Ferrara, earth and water
There is much more around Ferrara than just the Po delta. It’s true that the regional park (parco regionale), with its marshes and ponds, vast pinewoods, and iridescent light, is a superb example of unspoilt wilderness.
But a short drive (or bicycle ride) away from Ferrara you will also find a rich array of Benedictine churches, archaeological sites, castles, art galleries and palaces included in Unesco’s World Heritage list. If you don’t have much time and are forced to choose your destinations carefully, an absolute must-see is the Abbazia di Pomposa and another abbey in Comacchio.
A vividly frescoed masterpiece of Romanesque and Byzantine architecture and art, Pomposa can be seen from a significant distance thanks to its tall belltower. Comacchio looks like a smaller version of Venice: a maze of canals spanned by 17th-century bridges and lined with houses painted in pastel shades.
The main highlight is the Trepponti bridge, dating back to 1634. A far less known sight is the Town hall (Municipio), where right in front of the mayor’s office there is a collection of carnival costumes designed by the local painter Remo Brindisi, who died in 1996. And on that topic, the nearby town of Lido di Spina has a museum dedicated to the artist. It is housed in Brindisi’s futuristic villa, a building with an irregular plan, circular corridors and a winding staircase. Another interesting place to visit in Comacchio is the archaeological museum containing the well-preserved Roman ship that was found there. While walking under the porticoes leading to the Capuchin monastery (Loggiato dei Cappuccini) look out for the very peculiar Manifattura dei Marinati.
Once this was a factory making the town’s main produce – fish marinades – but now it is a museum which still contains the original structures and equipment and has twelve fireplaces, spits and barrels. A few miles south of Comacchio are the Valli di Comacchio, which were once a vast lagoon and are now a complex of wetlands, stretches of water, low hills and salt marshes. Typical buildings of this area are fishing huts called casoni; 8 out of the original 150 casoni are still standing and can be reached by motor boat. Heading inland from the Po delta near Argenta there is another protected area, the Oasi di Campotto.
In Argenta you can rent a bike and pedal around to take a look at small gems like the oldest church of the area, the 6th-century parish church (pieve) of San Giorgio, half-hidden behind a curtain of trees. Cento, too, is worth a visit: this elegant town with 17th-century porticoes was the birthplace of the famous painter Guercino, whose masterpieces are kept at the Pinacoteca Civica.
Last but not least, a tour of the delizie estensi (all on the World Heritage list), the palaces where the dukes of Este used to go with their court to relax and engage in leisure activities such as hunting and banqueting. The most beautiful locations are the Delizia del Verginese in Gambulaga di Portomaggiore (a miniature castle built by Alfonso d’Este as a gift to his lover Laura Dianti) and the Castello del Belriguardo in Voghiera, the most sumptuous Este residence, also known as “the Versailles of the Este”.
Pieve di San Giorgio - Argenta
Tel. +39 0532 808 058
Pinacoteca Civica - Cento
Tel. +39 051 684 3390
Abbazia di Pomposa - Pomposa
Tel. +39 0533 719 152
Museo della Nave Romana - Comacchio
Tel. +39 0533 311 316
Museo Alternativo d'Arte Contemporanea "Remo Brindisi"- Loc. Lido Di Spina
Tel. +39 0533 318 748
Manifattura dei Marinati - Centro Visite del Parco del Delta del Po - Laboratorio di lavorazione dell anguilla marinata tradizionale delle Valli di Comacchio
Tel. +39 0533 811 59 - 314 003
MOSQUITOES, A POETIC NUISANCE
In and around Ferrara, summertime mosquitoes have always been an irritating presence. Even the world-renowned 16th-century poet, Torquato Tasso, wrote a poem about the bites of this small “proud and buzzing warrior”! Tasso, the author of the epic Jerusalem Delivered, spent most of his life in Ferrara, under the patronage of the Este dukes.