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!

Venice – November 2014

Yes yes, I know I’ve been horribly MIA for a while. I kind of lost my muse for history blogging which is a damned shame. BUT I’m endeavouring now to get back into it – particularly as my recent visit to Venice has reawoken the love of history in me. Yep, you heard me right – I went to Venice. We flew out on Tuesday and stayed in a beautiful hotel in the Dorsoduro district. I have to say? I completely fell in love with the place despite the fact that it constantly rained and most days we had to trudge through flood water to get to where we wanted to go.

The history of the place is just mindblowing and I will be the first to admit that I don’t know all that much about it – other than bits and bobs of what happened during the Renaissance. What surprised me particularly though was what I learned during the “Secret Itineraries” tour around the Palazzo Ducale – that Venice’s whole government and justice system was completely revolutionary. They were the first place to offer free food and drink to prisoners kept within the prisons and the first place to abolish torture. What I also found fascinating was that the famous lothario Casanova was locked up in the Palazzo Ducale for not only his womanising ways, but also the fact that the Venetian government were afraid his friendship with the French would lead to him spreading secrets. Casanova himself actually escaped his prison with a priest – the story is absolutely fascinating and merits a post all of its own. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.

We spent a hell of a lot of time in the Piazza San Marco, simply because that is where the majority of the museums are – and God I could have spent days just wandering those halls. My particular favourite was the archaeology museum – there were so many Roman and Greek statues there as well as amazing coins and medals from each of the Doge’s reigns. Not only that? But they had mummies! And you all know just how much I’m into the death rituals of ancient Egypt. The Correr museum was also a particular highlight – they had a lot of religious iconography there which is again, of particular interest. Although the best place we visited HAS to be the Palazzo Ducale. We paid extra for a special tour of the prisons and torture chambers and it was there that we found out about Casanova. It was so interesting to see where the prisoners were kept as well as where the government, secret service and trials went on. Once the tour was over we got to go around the museum within the Palazzo and my God. It was simply STUNNING. I think I spent most of my time looking up at the amazing golden ceilings and the paintings.

But before I ramble on and on? Here are some pictures. Enjoy.