National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara, Italy

The National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara is housed in the Costabili palace, inaugurated in 1935. The structure displays various artifacts from the excavations of the Etruscan city of Spina, which flourished between the sixth and third centuries BC. It is remarkable for the funerary complex, consisting of more than 4000 tombs, from which one of world’s largest collections of Greek red figure vases comes from.

The museum is located inside the Palazzo Costabili, a sixteenth century building called “di Ludovico il Moro”, and has been brought back to its former magnificence thanks to the restoration of Biagio Rossetti’s architectural work, and Garofalo and Dosso Dossi’s frescoes.

The original structure is completed with the new Museum settings, enriched on the ground floor with multiprojections, movies and touch-screens taking visitors through a sensory tour.

On the first floor the visit continues through the necropolis rooms, the rooms displaying the dishes to serve fish, craters, jewels and a sensory space, offering a unique opportunity to touch original objects surrounded by frescoes, plasterwork and a baroque fireplace. The visit ends with the pirogues hall and the neo Renaissance garden.

According to a hypothetical tradition, the Duke of Milan Ludovico il Moro, to escape the looming threats that were looming over his person, would have decided to build a sumptuous residence in the peaceful Este capital, the city of origin of his wife Beatrice d’Este, and entrusted the ambassador of the Milanese city to the court of Este with the task of building this building. In reality it seems that the commission started solely from the Sforza’s legacy with the Este, the ambassador Antonio Costabili.

The works were entrusted to the great architect Biagio Rossetti who began construction of the dwelling in 1495 while the works ended already in 1504. The palace was built on the ancient Via della Ghiara, so called because of the sandy residues left by one of the branches of the Po that once flowed in that area, and represents the historical political alliances that at that time existed between Ferrara and Milan, highlighted especially from the relationships of Ludovico il Moro with the Este family, both as husband of Beatrice d’Este and as uncle of Anna Maria Sforza, first wife of Alfonso I d’Este.

Later the palace became the property of the Costabili family which, extinguished in the 16th century, gave life to a series of passages of ownership of the residence which decreed its decay while only in 1920, on the initiative of the general director of Antiquities and Fine Arts Corrado Ricci, the state bought the property from the last owners when its conditions were now collapsing. In 1929 the Ministry of National Education decided to allocate the property to the site of the archaeological finds found in the Spina necropolis. The restoration work, which began in 1932, entailed the consolidation of the structure and its adaptation to a museum, including the style remakes and the elimination of many baroque decorations, as was the practice of the time. The most recent restoration work dates back to the nineties on behalf of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism and of the Municipality of Ferrara, which provided for technological upgrading of the plants and philological restorations.

Palazzo Costabili, also called the palace of Ludovico il Moro, is located in Ferrara, on the ridge of the Addizione di Borso, via XX Settembre 122. It houses the National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara.

Although unfinished it is one of the greatest masterpieces of the architect Biagio Rossetti.

The courtyard of honor, although incomplete on two sides, is probably the most significant aspect of the splendor of the house: a double order of arches produces a constant rhythm, with the portico and the upper loggia.

The two orders of arches are crowned by an elegant terracotta cornice, and by marble decorations that make the whole more harmonious.

The first floor windows were originally open and walled in groups of two, creating a game of full and empty spaces that can still be partially appreciated on the facade of the building on via Porta d’Amore. The restoration of the thirties of the twentieth century opened all the windows to obtain a portico in the Bramante style, to which the plan of the building was attributed. Today a game of curtains suggests to the visitor the ancient aspect of the courtyard.

The museum
The archaeological museum is located in Palazzo Costabili, known as Ludovico il Moro’s; on the main floor there is a large hall frescoed with geographical maps that help to visualize the territory in the different historical periods, while on the ground floor the Sala del Tesoro is visible. The museum houses the finds from the Etruscan city of Spina.

The museum houses the high-quality findings of the Etruscan city of Spina,commercial emporium of primary importance, which flourished from the 6th to the 3rd century BC. The objects are divided by equipment, or grouped according to the burial of origin. Of particular charm are the large Attic symposium vases, on which you can read scenes from everyday life, mythological tales or related to the Trojan war. Works of the most skilled craftsmen of the time appear and, alongside objects of great wealth, such as gold tiaras, there are others of more common use, including plates, bowls, oil containers, bone and stone nuts. Of Etruscan production are instead other finds, especially in bronze, including candlesticks and beautiful moldings, tripods, supports. Note the High Adriatic ceramics, produced locally when trade with Greece ceased.

It starts from the ground floor, then continues to the noble floor: from the inhabited area to the necropolis, to return a different image of the Greek-Etruscan settlement found in Valle Trebba and Valle Pega. Known above all for its necropolis and the rich material found in over four thousand tombs, we now also discover the ‘ city of the living ‘: a thriving and multicultural port on the Adriatic coast. This through the finds from urban spaces. PIECES result of the excavations conducted between the sixties and eighties, then resumed in 2007: on display in ’93 and never used since, kept until now in the museum’s deposits. The four rooms dedicated to the town of Spina are characterized by a multisensory path, set up by Vps in Rome, with the advice of Maurizio Di Paulo.

In the first room, the evocative music of the Mediterranean and the images that flow on the walls taken from vascular paintings with red figures welcome. The urban, architectural and social aspects are illustrated: in the center, the gromatic pebble that marked the border. The second room, with the frescoes of the stories of Giuseppe di Garofalo and Dosso Dossi, is dedicated to cults and myths, the third, decorated with Sibyls and Prophets, focuses on peoples and scriptures: both are integrated with videos of the Bologna Academy of Fine Arts. The fourth room, of the ‘Cappelletta’, houses one of the two virtual libraries and represents the trait-d’union with the upper floor. The study room closes the course: a real living room equipped with teaching aids.

The exhibition itinerary is organized on two floors. On the ground floor are the rooms dedicated to the town of Spina and the activities that were practiced there. Special sections are dedicated to religious life and the varied population of the city, seen through epigraphic evidence. Also on the ground floor are the two monossil boats (commonly referred to as “pirogues”) recovered in 1948 in Valle Isola and dating back to the late Roman era (III-IV century BC).

On the main floor, a selection from the most significant outfits from the numerous tombs found in the necropolis are exhibited with chronological criteria. Among the most valuable pieces include the splendid ceramics Attic red-figured (craters, kylikes, amphorae, hydria) produced by important Athenian artists of the fifth and fourth centuries BC The paintings represent mythological scenes and everyday life, and testify to the diffusion of Greek art in the Etruscan area. Other ceramics, mainly from the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, come from Magna Grecia and Sicily. Of Etruscan production are mainly bronze objects, such as candelabra, tripods, supports. Note the High Adriatic ceramics, produced locally when contacts with Greece ceased.

The jewels in gold, silver, amber and semi-precious stones deserve a special mention, which testify to the technical skill achieved by the artisans of the Po and Central Italian Etruria.

Treasury room
In the interiors, of which very little remains, the most representative and most important room is the so-called Sala del Tesoro, probably intended as a music room or library, archive or even a thesaurus, or rather a place of collection of works of art and objects. precious. The room was decorated between 1503 and 1506 by Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo, one of the most representative painters of the Ferrara school active at the Este court in the late Renaissance.

The ceiling is decorated on the basis of the Camera degli Sposi in Mantegna, located in the Castle of San Giorgioin Mantua, and presents a fake balcony from which overlook different characters, many with musical instruments, which bear witness to their love for the music, art and poetry; beyond the balcony, in the blue sky, stands the ceiling of a gazebo decorated with branches full of fruit. At the center of the gazebo there is a carved wooden rose window and a fake architecture that acts as a cover for the structure. All around runs a frieze decorated with grotesques with medallions depicting mythological scenes from ancient Rome. The pictorial connection between the ceiling and the walls was made in 1517 withlunettes in which the myth of Eros and Anteros is painted, the work of the humanist Celio Calcagnini.

Hall of Maps
This hall is located on the main floor of the building, dedicated to the Etruscan necropolis of Spina, and was decorated in 1935 as the conclusion of the restoration works that led to the opening of the National Archaeological Museum. The decision to dedicate the conclusion of the museum itinerary to the reproduction of ancient geographical maps was taken by the first director of the museum, Salvatore Aurigemma, who wanted to draw the viewer’s attention both to the territory of the Po delta and to the valleys of Comacchio, or the area in which the findings of the city of Spina came to light following the reclamation of Valle Trebba in the 1920s.

This desire to decorate the room is also based on the spirit of the time, in particular the recovery of past history and especially of ancient imperial Rome, which in the fascist era served to justify the State’s interventions and actions. The review of the great geographical maps, even if exceeded by modern cartography, begins with two maps of Italy: one with the territories in which the Etruscans lived during their period of maximum expansion (5th century), while the other shows the division in regions during the era of Emperor Augustus (1st century). A prominent representation, placed along the wall overlooking the loggia, is covered by a portion of the Peutingerian Table, a medieval copy of a Roman map showing the military routes of the Roman Empire, which depicts the path of the Po from Piacenza to the its mouth and with central Italy up to Rome. The cartographic cycle ends with the maps of the Po delta and the Comacchio valleys, useful for the visitor to better frame the area of origin of the Etruscan city of Spina.

The verses of the ode to the city of Ferrara, composed by Giosuè Carducci in 1895, were transcribed around the room on the cornice frieze.

The Hall of Gold Jewellery
The room displays almost a hundred jewels in gold, silver, amber and glass paste found in the grave goods of Spina and datable between the fifth and fourth centuries BC. C. The refined setting includes a collection of precious finds, partly attributable to Etruscan craftsmanship, partly related to similar Magno-Greek jewels: gold tiaras, fibulae, pendants and various other jewels that accompany the man in the highlights of the its existence, from birth to adulthood, up to hoarding beyond death.

Very interesting is the collection of amber objects, a material that according to tradition was worn by women from the Po Valley for their therapeutic qualities and often combined with gold in an interweaving of power and royalty. Part of the exhibition is dedicated to the world of perfumes, which connoted the status symbol of the privileged classes: balsamari in vitreous paste, pyxes in marble and spathae to draw on the essences. Through the exhibition of these new and fascinating finds, the visitor will be able to draw a lively and more complete picture of the history of Spina and its inhabitants.

Much of the collection of jewels and artefacts will be on display for the first time. It is a fitting complement to the exhibition of grave furniture from the Spina necropolis.

The goldsmith workshops of Spina, mainly dating from the end of the 5th century BC, testify to a period of generalized affluence in this Etruscan port. They also demonstrate the masterful craftsmanship of its goldsmiths. Gold, silver, amber, semi-precious stones and vitreous glass paste were the materials most prevalently used. In the darkness of the tombs they reflected the power of their owners and the pomp and ceremony that surrounded their use in everyday ritual or on special occasions. Unlike the large numbers of 5th and early 4th century BC Attic vases on display, gold artefacts were an exceptional element of grave furniture in Spina and almost exclusively found alongside women. Finds include amulets made from a variety of materials, and gold trinkets that had been carefully concealed in the tombs. Made almost certainly by local artisans using traditional methods, Spina jewellery nonetheless testifies to the creative flair of their makers and their ability to both adapt and set new fashions. Indeed Spina artisans had that combination of technical and artistic skills that have always been the key to success in the luxury goods world.

Blind path
With images and text in relief, audio guides with MP3 players and braille. In addition, the public now has the opportunity to handle a symposium service reassembled on a specially designed counter.

The garden
The formal garden of the external spaces of the building assumes considerable importance, the result of the restorations it underwent in 2010. However, the garden that can be visited today is not the original one since it is a reconstruction in the style of a typical Renaissance garden made in the 1930s. The original “garden of representation” was located to the east of the building, along the ancient via della Ghiara, of which no trace remains today since over time it has been divided several times and destined for different owners.

The desire to recreate a typical Renaissance garden was born in the 1930s, in the same period when the National Archaeological Museum was inaugurated, although it is the result of a purely imaginary reconstruction and not based on any historical documentation. The garden, which until the early twentieth century was used as a vegetable garden, was divided into large squares, keeping the same existing paths and outlining the flower beds; moreover, as the practice of the time wanted, the southern part was decorated with privets of privet, a plant not widespread in the sixteenth – century gardens. In the 1950s, the labyrinth was added, the gallery of roses, the green games inside the squares and other tree species, ending up losing the formal unity with which it was conceived.

The restoration works of 2009 – 2010, thanks to the studies carried out on the ground, made it possible to keep the garden system almost unchanged and also made it possible to reconstruct the ancient constitution of the tree essences. In particular, the archeology of the landscapes has reconstructed a very vast environment, used almost entirely as a vegetable garden and equipped with rare trees but rich in the typical vegetation of a moist soil, as well as fruit trees, uncultivated meadows and a high concentration of grains, especially barley and wheat; archaeological excavation investigationsinstead they highlighted the ground levels prior to the construction of the building together with the remains of a wall that cut across the garden and which was demolished in the early eighteenth century.

The paleobotanical and palynological investigations have thus returned a more detailed picture of the arboreal compositions of the area over the centuries and have allowed a more accurate restoration of the garden, which was promoted and financed by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism. The intervention consisted of a conservative restoration of the existing one: the paths and the green areas, the boxes and the hedges in boxwood were kept, as well as the labyrinth and the pergola of roses, while the deodara cedar and the cedar of Lebanonplaced in the southern area they have undergone an intervention of cleaning of the dry parts and an increase in the crowns. The four yews have also been repositioned in their respective squares, beyond the well, so as not to interfere with the perspective view of the portico; some arboreal essences have also been replaced with two pomegranate plants, already present in the garden and also represented in the Sala del Tesoro by Garofalo. Finally, the surrounding wall was covered with flowering climbing plants such as roses, hydrangeas, clematis armandii and American vines.

The splendid neo-Renaissance garden of Palazzo Costabili in via XX Settembre, geometries of the hedges intersected by the paths, the magical green labyrinth, the romantic targets of roses, the monumental arboreal essences that delimit the midday garden will welcome visitors in search of a corner of nature and peace among the treasures of art, architecture and archeology that characterize this corner of the city.