Cultural Landscape

The historical city centre of Ferrara, with its exemplary Renaissance town plan, has been conserved intact. The canons of town planning established here profoundly influenced the urban development of the following centuries. The residences of the Este Dukes in the Po Delta are an exceptional illustration of the effect of Renaissance culture on its natural surroundings.
The Po Delta is a planned area of countryside which, whilst reflecting the cultural influences of the planning, conserves its original form in a remarkable way.

“Exemplarily designed in the Renaissance…” certainly: all you need to do is take a walk along the streets of the historic centre to realise that Ferrara is crossed by a simple and skilful idea that organised the urban space in the Renaissance and that has remained perfectly intact. The wide orthogonal traffic routes mapped out at the end of the 15th Century have given the city the air of a European capital. The great mansions with large spaces for parks and gardens overlooking the crossroads provide interesting perspectives, without ever overpowering the overall view in its entirety. This measure had a great influence in the Renaissance and became a model for the development of urban planning in subsequent centuries.
Ferrara’s fortune was connected to that of the Este family, who reigned over the city for three Centuries, from the 14th to the 16th, giving life to what was defined as a Particular Renaissance, within which intuitions and innovations were drawn up which had a strong following and influenced the culture of the era, in Italy and Europe.
Objective limits and obstacles, such as the shortage of economic and territorial resources were the school through which people learned to combine beauty and utility in an original way, like the highly effective juxtaposition of natural elements and artificial interventions. The actual city walls, for example, which were perceived as a defence from the outside, were used on the inside as gardens, fishing grounds, citrus orchards and even spas, areas equipped with sophisticated landscape architectural interventions, which offered an exemplary context to exalt the magnificence of the Prince.
Likewise the need for the reclamation and transformation to production sites of the vast mashes that extended beyond the city boundaries activated a huge land drainage program and the exploitation of the fertile lands was entrusted to villas and land agents, where agricultural assets were administered on a large scale or hunting grounds were protected.
There was no military control system in the area. The “delizie” represented a sort of landmark in the plain indicating the authoritarian presence of the dominion, whereas the only real line of defence was entrusted to the impervious nature of the places and the belt of marshes.
After the drainage of the marshes (polesini), new components took on a fundamental role in distinguishing the landscape: the results of the drainage work and dense network of regular canals, exploited both for the management of the countryside and as transport links for trading and for the movements of the court itself.
Excellent signs of this control over the territory which transformed it from uncultivated, wet, marshlands to agricultural land are the system of the “delizie”, princely residences, centres of leisure and culture, many of which are still maintained and restored today.