Withstanding an earthquake

The city and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ferrara in Italy is pretty tough. You won’t believe what it’s survived over the centuries!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Ferrara, Italy

It was early in the morning when the earth shook Ferrara awake. Nature has no regard for history, for architecture or for heritage. The planet is bigger than them all and it strikes indiscriminately.

The day after the earthquake struck Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, at 5.9 on the richter scale, I visited the city. Cracks were on the walls, small piles of rubble still on the ground, and barricades erected by emergency services around buildings in danger.

World Heritage Site of Ferrara, Italy
World Heritage Site of Ferrara, Italy

Thankfully the damage was minimal, with only minor structural damage. Thankfully, because Ferrara is known worldwide as one of the finest examples of city planning. In its streets, quite literally, is the inspiration for many modern cities today.

World Heritage Site of Ferrara, Italy
World Heritage Site of Ferrara, Italy

Ferrara was the first planned city of the renaissance and the first in Italy not to follow the traditional Roman principles. It had two major perpendicular avenues the design was based around, wide roads to accommodate traffic and an advanced sewer system. For 1492, it was well ahead of its time.

World Heritage Site of Ferrara, Italy

It was supposed to be the ‘ideal city’, a humanist concept where the priority was the citizens. In its forward thinking, the city managed to attract and cultivated some of the greatest minds of the Renaissance period. At one point there was a feeling it could be a future capital city, but that clearly never came to pass.

World Heritage Site of Ferrara, Italy

These days there’s a lot of modern development in the city but the historic centre has been well-preserved and is relatively free of traffic. An old Italian wine bar (it claims to be the oldest in the world) lies down on street but it’s hard to find with no advertising or promotion. It fits with the understated character of the place.

World Heritage Site of Ferrara, Italy
World Heritage Site of Ferrara, Italy

With this kind of planning and attitude, Ferrara was designed to withstand the test of time. Earthquakes weren’t taken into consideration but it’s nice to see it withstands those kinds of pressures as well. Let’s hope it’s around for another 500 years.


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

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