Ferrara, Province of Ferrara, Emilia Romagna, Italy

Ferrara, the capital of its province and a UNESCO World Heritage site, is situated 30 miles northeast of Bologna, on a branch of the Po river. Its wealth of Mediaeval and Renaissance monuments, some dating from the 14th century, are connected to the court of the house of Este, which made it a European capital of music, art and culture.

province of Ferrara


Altitude: 90 m a.s.l -- Population: about 130,000 inhabitants -- Zip/postal code: 44100 -- Phone Area Code: 0532 -- "Frazioni" & Localities: Aguscello, Albarea, Baura, Boara, Bova, Casaglia, Chiesuol del Fosso, Cocomaro di Cona, Cocomaro di Focomorto, Codrea, Cona, Contrapo, Corlo, Correggio, Denore, Fossa d'Albero, Fossanova San Biagio, Fossanova San Marco, Francolino, Gaibana, Gaibanella, Malborghetto di Boara, Marrara, Monestirolo, Montalbano, Parasacco, Pescara, Pontegradella, Pontelagoscuro, Porotto-Cassana, Porporana, Quartesana, Ravalle, San Bartolomeo in Bosco, San Martino, Scoline, Spinazzino, Viconovo, Villanova

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The origin of Ferrara is uncertain, it was probably a settlement formed by the inhabitants of the lagoons at the mouth of the Po. The name first appeared in a document of Aistulf of 754 AD as a city forming part of the exarchate of Ravenna. After 984 it was a fiefdom of Tedaldus, count of Modena and Canossa, nephew of the emperor Otho I. It afterwards made itself independent, and in 1101 was taken by siege by the countess Matilda. At this time it was dominated by several powerful families, among them the Adelardi.

In 1146 Guglielmo, the last of the Adelardi, died, and his property passed, as the dowry of his niece Marchesella, to Azzo VI d'Este. His descendant, Obizzo II (1264–1293) was made perpetual lord of the city by the population. At this time the house of Este settled in Ferrara. In 1289 he was also chosen as lord of Modena, one year later he was made lord of Reggio.

During the reign of Ercole I, one of the most significant patrons of the arts in Renaissance Italy, Ferrara grew into a cultural center, especially for music. Composers came to Ferrara from many parts of Europe, as Josquin Des Prez who worked for Duke Ercole writing for him the Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae, Jacob Obrecht and Antoine Brumel.

Alfonso I, son of Ercole, was also an important patron; he married the famed Lucrezia Borgia, and continued the war with Venice. In 1509 he was excommunicated by Pope Julius II, and attacked the pontifical army in 1512 outside Ravenna, which he took. With the succeeding popes he was able to make peace. He was the patron of Ariosto from 1518 onwards.

His son Ercole II married Renée, daughter of Louis XII of France; he too embellished Ferrara during his reign (1534–1559). His son Alfonso II married Lucrezia, daughter of grand-duke Cosimo I of Tuscany, then Barbara, sister of the emperor Maximilian II and finally Margherita Gonzaga, daughter of the duke of Mantua. He raised the glory of Ferrara to its highest point, and was the patron of Tasso and Guarini, favouring the arts and sciences.

During the reign of Alfonso II Ferrara was an important musical centre, with composers such as Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Lodovico Agostini, and Carlo Gesualdo, virtuoso performers as Laura Peverara, Anna Guarini, and Livia d'Arco. Alfonso II had no legitimate male heir, and in 1597 Ferrara was claimed as a vacant fiefdom by Pope Clement VIII, as was also Comacchio. The town remained a part of the states of the Church; the fortress was occupied by the Austrians from 1832 until 1859 when it became part of the kingdom of Italy.

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