Este Castle (Castello Estense)
The 14th-century Castello Estense was built by the ruling Este dynasty first as a protective retreat, and was later expanded to become the family’s primary residence. There are dozens of rooms to wander, including the impressive Sala dei Giganti (Giants' Room), Salone dei Giochi (Games Salon), Cappella di Renée de France, and the dour prisons. Located in the heart of Ferrara’s historic center, the frozen-in-time palace is a highlight of walking or bike tours, along with the Duomo, the Diamanti and Schifanoia Palaces, and the former Jewish Ghetto. Join a tour during the day to be able to take in the castle interiors, or a night tour to enjoy views of the castle walls dramatically illuminated from outside.
Things to know before you go
- Ferrara’s 13th-century crenelated Palazzo Municipale is linked to the castle via an elevated passageway, and its twin courtyards are open to the public.
- Tours of Ferrara’s historic center and castle require quite a bit of walking, so choose comfortable footwear.
- The museum is accessible to wheelchair users.
- Visitors can relax over snacks and drinks in the cafè and browse the souvenir shop.
How to get there
You can’t miss the massive form of Castello Estense sitting in the heart of Ferrara’s historic center, an easy walk from any of its most important attractions. Ferrara is a popular day trip from Ravenna and Venice, and is easy to reach by car or train.
When to get there
To visit the castle interiors, join a tour by day, keeping in mind that the castle is closed on Mondays in winter. To see the castle walls lit after sunset, opt for a night tour of Ferrara’s historic center.
The Violent History of the Castello Estense Dungeon
The claustrophobic prisons on the castle’s ground floor are where Duke Nicolò III d'Este had his young second wife and his son beheaded in 1425 after discovering they were lovers. This bloody tale was the inspiration behind Robert Browning's My Last Duchess.
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