It all began on 29 September 1385, the day of Saint Michael, protector of city gates and fortresses, when the first stone of the famous Estense Castle, also known as the "Castello di San Michele", was laid.
The Estense Castle, symbol of Ferrara, was strongly desired by the Marquis Nicolo II d'Este as a means of political and military control following various and dangerous riots that had occurred within the city. The architect who conceived such a magnificent work was Bartolino di Novara, the same author of the Castle of Mantua, which in fact has very similar design characteristics. They are both surrounded by a large moat and defended by avant-corps and ravelins connected with drawbridges.
Years after the end of the construction works, the riots in the city finally ceased, and it was at that moment that the Estense Castle began to change: it became the residence of one of the most renowned families of the time. It was in fact enriched and embellished, it was slender with roof terraces above the towers, marble balconies were built, a sixteenth-century style courtyard was built, the apartments were frescoed, and today the museum itinerary is full of very important collections, both for value as much as for consistency. In fact, you can admire paintings, tapestries, refined objects, illuminated manuscripts, ancient coins, weapons and much more.
Characteristics of the Castle are the four towers that still today tower over the whole city, at the four corners of the structure: To the South-East the Marchesana Tower, to the South-West the San Paolo Tower, to the North-West the Santa Caterina Tower and North-East the splendid Torre dei Leoni.
And it is by climbing the Torre dei Leoni, the oldest of the Castle and the only panoramic point, that you reach the top, thanks to its 120 steps, and you can enjoy a breathtaking view: you can admire the squares of the historic centre, the red of the terracotta houses, the countless bell towers of the churches and even the famous walls.
Even today, the Estense Castle represents a rare example of architecture, and below the level of the courtyard, it has been possible to recover large, enchanting rooms, characterized by their barrel vault and the still original terracotta flooring. Their ancient function was that of warehouses and access to the pier, from which it was possible to leave the castle on board small boats, hence the name "imbarcaderi". Furthermore, the prisons of the castle, located at the level of the moat, are located in the basement of the tower of the Lions, and were used for imprisonments that required particular surveillance.
The Castle of Ferrara contains hundreds of years of history, and having reached the year 1598, it witnesses the devolution of Ferrara to the State of the Church: the Este family left Ferrara and from that moment their heritage began to be dispersed all over the world.
Today, the Estense Castle has become a museum, set up by the architect Gae Aulenti. You can embark on an unmissable narrative journey that allows you to deepen your knowledge and immerse yourself in the incredible history of this stupendous fortress.
Entering the courtyard of the Estense Castle, you will be fascinated by its history and by that of the characters who lived there; you will immerse yourself in the events related to the Este family, in those of the unification of Italy, finally passing through the vicissitudes related to the Papal State; you will walk among the splendid orange trees located in the panoramic garden, called precisely the "Giardino degli aranci" and created at the behest of Alfono I d'Este; you will be able to hear the story of Ugo and Parisina Malatesta and learn about the unfortunate fate of these two famous lovers; you will visit the dungeons, in whose cells Giulio d'Este was imprisoned in 1506 together with Don Ferrante d'Este for having attempted the life of the Duke and his brother, Cardinal Ippolito. Don Ferrante died in the prisons 34 years after the beginning of the confinement, while for Giulio the fate was more unfortunate and he died in the dungeons 53 years later. These are two of the stories that most fascinate visitors to the Estense Castle Museum.
Last but not least, you can admire the marvelous frescoes that adorn the rooms of the "Appartamento dello Specchio" and the "Sala degli Stemmi". The latter was so called because all the coats of arms of the cardinal Papal Legates who resided in the Estense Castle were placed on the walls; entering the Sala degli Stemmi you will immediately notice a black box. The story goes that the coat of arms of Count Filippo Folicardi, implicated in a smuggling process, was removed in 1856 from the north wall of the Hall of Coats of Arms and consequently also his memory, as it was no longer worthy of being part of the decorative system of the room inside the court.
Give yourself the opportunity to stay in Ferrara and embark on this adventure between history and time and you will see that it will leave you pleasantly surprised. Ferrara is a city full of stories, secret loves, breathtaking architectural works and magic, but telling it is not enough, you have to live it!
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The Estense Castle of Ferrara has obtained the status of QUALITY MUSEUM recognized by the Institute for Cultural Heritage of Emilia-Romagna.
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