This itinerary can be summed up in one word: delightful!
You have 2 days to explore the Delizie estensi, the Este family's recreational palaces, Pomposa and its beautiful abbey and, pardon the unavoidable repetition, the delightful Island of Love.
The monumental residences, known as Delizie estensi date back to the Este family’s dominance over Ferrara and the Po Delta areas, and represent the way Renaissance culture was reflected in the natural landscape.
This discovery begins at Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara. Currently home to the Civic Museums of Antiquities, this building, as the name suggests, functioned as a place for fun and recreation, specifically to "schivar la noia" [escape boredom]. Entering its rooms is like embarking on a wonderful journey through time, letting your imagination run wild with the day-to-day entertainment of dukes and courtiers, surrounded by cherubs and fantastical landscapes.
Your second stop is Delizia di Belriguardo located in Voghiera, about twenty minutes from Ferrara. At the behest of Niccolò d'Este in 1435, it was built as a summer home for the Este family. It was the first Este mansion outside the walls of Ferrara and remains the most lavish and luxurious.
Once you’ve finished this tour, you’ll find the Delizia Estense del Verginese in Gambulaga di Portomaggiore just a few kilometres away. Originally a farmhouse, it was transformed into a ducal residence by Alfonso the First d'Este and given to Laura Eustochia Dianti. Its rooms host the permanent exhibition Il Sepolcreto dei Fadieni, featuring the findings of the small Roman necropolis discovered nearby.
The last stop of your first day devoted to the Delizie Estensi is Castello Estense della Mesola. A defensive wall and four imposing crenelated towers with large windows make the castle a structure that functioned as both a fortress and a luxury residence, and was built as a place to stay during hunting trips in the adjacent Mesola forest. As it is nearby, a visit to the Mesola Forest Nature Reserve is also worth your time. You can end your day by exploring one of the marked paths, with the hope of spotting the indigenous species of red deer and fallow deer. In the past, this area was solely a hunting reserve. Today, it is one of the last and best-preserved remnants of the ancient lowland forests that covered the Adriatic coast in centuries past.
With no time to lose, your next journey puts you back on the road at daybreak to Pomposa, a small town dominated by its beautiful namesake abbey, considered a masterpiece of Romanesque and Byzantine art. Its prominent bell tower can be seen from afar. In medieval times, Pomposa had one of the largest libraries, with several people who contributed to its illustrious status, including the monk Guido da Pomposa, inventor of the modern musical transcription.
From here, the Island of Love, where you can finally enjoy an afternoon of well-deserved rest surrounded by the amazing nature of the Po Delta, is just moments away. This island is located in the municipality of Goro and can be reached by boat service run by fishermen. Its beach is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places in Italy, so it’s no coincidence that it was ranked as one of the best in Italy by Legambiente, the Italian environmental association. It is made up of a strip of sand where dunes are everchanging according to winds and tides. In addition to the reed beds that thrive in the inland marshy areas, some typical vegetation grows on the dunes, such as the calichieto and agripireto plants. Moreover, some bird species, such as oystercatchers, terns, and sea swallows, find a perfect habitat for nesting. It is also not unusual to spot otters, once thought to be extinct here, and even some sea turtles.
Needless to say, it makes for a very exciting and relaxing itinerary indeed.