Hotel Fondo Catena, Ferrara ***
Hotel Fondo Catena, Ferrara: in a converted farmhouse and barn in Catena. Superbly peaceful, yet close to Ferrara! Ferrara hotels at ahotelinitaly.com. View hotel
Double rooms from €60
Antica Corte Hotel Residence di Charme, Ferrara ***
This hotel in Ferrara, in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, makes the perfect base for exploring this fascinating historical city and area. Thirty minutes' drive north of Bologna, the city of Ferrara is a lovely place to visit. It has a colossal, moated castle, Castello Estense, and a fascinating... View hotel
Double rooms from €59
Hotel Touring, Ferrara ***
This Ferrara hotel makes the perfect resting place for exploring the fascinating historic city. This handsome medieval town is about half an hour from Bologna and there is plenty to see here. Pretty cobbled streets radiate from the centre, which is dominated by the imposing Castello Estense, home to the... View hotel
Double rooms from €49
Many of the landmarks in this fascinating little Emilia-Romagna city have links with the eccentric Dukes of Este, the somewhat chaotic aristocracy that ruled the town and had their court here in the Middle Ages. The Este were a major power during the Renaissance and enthusiastic patrons of the arts, commissioning pieces by artists including Mantegna, Jacopo Bellini and Pisanello, and poets such as Torquato Tasso and Ariosto.
Today, Ferrara is a tidy little city, the hub of a productive and affluent fruit picking area. And of course, being in Emilia-Romagna it has superb food and some very good restaurants. It's also the birthplace of one of the world's great film directors, Michelangelo Antonioni and the home to the Ferrara Balloons Festival, one of Europe's biggest hot-air balloon shows.
Must-see sights include the Castello Estense, within a moat in the centre of town and built in 1385. There are 9km of medieval town walls, and the Palazzo Municipio, built in 1243. The Duomo is a cathedral in a mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Check out the Museo della Cattedrale with a set of bas-reliefs showing the labours of the months, a typically medieval motif. Also see the Jewish Museum, with guided tours only. There is shopping centred on the warren of alleyways that comprise Ferrara's medieval heart, and for a spot more culture see the Pinacoteca Nazionale: this museum has works from the Bologna and Ferrara schools, including paintings by Garofalo, Dossi, Guercino and Sebastiano Filippi.
Important palazzi include the Palazzo Schifanoia, the Palazzo di Marfisa and the Palazzo di Lodovico Il Moro with the archeological museum. See too the Palazzo dei Diamanti, from the diamond-shaped bricks studding its facade. Don't miss the Monastero di Sant'Antonio in Polesine, with frescoes and paintings after Giotto. You have to knock at the door of the monastery to be admitted by the nuns. A truly lovely place. And a new treat is the Ferrara Balloon Festival - only started in 2005 but growing fast. Each September the balloons make a spectacular sight above the towers of the medieval city.