Ferrara, City of the Renaissance,
and its Po Delta
Ferrara, which developed around a ford over the River Po, became an intellectual and artistic centre that attracted the greatest minds of the Italian Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries. Here, Piero della Francesca, Jacopo Bellini and Andrea Mantegna decorated the palaces of the House of Este. The humanist concept of the ‘ideal city’ came to life here in the neighbourhoods built from 1492 onwards by Biagio Rossetti according to the new principles of perspective. The completion of this project marked the birth of modern town planning and influenced its subsequent development.
The Unesco Site
Only the unique places in the world are accepted on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The city of Ferrara and its territory of the historic Po Delta is one of these.
UNESCO has identified ten criteria, ten different definitions of excellence based on which a site can be accepted on the list. The first six criteria identify cultural values and the last four natural values.
The Ferrara site, which in 1995 obtained UNESCO recognition for its historic centre only, has also been listed from 1999 onwards for the vast area of the ancient Po delta marked by the “delizie” and qualifies as a cultural landscape. This means that the site is not connoted by the beauty of the individual monuments but by the significant and coherent entirety of an area planned in the Renaissance era where the motivations for the emergence of monuments and natural elements can be noted in a way that is still perfectly clear today.
Its exceptional universal value essentially consists of the visible evidence of how the Renaissance culture was transcribed into the layout of the city of Ferrara, making it an urban planning model and how, at the same time, it shaped the territory through a vast land drainage program, planning the production development and structuring it with the insertion of farms and villas, and the Estense “delizie”, which constituted monumental landmarks and control points for protecting the new lands.
Five of the six culture-related criteria put together define it as follows:
Ferrara, exemplarily designed in the Renaissance, still has its historic centre fully intact. The rules of urban planning expressed herein had a profound influence on the development of urban planning over the following centuries. (Criteria ii, iv and vi);
The residences of the dukes of Este in the Delta of the Po River perfectly visualize the Renaissance culture effects on natural landscape. (Criterion iii);
The Po Delta is an outstanding planned cultural landscape that retains its original shape. (Criterion v).
Contents available in the Map section refer to three different disciplinary approaches. In particular historical maps address the topic of geographic and landscape representation drawing from Liberal Arts disciplines, while thematic maps (CGU webgis, 3D models) offer a set of specific tools for designers, architects, technical experts and policy-makers.
The aforementioned cartographic section is one of the main outputs carried out by the project “Osservare, valutare, progettare il paesaggio”, financed with founds from the law 77/2006. The project implied a teamwork of several public bodies ( Emilia Romagna Region, The Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism and the Province of Ferrara as chief coordinator ) and aimed at an in-depth examination and enhancement of all the landmarks defining the cultural landscape and at a precise risk analysis, especially regarding the impact of infrastructures and of hydrogeological instability.
All the maps on this website are available for free.
The Mab Programme (Man and Biosphere) was launched by UNESCO in the Seventies, with the purpose of improving the relationship between people and their environment. It studies the dynamic interrelationships between natural/near-natural ecosystems and socio-economic processes, promoting solutions for the conservation of biodiversity through a capacity-building approach.
This programme led to the creation of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, a list of areas which includes terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems that are identified and internationally recognized by UNESCO. The Member States must ensure their commitment to manage their respective areas engaging local communities.
The MAB Programme aims to foster sustainable economic and human development. It creates special places for testing interdisciplinary experimental approaches (research, environmental education, urban planning) that investigate and manage the changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, while reducing the loss of biodiversity.
Since June 9th 2015 a large part of the countryside surrounding Ferrara became identified as both Biosphere Reserve by the MAB designation, as well as cultural landscape by UNESCO WHL. This attests the outstanding value of this land for its cultural, landscape and economic characteristics.
These two inscriptions are based on the following criteria:
• The World Heritage List’s criterion is essentially the evidence of the visible traces of Renaissance culture into the layout of the city and its countryside. This inscription is permanent and focuses on the enhancement and conservation of the unaltered landmarks that still define the frame of the Unesco Site: “Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta”.
• The MAB Programme’s designation is a fixed-term inscription. This programme affects areas with an outstanding natural value. It aims to enhance the quality of landscape by planning a sustainable use of the resources, while involving public and private stakeholders.
Unesco MAB :
Parco del Delta del Po _ Biosphere Reserve :
Parco del Delta del Po _official website :
Commissione Nazionale Italiana per l’Unesco :