Ferrara and its city walls

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Our city is embraced by 9 kilometres of walls that enclose its historical centre.
The development of these walls began in the first half of the 12th century and continued over time through adjustments in various historical phases. 
Today, the walls constitute an enormous garden to be enjoyed during leisure time and beyond.
They are a place for meeting, relaxation and well-being, which has been transformed over the centuries. Bastions, towers and city gates testify the evolution of defensive techniques. Their attraction is therefore primarily historical and architectural, but to this is added, by no means secondary, a cultural and natural interest.
The nature surrounding the walls represents a park in its own right, with a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. There are also numerous rare and protected species.
If you plan to travel here, you must take a few moments to stroll through these green surroundings that will make you forget the hustle and bustle of the city in a few seconds.     

How about a different way to discover the history of the Walls of Ferrara, from its origins to the most recent restoration? Discover the Mura Aperte project and have a cutting-edge experience using augmented reality.


1 Torrione di Barco

With an external diameter of 21 m, it is the largest circular tower among those built by Biagio Rossetti and Bartolomeo Tristano along the fortified perimeter of the Addizione Erculea. Built on the north-western vertex from 1493 onwards, its structure is very interesting for the history of Este military architecture and beyond.

2 Mura Rossettiane

Built between 1493 and 1505 by Biagio Rossetti, Alessandro Biondo and Bartolomeo Tristano, the Este city walls mark the transition from a vertical piombante to a horizontal or grazing defence. They represent one of the most qualified examples of transitional Italian military architecture with respect to the later bastion system. A shallow but extensive water moat (between 35 and 80 m) made any attempt to approach it more difficult.

3 Porta degli Angeli

Located at the end of the ancient Via degli Angeli, the city gate was the only northern access point to the fortified circuit built from 1493 to 1505 around the great 'Terra Nova', the urban extension better known as the Addizione Erculea. Restored between 1984 and 1991, it was the subject of many transformations made between 1519 and 1526 and continued over the centuries as its functions changed.

4 Torrione di San Giovanni Battista

Built between 1493 and 1497, the tower guarded the gate carrying the same name located at the eastern end of the long decumanus of the Addizione Erculea. In 1518, Alfonso I d'Este decided to cover it with a conical roof grafted onto a massive pillar, while the battlements were plugged in the first half of the 19th century. After the French occupation in 1796, the gate was named Porta Mare and the entire complex underwent various functional changes. Since 1999, the Torrione di San Giovanni has housed the Ferrara Jazz Club.

5 Baluardo e doccile di San Tommaso

It takes its name from the adjacent church of San Tommaso, destroyed in 1836. Typically arrow-shaped and without earlobes in the sides, the bastion was built at the end of the second decade of the 16th century, when Alfonso I d'Este decided to strengthen the defensive apparatus of the south-eastern sector of the city.

6 Baluardo della Montagna

Between 1518 and 1522 a new wall was erected between the Porta di San Giorgio and the Baluardo di San Tommaso. In 1518, Sebastiano Bonmartini designed the great arrow-shaped bastion with gunports, described in 1520 by Ferrante Gonzaga as 'the most superb fortress in the world'. A colossal mountain, called Montagna di San Giorgio or di Sotto, was raised on the bastion with the excavated earth, to act as a knight on which to place the powerful artillery of Duke Alfonso d'Este.

7 Bagni Ducali (Ducal Baths)

The pleasure residence, known as the Montagna, was also built by Ercole II d'Este on the torrione with the same name: today known as the Bagni Ducali, it was constructed in 1541 to a design by Terzo Terzi. The small rural palace had its exterior façades frescoed by Battista Dossi, Girolamo da Carpi, Camillo Filippi and Garofalo. The mountain was covered with vines and flowers and at its foot was a fishpond over 200 metres long (today's Viale Alfonso I d'Este). It also concealed two richly decorated underground caves, built in 1545-1549 to a design by Girolamo da Carpi, which were unfortunately devastated when the Este family was exiled from Ferrara.

8 Porta Romana

The current ruin is all remaining of the structure which guarded the main southern entrance to the city in the late 16th century. To defend the Porta di San Giorgio, known as Porta Romana since 1798, Ercole II and Alfonso II d'Este had a new bulwark built between 1557 and 1563. The city gate was transformed into a monumental perspective in the 1780s and was further embellished in 1847. Alterations at the end of the 19th century caused its functional relocation, resulting in its architectural decline.

9 Baluardo dell'Amore (Bastion of Love)

Inserted along the curtain wall built by Borso d'Este in the mid-15th century, today's Baluardo dell'Amore, with its typical Ace of Spades shape. It was built more than a century later: it was Alfonso II d'Este who promoted a major defensive reinforcement of the southern fortifications near the Po between 1578 and 1585, thanks to the projects of engineers and military technicians such as Cornelio Bentivoglio, Marcantonio Pasi, Giulio Thiene and Giovan Battista Aleotti. Today the Baluardo has been restored and turned into a museum.

10 Baluardo di Sant'Antonio

Situated in correspondence with the Benedictine monastery of Sant'Antonio in Polesine, it is the central element of the southern bastion system close to the banks of the river Po, almost completely buried by the end of the 16th century. Together with the bastions of San Pietro and dell'Amore, this structure was also built at the instigation of Duke Alfonso II d'Este between 1578 and 1585.

11 Borso Walls

The drying up of the branch of the Po that lapped the southern front of Ferrara between the end of the 14th century and the first half of the 15th century caused the ancient river island of Sant'Antonio in Polesine to be welded to the urban settlement. The first actions to defend the incorporated urban fabric were taken by Marquis Nicolò III d'Este (1383-1441). The further drying up of the Po induced first Leonello d'Este (1407-1450) and above all Borso (1413-1471) to have the entire southern area between Castel Nuovo and the Barbacane di San Giorgio protected with new walls.

12 Bastion and Porta di San Pietro

Coming from Porta Paola, the Baluardo di San Pietro is the first of the advanced fortifications built by Alfonso II d'Este between 1578 and 1585 to modernise and strengthen the pre-existing 15th-century walls. At the same time as its construction, in 1582-1583 the battlements of the 15th-century walls were demolished and the tower at the gate was knocked down, while in 1583 a new marble perspective was erected at the same gate, based on a design by Giovan Battista Aleotti. In 1630, that marble apparatus was dismantled and relocated to the main entrance of the papal fortress, and the gateway of St. Peter's Gate was finally walled up.

13 Baluardo di San Lorenzo

It stands on the former Bastion of Castelnuovo, dismantled between 1562 and 1572. Built in 1583 and renovated during the papal era, with the previous Bastion of San Paolo it constitutes the protection system of the interposed Porta Paola, built in 1612. In the early 20th century, its summit was used for the weekly market and the place was commonly known as the 'horse market'.

14 Porta Paola

Today's structure was built in 1612 to a design by the Ferrarese architect Giovan Battista Aleotti, who designed it in honour of the reigning Pope Paul V Borghese, hence the name Porta Paola. It is the city's most prestigious monumental gateway, especially in terms of its late Mannerist and early Baroque architectural language. Today, here you can find the Ferrara Walls Documentation Centre, where you will find all the historical and practical information you need to organise your route.

15 Baluardi di Santa Maria e di San Paolo

The two bastions are the only evidence of the citadel built between 1608 and 1618, under the direction of Mario Farnese and Pompeo Targone, assisted by Giovan Battista Aleotti. In 1618 it was well equipped, with five arrow-shaped bastions, the residence of the castellan, the church of S. Maria dell'Annunziata and barracks, depots, powder magazines and armouries. In 1805 Napoleon decreed its partial dismantling, but the fortress was reborn after 1814. It remained unchanged until 1859, when the final demolition was decided, which only spared the bastions of Santa Maria and San Paolo and the church, which was however destroyed by bombing during the last war. On the rampart embankment, the statue of Paul V by Giovanni Lucca Genovese, placed in 1618 in the centre of the fortress, is visible.

16 Porta Catena and Saliente

Up to the road junction of today's Corso Porta Po and Viale Cavour, in the Este era occupied by the Porta di San Benedetto, there is nothing but a trapezoidal salient, north of which two fornixes were opened in 1938 (rebuilt in 1958), known as Porta Catena due to the proximity of the homonymous access structure that was completely destroyed by bombing in 1944. Porta Catena, dating back to the early 17th century, did not open onto the walls: it was a river gate located at the mouth of the navigable canal that joined the Po at Pontelagoscuro to the ditch of the Estense Castle.

17 The flora of the walls

The park outlining the walls is home to around 240 different species of grasses, trees and shrubs. It is also the urban site with the greatest number of rare species. This richness is due to the circular course of the walls and the presence of the large surrounding rampart, which result in many different conditions of sunlight and humidity. The most easily encountered trees are the tall hackberry and locust trees. Between the walls and the rampart, there are also plane trees, farnias, hornbeams, plum trees of various species, white poplars, black poplars and cypress poplars, and white willows.

18 The fauna of the walls

The walls are populated by numerous animal species. Among the avian species are owls, black-winged sparrows, titmice and titmice, blackbirds, robins, jays, pigeons, swallows, swifts, woodpigeons, grey crows and jackdaws, magpies, kestrels, owls, collared turtle doves. In the northern area, closer to the Po, there are grey herons, little egrets, moorhens, night herons and little bitterns. Mammals include house and field mice, bats, crocodiles and hedgehogs. Autochthonous amphibians and reptiles are present and protected by the regional law on 'minor fauna' (L.R. 15/2006); these include the Italian green toad, the wall lizard and the grass snake.