Ferrara is still surrounded by more than 9 kilometres of ancient walls, mainly built in the 15th and 16th centuries. Together with those of Lucca, they are the best preserved Renaissance walls in Italy. Today, you can walk or even take a bicycle ride along the top of the walls.
The most iconic building of the town is the imponent Castello Estense, which is situated in the very center of the city. Surrounded by a moat, it has three entrances with drawbridges fronted by brickwork ravelins and four massive bastions. It was built starting in 1385 and partly restored in 1554 after it suffered damaged from the earthquake of 1507 that severely shook the city for more than a year.
The first of the Gothic rooms on the ground floor is certainly the most beautiful, with rich decorations of clusters of flowers running along the ribs of the vault. The room is dedicated to Nicolà II d’Este, his portrait on the hanging tapestry, who built the castle. A magnificent reconstruction of the castle in wood in the early years of its existence fills the room.
Also on the ground floors are several dungeons. The first, the Don Giulio Dungeon, was a small cell and torture chamber for Giulio d’Este, the illegitimate son of Ercole I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara and brother of Alfonso I and Cardinal Ippolito. The two brothers both fell in love with the same woman, Angela Borgia, cousin of the Duchess Lucrezia. This gracious and much-courted maiden granted her preference to Giulio; the Cardinal ordered his soldiers to seize, kill, and stab Giulio. The order was partially carried out, as Giulio brutally beaten with both eyes stabbed. In 1506 Giulio was imprisoned in the dungeon, where he served 63 years.