Ferrara Day 2 – Botanical Gardens, Museo della Cattedrale & Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Ferrara

Day 2 didn’t begin so well. After a night of constant hypos (low blood sugars) I woke feeling like death and couldn’t face eating breakfast. Once the other half had eaten though and I managed to get up and about we headed out for our second day!

We started out at the Botanical Gardens which is tucked away by the University of Ferrara. And let me tell you, it’s an incredibly peaceful place with some beautiful flowers and, the most important part, a pond for tortoises!

Right before we left, we watched one of the tortoises make a break for it. Literally he was so determined to get out he yanked himself up on the side of the pond and found a hole in the fence. And once he was free….people say these creatures are slow but this guy moved like he was strapped to a rocket!

After the gardens we decided to head to the Archaeology Museum. It was a bit of a walk, however we ended up walking along the Via Savonarola. This street was renamed in 1870 due to it’s links with Savonarola – it is said that the friar was born on this street at number 19. It was also the road on which Lucrezia Borgia’s lover, Ercole Strozzi, was murdered in 1508.


The archaeology museum is housed within a Renaissance Palazzo known as the Palazzo di Ludovico il Moro, but actually named the Palazzo Costabilli. Legend has it that the Palazzo was commissioned by Il Moro as a place to escape should things get gnarly in his home town, however it was actually commissioned by a member of the Este’s court – Antonio Costabilli.

Today the palazzo houses a collection of beautiful Etruscan artefacts found at the archaeological site of Spina – once a thriving city that was then swallowed by the waters of the Po delta. Given that I studied archaeology at university and then worked in the field for a time, this place brought back some wonderful memories and reminded me why I loved studying archaeology so much. The artefacts on display are utterly beautiful ranging from pottery bearing mythical scenes to gold diadems and gorgeous jewellery.

We were the only people in the museum while we were there, meaning that we got to wander about unhindered. Whilst this was nice, it did make me wonder just how the place survives on so little footfall.

After a pitstop at the hotel whilst we waited for things to open after their lunch time siesta, we headed to the little Cathedral museum. Sadly the Cathedral itself was closed for renovation work so we didn’t get to see inside, however the little museum just over the way from it was open and let me tell you – bloody wonderful. And of course we stopped for some gelato on the way…


The museum, set within the Church of San Romano, holds a number of artefacts relating directly to the Cathedral and the patron Saint of Ferrara, Saint George. It’s not a very big museum however I highly recommend popping in if you have a spare half an hour or so, as they have some utterly stunning artefacts and works of art inside, including the famous Madonna della Melagrana (Madonna of the Pomegranate) – a sculpture by Jacopo della Quercia that is considered to be one of the greatest Renaissance works of all time.

The works of art are utterly stunning and many of them show Saint George killing the dragon or undergoing execution. And yet again there were very few people in this museum while we were there, which really does seem a shame as this museum is well worth a visit.

Another pleasant day in all, finished with another fantastic dinner of Tagliatelle and chocolate salami. The next day would be our final full day in this gorgeous city so we planned to get an early night. Alas, this didn’t happen. It just so happened that our hotel room faced the courtyard of the hotel which served as a restaurant, a restaurant not actually owned by the hotel which was kind of weird. Anyhow, the noise went on until midnight, meaning that we wouldn’t get much sleep for the last day. Never mind, at least the bed was comfy and the AC was on!

Walking In The Footsteps of the Ancient Romans, and the Borgias

It has always been a dream of mine to visit Rome, right from having Primary School history lessons on Ancient Rome, learning about Gladiators and having pretend Roman banquets. Of course more recently I have developed a huge interest (say rather…obsession) with the Borgia family who had a huge part to play in the history of Renaissance Rome. We all know the stories of the Borgia family, the scandalous rumours of murder and incest that swept not only Rome, but the world also, at the time. And now, I have the chance to walk the streets of Rome, to see the sites that the Borgia family would have seen and known. And I am beyond excited.

Yes, that’s right. I’m all booked up to go to Rome.
Of course whilst we are there we will be having a look at the sites of Ancient Rome including the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Forum, Baths of Diocletian and of course the Catacombs. I haven’t read anything on Ancient Rome for a very, very long time so will certainly be doing a bit of extra research into these sites before we go – after all at this moment in time my knowledge is made up of bits and bobs from a rather uninspiring university module as well as various bits of information picked up from who knows where. So I’ll certainly be picking up a few books on Ancient Rome in the run up to the summer.

Of course, the area I am most looking forward to visiting, thanks to its links with my favourite Renaissance family, is the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica. Not only that but the history of the Vatican has close links to Tudor history – with the refusal to grant Henry VIII’s annulment. That however, is a different story for a different day. I am seriously looking forward to visiting the Vatican, wandering around its museums (because it has a good few!!) and seeing the Sistine Chapel. I remember being told some years ago by my Grandmother that gazing at the Sistine Ceiling, painted by Michelangelo and commissioned in 1508 by Pope Julius II – he worked on the ceiling between 1508 and 1512, but was called back to do more painting in the chapel when he was over 60 years old and commissioned to paint The Last Judgement by Pope Clement VII (just before this Pope’s death in 1534). The Last Judgement is still considered to be a masterpiece.

I’m sure by the time we go, you’ll all be utterly fed up with my going on about it. But this city has so, so much history and I am so excited to walk in places that people would have walked hundreds of years ago, if not thousands. As I say, I have a lot of reading to do on the parts of Rome’s history that I’m not so hot on but that’s all part of the fun. And if anyone knows of any good books then please do let me know. I’m also slowly learning the language which is proving to be fun, if a little challenging – and I now know how to ask for an ice cream and bottle of white wine, which will probably be the thing I end up saying the most while we are there!
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