Renaissance Art Archeology History and Regional Cuisine
Belriguardo Castle gets its name from a fifteenth century poet, so impressed with its beauty, that he exclaimed that he planned on bel riguardare, keep looking at it and admiring it!
It was built in 1435. At that time it had some of the characteristics of a castle - tower, battlements, drawbridge and a moat. However, all these elements had more of a decorative and less of a defensive function: in front of the tower there is a porch, behind the battlements there were no walk ways for the soldiers, along with many fixed bridges.
In practice, Belriguardo was a medieval castle turned into a Renaissance villa designed along the lines of a Greek one: the first courtyard had porticoes on three sides, with the second on all four sides. It was built as the summer residence of the Este family, rulers of nearby Ferrara from the 13th century until 1598. In fact, Belriguardo can be considered the first summer residence of a European ruling family; a precursor of Versailles for the French monarchy, Venaria for the Savoy dynasty, the Quirinale and Castel Gandolfo for the popes, the Tsars’ palaces and the Caserta royal palace for the Bourbon kings of Naples.
With as many as 360 frescoed halls, on one occasion Belriguardo hosted simultaneously the courts of Ferrara, Bologna, Milan and Mantua; at least two thousand people could eat and sleep at court and its stables could hold 800 horses. The Este family entertained its guests with naval battles in the fishpond.
Inside this UNESCO protected property, one can admire the Sala della Vigna (1536), built by Duke Ercole II, son of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as many 16th century frescoes by the Dossi brothers, Benvenuto Tisi and Girolamo da Carpi. The floor is one of the few orginals from this period.
The Civic Museum of Belriguardo is based in the castle and its archeological section includes the original wooden beams, known as composite beams, each in turn formed by seven smaller ones interlocked without the use of nails. Their design originates from a Leonardo Da Vinci drawing.
The Archaeological section contains finds from the Etruscan (IV-III century BC), Roman (I-III century AD) and Byzantine (VI-VII century AD) periods. Some of the Roman period items are considered by researchers of great interest and a few are even unique in the world.
Belriguardo Castle is an excellent starting point for a visit to Ferrara and surrounding areas, one of the cradles of the Italian Renaissance. Nearby, you can taste the regional cuisine, considered the best in Italy.
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