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Ferrara and its Wall

Nine kilometres of defensive walls surround the heart of Ferrara, delimiting the old city. Designed and built mainly as fortifications starting in the early seventh century, today they are expansive gardens enjoyed by locals and visitors during their time off, and so much more
Ferrara and its Wall

A meeting place, a relaxing park and a source of well-being, the history of the city can be read on the surface of these walls. Over the centuries, they’ve evolved into what we see now, having undergone varying degrees of modifications, decay and rebuilding. They were decisively restored in the late twentieth century, ensuring that they are fully valued and enjoyed, returned to anyone and everyone who is lucky enough to visit them.

Bastions, towers and gates rhythmically mark their lengths, while also standing as testimony to how defensive techniques changed and progressed over the ages. And while they are of great historic and architectural interest, they are also a celebrated (and by no means secondary) cultural and natural attraction.

The green space surrounding the walls is a veritable park, prized for its rich biodiversity in terms of both flora and fauna, including numerous rare, protected species.

 

1 Torrione di Barco
With an external diameter of 21 metres, the Torrione del Barco (Barco Tower) is the largest circular defensive tower of those constructed by Biagio Rossetti and Bartolomeo Tristano along the fortified perimeter of the historic Addizione Erculea (Erculean Addition) area of Ferrara. Built from 1493 onwards, it stands at its north-western vertex. The structure is of great interest, both within the context of historic military architecture in Ferrara and beyond.

2 Mura Rossettiane
Built between 1493 and 1505 by Biagio Rossetti, Alessandro Biondo and Bartolomeo Tristano, the walls of Ferrara mark the transition from vertical defences (from which projectiles could be dropped on the enemy) to horizontal bastion defences from which firearms were fired, and represent one of the most famous examples in Italian military architecture of this transition to a later defensive system. A water moat, which though shallow was very wide (between 35 and 80 metres) made any attempt to approach the crenellated curtain wall exceedingly difficult.

3 Porta degli Angeli
Located at the end of the ancient Via degli Angeli, this Porta was the only gateway in the fortified walls that provided access from the north, and which were built between 1493 to 1505 around the large “Terra Nova”, the area of urban expansion better known as the Addizione Erculea (Erculean Addition). Restored between 1984 and 1991, it was the subject of many transformations already made between 1519 and 1526 and continued over the centuries with
the changing of its functions.

4 Torrione di San Giovanni Battista
Built between 1493 and 1497, this fortified tower kept watch over the Porta (gateway) of the same name, at the eastern end of the long decumanus road of the Addizione Erculea (Erculean Addition) urban area. In 1518, Duke Alfonso I d’Este decided to cover the tower with a conical roof set atop an enormous solid column, while the original battlements were filled in during the first half of the nineteenth century. After the French occupation of 1796, the gate was named “Porta Mare”, and the entire complex was subject to the first in a
series of functional modifications. Since 1999, the Torrione di San Giovanni has been the home of the Ferrara Jazz Club.

5 Baluardo e doccile di San Tommaso
The Baluardo di San Tommaso (Bastion of San Tommaso) takes its name from the neighbouring church of San Tommaso, which was destroyed in 1836. With a typical arrow shape and with no rounded “orecchioni” ramparts on its sides, the bastion was built at the end of the second decade of the sixteenth century, when the Alfonso I d’Este decided to reinforce the defences of the south-eastern area of the city. A short distance away is the eighteenth-century “doccile” of San Tommaso, a sort of canal or duct that was built in 1524 with
a vaulted ceiling, in order to convey the waste from the city’s sewers to the Naviglio di Baura canal.

6 Baluardo della Montagna
Between 1518 and 1522, the new wall was built between the Porta di San Giorgio and the Baluardo di San Tommaso (Bastion of San Tommaso). In 1518, Sebastiano Bonmartini designed the large arrow-shaped Baluardo della Montagna, a bastion complete with embrasures, described by Ferrante Gonzaga in 1520 as «the most splendid fortress in the world». An enormous mountain (called the Montagna di San Giorgio or di Sotto), was created on top of the bastion with the earth from the excavations, which served as a
cavalier upon which the powerful artillery of Duke Alfonso d’Este was installed.

7 Bagni Ducali
The Delizia della Montagna, now known as the Bagni Ducali or Ducal Baths, was the recreational residence built by the Duke Ercole II d’Este on top of the site of the tower of the same name was referred to. Constructed in 1541 according to the plans drawn by Terzo Terzi. The external façades of this small, simple palace, featured frescoes by Battista Dossi, Girolamo da Carpi, Camillo Filippi and Garofalo. The fame of the residence was linked to the unique environmental backdrop in which it was set, with waterways brought to life by complex hydraulic devices which flowed around the vine and flowercovered mountain, at the foot of which stood a fish pond of more than 200 metres in length (now Viale Alfonso I d’Este). The mound of earth also hid two underground decorated caves built in 1545-1549 according to the designs created by Girolamo da Carpi. The caves unfortunately fell into ruin in the early seventeenth century with the exile of the Este dynasty from Ferrara.

8 Porta Romana
The current ruins are all that remains of the architectural complex that until the end of the sixteenth century overlooked the main southern entrance of the city. In order to protect the fifteenth century Porta di San Giorgio gate (known as Porta Romana from 1798 onwards), between 1557 and 1563, the dukes Ercole II and Alfonso II d’Este ordered the construction of a new bastion. The Porta was transformed into the monumental “Prospettiva” arch in the 1780s, and was further embellished in 1847. the changes and the disasters that befell the structure at the end of the nineteenth century led to the functional decentralisation of the building, resulting in architectural damage.

9 Baluardo dell’Amore
Built onto the curtain wall constructed by Borso d’Este in the mid-fifteenth century, the Baluardo dell’Amore (literally the Bastion of Love) as we see it today, with its typical ace of spades shape, was actually added more than a century later: it was Alfonso II d’Este who commissioned a major series of works to strengthen the southern fortifications near the Po between 1578 and 1585, according to the plans drawn by engineers and military specialists
such as Cornelio Bentivoglio, Marcantonio Pasi, Giulio Thiene and Giovan Battista Aleotti.

10 Baluardo di Sant’Antonio
Located at the Benedictine monastery of Sant’Antonio in Polesine, this bastion is the central element of the southern system of bastion defences behind the banks of the river Po, which was almost completely buried at the end of the 16th century. Together with the bastions of San Pietro and Amore, this structure was also built according to the will of Duke Alfonso II d’Este between 1578 and 1585.

11 Mura di Borso
The gradual drying up of the Po distributary which skirts the southern edge of Ferrara led to the establishment of the urban settlement on the island of Sant’Antonio in Polesine that once stood in the middle of the river, between the end of the 14th and the first half of the 15th century. Nicolò III d’Este (1383- 1441) was responsible for ordering the first steps towards building a defence
for the urban dwelling. The further drying up of the Po river led Leonello d’Este (1407-1450) and above all his successor Borso (1413-1471) to order new walls to be built in order to protect the entire southern area between Castel Nuovo and the Barbacane di San Giorgio (Barbican of San Giorgio).

12 Baluardo e Porta di San Pietro
Approaching from Porta Paola, the Baluardo di San Pietro (Bastion of San Pietro) is the first of the state-of-the-art fortifications built by Alfonso II d’Este between 1578 and 1585, in order to modernise and strengthen the pre-existing fifteenth-century walls. During the period in which the bastion was being built, in 1582-1583 the merlons of the fifteenth-century walls were demolished and the tower that stood at the Porta, which was largely flattened, was completely knocked down. In 1583, a new marble arch was built over the Porta San Pietro, designed by Giovan Battista Aleotti. In 1630 this marble structure was also dismantled and reinstalled at the main entrance to the papal fortress; the opening of the Porta di San Pietro was definitively walled up.

13 Baluardo di San Lorenzo
The Baluardo di San Lorenzo (Bastion of San Lorenzo) stands on the site of the ancient Castelnuovo bastion, dismantled between 1562 and 1572. Built in 1583 and renovated in the papal period, along with the previous Baluardo di San Paolo (Bastion of San Paolo), this structure constitutes part of the defensive system built to protect the Porta Paola gate, which was built in 1612. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the top of the bastion was used for the weekly market, and was commonly known as the “horse market”.

14 Porta Paola
The current structure was built in 1612 in accordance with the plans drawn by Ferrarese architect Giovan Battista Aleotti, who designed it in honour of the reigning Pope Paolo V Borghese, from which the name Porta Paola derives. Porta Paola is the most prestigious monumental archways in the city of Ferrara, particularly with regard to its late Mannerist and proto-Baroque architectural language.

15 Baluardi di Santa Maria e di San Paolo
These two “baluardi” or bastions are the only testament to the fortress that was built between 1608 and 1618; the build was managed by Mario Farnese and Pompeo Targone, working alongside Giovan Battista Aleotti. In 1618, the fortress was well equipped, with five arrow bastions, the barracks, the depositories, the gunpowder magazines, the armouries, the residence of the
castellan and the church of Santa Maria dell’Annunziata. In 1805, Napoleon decreed that the complex should be partially dismantled, but the fortress was reborn after 1814. It then remained untouched until 1859, when the decision was made to demolish the structure once and for all. Only the bastions of Santa Maria and San Paolo and the Marian church left still standing, even if the church was later destroyed by bombs in the Second World War. On the embankment of the two bastions, the statue depicting Paul V making a sign of
blessing is still visible: the work of Giovanni Lucca Genovese, it was placed at the centre of the fortress in 1618.

16 Porta catena e Saliente
Up to the point at which Corso Porta Po and Viale Cavour meet (which, during the Este era, was occupied by the Porta di San Benedetto), the only structure of note is a trapezoidal salient. To the north of this, in 1938, two archways were built (and reconstructed in 1958): these were known as the Porta Catena, due to the proximity of the access structure of the same name that was entirely razed to the ground by the bombings of 1944. The original Porta Catena
did not open onto the walls: it was a river port located at the mouth of the navigable canal that connected the Po in Pontelagoscuro to the Castello Estense (Este Castle) trench.

17 The flora around the walls
The park that runs along the walls of Ferrara hosts about 240 different species of herbs, trees and shrubs. It is also the urban location with the greatest number of rare species. So much wealth is due to the circular course of the walls and the presence of the wide surrounding ramparts, creating varying conditions of sunshine and humidity. The most common trees in the area are the European nettles and the black locusts. Also found in the areas between the walls and the rampart are plane trees, oaks, hornbeams, prunus of different species, white poplars, black poplars and cypress poplars, white willows.

18 The fauna around the walls
The walls of Ferrara are populated by numerous animal species. They are frequented by little owls, Italian sparrows, great tits and Eurasian blue tits, robins, blackbirds, jays, magpies, pigeons, swallows, swifts, common wood pigeons, grey crows and jackdaws, kestrels, owls, Eurasian collared doves. In the northern area, closer to the Po river, there are grey herons, egrets, moorhens, night herons and bitterns. Mammals include wild mice and house mice, bats, shrews and hedgehogs. Native amphibians and reptiles are present and protected by the regional law on “minor fauna” (Regional Law
15/2006), as the Italian emerald toad, the wall lizard and the whip snake. The insects include many pollinators.

Itinerary locations

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Ufficio Informazione e Accoglienza Turistica di Ferrara

Ferrara
Castello Estense
last modified Oct 16, 2019 11:15
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