With a heavy Renaissance influence that still echoes today, Ferrara is a city that embraces the forward thinking of its long ago past. Of all of Italy’s great cities, it is the only one that was not based on a Roman layout. Instead of developing from a main central area, it sprung from the banks of the river and spread along it linearly. In the 14th century, this was the first city that used planning regulations to oversee growth and expansion – which are still used today in cities all over the world! The streets and enclosing walls (besides Lucca, are the most well preserved walls in Italy) are closely linked with the many Renaissance palaces, churches, and gardens, making it very easy to get around the city on foot and bike.
In the 16th century, the city had big plans to be a future “capital” in the region, and it was during this time the city underwent most of its growth—architecturally, culturally, and politically. In the 17th century, under the papal administrations, any notions of being the regions’ capital were halted and it would be another three centuries before the city would grow again.
Today, when we think of Ferrara, the Este Family dynasty is what comes to mind. Under their guardianship and rule, the Este court was one of culture, patronage, and crazed despotism. Famous and well sought after patrons of the arts, being a musician, writer, painter, sculptor, and/or architect in this court was a precarious position, but completely worth the effort. It was under Ercole I d’Este that the Renaissance flourished. It was during this time that this fabulous city became known for its music and poetry.