Ferrara Day 3 – Museo del Risorgimento e della Resistenza, Pinacoteca Nazionale & Monastery of San Antonio in Polesine

Our final day in Ferrara loomed and we decided to finish off the allowance of museums on our MyFE cards (highly worth the money if you ever visit Ferrara, 14 euros for 3 days. AMAZING). So we got up and headed out and made our way towards the Pinacoteco Nazionale (National Museum of Ferrara), taking a short pit stop at the very sweet Museo del Risorgimento e della Resistenza.

This museum tells the story of soldiers from Ferrara during a number of wars, with particular attention being paid to the soldiers who freed Ferrara from the Nazis in World War 2. It’s not a very big museum, but it really is very sweet and the exhibits are labelled in both English and Italian. I highly recommend visiting this place if you have a spare half an hour.

After this, we headed to the National Gallery of Ferrara which has to be one of my favourite places that we visited over the few days we were in Ferrara. I do love an art gallery, and the moment we walked in and saw the early Renaissance artwork I was completely in my element. The gallery is housed within the Palazzo Diamanti, a beautiful Renaissance era palazzo and the art held within date from the thirteenth century to the eighteenth. Whilst not on the same scale as the huge Uffizi gallery in Florence, this is still an art gallery that you can waste a good few hours in.

We swung back to the hotel following our jaunt around the art gallery for a quick pit stop. Once we were refreshed and sure that the lunch time ‘siesta’ was finished with, we decided to head across down towards the Monastery of San Antonio in Polesine – like Corpus Domini this is still a working convent and houses nuns, these ones of the Benedictine Order. San Antonio was originally founded by Augustinian hermits in an area that was once a high piece of land surrounded by water (hence the name Polesine) but in the 13th Century, Beatrice d’Este received the monastery as a gift from her father. She moved into the monastery as a Benedictine nun in about 1257 and since that day it has been home to Benedictine Nuns.

When we arrived, we were greeted by scaffolding and I found myself slightly disappointed. Thinking that the place was closed for visitors, we began to walk away but then a little voice came over the loudspeaker they have by their doorbell. It was a sweet little nun, talking in Italian, and she invited us inside. Now it must be mentioned that as this is a working convent, it isn’t specifically open to the public despite having ‘opening hours’ – the nun was so incredibly sweet and very patient as she showed us around the place, understanding that we spoke very little Italian. I was particularly awe struck inside the Church when she showed us a number of frescoes painted by the Renaissance master Giotto. They truly are stunning pieces of work despite being faded with age and it truly was an honour to see them.

I didn’t take any photographs inside this incredibly moving place – I was more concerned with listening to the wonderful Nun as she told us the stories and, more importantly, I didn’t want to intrude on her home more than we already had. They did have small gifts available however, which you could purchase with donations, so we picked up a couple of postcards of the frescoes and left a little more money for them as well. Honestly if you have a chance please do visit this wonderful place – it feels so incredibly peaceful there and I found myself feeling at peace in the presence of such a kind and humble lady as the Nun who we had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with.

The below photographs are not by me, however were found on wikimedia commons.

We returned for dinner that night to the Hostaria Savonarola, the wonderful resteraunt in the Piazza Savonarola, and we had the most amazing meal. Tagliatelli al Ragu and a beautifully tender pork shank, along with some very tasty local wine!

Ferrara truly is a beautiful place and it is chock full of history. You certainly won’t need many days to see it all, however, as it is a very small place. But it really is worth taking the time to visit. I fell in love with the place and all it’s crooked medieval streets as well as it’s wonderfully friendly people. It’s not every day that you can visit a place where you are allowed inside working convents to see where people from history were buried, or to walk the same streets as your favourite historical people. So please do visit Ferrara, and if you do make sure to pick up the MyFE museum card – excellent value for money!

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.

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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…

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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!