- Read more about the city from a student's point of view in our Mole Diaries: Ferrara
Why should I choose Ferrara for my year abroad?
Apart from the history of the place, and the culture, and the cafés, and then the food, there seems to be one resounding reason why students come here: it’s pleasant, without being lonely, it’s friendly, without being in your face, it’s pretty, without being as flamboyant as other cities...It’s perfect, if you’re looking for real Italian life, minus the tourist trail. The city’s university brings in students from the country, as well as outside of it, meaning you’re bound to meet locals and foreigners alike. An added bonus if you’re into art is the city itself, as well as the numerous courses you can take up, within your course structure or outside of university. If you’re working here, you will benefit from speaking the lingo at all times - a lack of tourists means your Italian will improve leaps and bounds.
The city itself was ruled by the prestigious Este dynasty, from the 13th century all the way up until the end of the 16th century. This, in turn, affected the city’s layout and appearance - you can spot a lot of pink/terracotta brickwork, with cute, cobbled streets winding around each other. Though at times quite busy, Ferrara doesn’t lose its quintessentially Italian touch - you find good food and good drink at respectable prices.
Though there aren’t that many ‘cultural’ sights to visit in Ferrara, history and art fans will find their feet here. Being quite an important city during the Renaissance period, you couldn’t go without seeing the Duomo and Castello Estense, to get an idea of the bygone era. The Pinacoteca Nazionale houses some fine art, from the Ferarrese and Bolognese schools. During WWII, the city was bombed and as such, the Museo del Risorgimento e della Resistenza is worth visiting; here, you’ll find documents, arms and uniforms dating back to the 1940s, with some great explanations of what life was like back then.
The city’s famous dish, cappellaci di zucca (yes, squash stuffed pasta!), is out of this world - either with its butter sauce, or with meat. You can get hold of it at range of restaurants, though we would tend to recommend the Osteria del Ghetto, which knocks out a good version of the national dish. There are quite a few good eateries about the place, with Il Messisbugo at the very top, being very student-friendly in ambiance as well as pricing. Al Brindisi is a bar full of character, with its history dating back to 1435 - an extensive wine list, as well as a good choice of grappa make for a great night out, and the menu isn’t too bad either!
Ferrara, with its people and students, is a real treat for any student going on their year abroad and looking for something a little more authentic during their time in bella Italia. Its close proximity to other cultural cities make it the ideal spot to land, if you’re looking for art, good food and a good dollop of culture, minus the flashing cameras and group tourists of other towns. In short, the real deal!