When the legendary Ferrarese filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni called his beloved hometown "a city that you can see only partly, while the rest disappears to be imagined," perhaps he was referring to the low-lying mist that rolls in off the Adriatic each winter and shrouds Ferrara's winding knot of medieval alleyways, turreted palaces, and ancient wine bars—once frequented by the likes of Copernicus—in a ghostly fog. But perhaps Antonioni was also suggesting that Ferrara's striking beauty often conceals a dark and tortured past.

Today you’re likely to be charmed by Ferrara's prosperous air and meticulous cleanliness, its excellent restaurants and chic bars (for coffee and any other liquid refreshment), and its lively wine-bar scene. You'll find aficionados gathering outside any of the wine bars near the Duomo even on the foggiest of weeknights. Although Ferrara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city draws amazingly few tourists—which only adds to its appeal.

If you plan to explore the city fully, consider buying a Card Musei (Museum Card, also known as "My Ferrara Tourist Card"). Two days cost €12, three days €14, and six days €18. You can purchase the card at the Castello Estense and some other Ferrara museums; it grants admission to most of the town's museums, as well as the castle. The first Sunday of the month is free at many museums.

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