderly neighbour invited us over to her garden to look at her tortoises. The entrance hall with its Renaissance high ceiling and frescoes on the walls would make any small museum proud, and yet, they keep bikes in the hall, as if it's the most natural thing to do.
|One of the many palaces in Ferrara|
My in-laws also have some incredibly beautiful interior details like this ceiling in the entrance hall. That's what I love about the old houses, they make me think of who lived there and what stories it could tell.
P.S. My blog title "I Ferraresi e Tutti i Gatti" means The Ferraresi and all the cats (reference to many cats in town, and to our in-laws' collection of cats.).