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Serafino Monini Ferrara and a leading engineer during extraordinary years The city of Ferrara made a qualitative leap forward in the early seventies and has since become known throughout the world. Certain moments of this process are extremely important: the imposition of limited and rigorous planning permission within the city centre since 1978;
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The Jewish cemetery in the Sesto di San Romano A new piece in the mosaic of the history of Ferrara and its Jewish Community I had just published an essay in which I lamented the lack of an updated and scientific study on Jewish cemeteries in Ferrara, when I was shown a deed from the State Archives of Modena inherent to the burial place used by the Jews in 1335.

October 20th 1935 - October 14th 2011

Written by  Caterina Cornelio

Across seventy-six years of the National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara

National Archaeological Museum, the Hall of Monoxylous PiroguesWith the inauguration of the final rooms, on October 14th 2011, the re-evaluation of the National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara is almost complete. This project has also included the restoration of the Palazzo Costabili, better known as Palazzo di Ludovico il Moro, and its gardens. The museum, which has always been under the governance of the Superintendence for the Archaeological Heritage of Emilia Romagna, was created to house materials from the Spina necropolis and is now enhanced with new sections. The important discoveries from the tombs in the Trebba lagoon were initially sent to the Archaeological Museum of Bologna. It was later decided to locate materials from Spina, and the reality Panels documenting the archaeological digs of Spinathat they represented, in an independent setting. The Palazzo Costabili, was chosen from among the possible sites to house the museum. This decision was made because of the association between Antonio Costabili and Ludovico Sforza, il Moro, linked to Ferrara as a result of his marriage to Beatrice d'Este, daughter of Ercole I, in 1491. Biagio Rossetti was commissioned to build the palace, but it was never finished. After the demise of the Costabili family in 1595, the building was inherited by the Bevilacqua family and was subsequently distributed among the Count Scrofa and Marquis Calcagnini families who, on several occasions and at later periods, conceded the building to others. These events and their effect on the property and architecture, changed the structure of the palace, thereby compromising its state of conservation, and the situation was exacerbated by the presence of evacuee families during the First World War.

A showcase of the exposition from the FortiesIn order to stop further deterioration, the Italian State decided to acquire the building in 1920 for the sum of 195,000 Lire. The restoration of the building was only started in 1932 with conspicuous errors, including the elimination of the walls that filled-in the arches of the courtyard of honour balcony, in groups of two, and the removal of most of the eighteenthcentury stucco decorations. The inauguration of the museum took place on October 20, 1935, to coincide with the celebration of the eighth centenary of the construction of Ferrara Cathedral. From that day onwards, except during the Second World War, the museum was open to the public until the late eighties, when a new stage of restoration of the building was started. This project was aimed at the consolidation and recovery of the paintings, including the celebrated Sala del Tesoro The neo-Renaissance garden on the southern areawhich was frescoed by Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo, and the renovation of new areas to be opened to the public. The exhibition space has been expanded so that the rooms located on the ground floor of the east wing, which were also painted by Garofalo and his school, can also be visited. This substantial restoration has also facilitated the discovery of new painted decorations that had been obscured by the plaster of the thirties. A visit to the museum today follows a different route from that offered since 1935 - which only contained the display on the main floor of the findings from the necropolis, first from the Trebba, then from the Pega sites. The exhibition currently starts on the ground floor with a room dedicated to the city of Spina and its everyday life. From the Humanistic period onwards, A showcase dedicated to metals and ornamentswith the rediscovery of classical sources, research into the Spina site developed, revealing a thriving city built between the river Po and the Adriatic Sea, with fabled wealth and origins. A thick blanket of fog enveloped Spina until 1922, until the draining of the lagoons to the north of Comacchio, including the Trebba, confirmed the authenticity of the investigations. Since 1922, in conjunction with the drainage works, the archaeological survey carried out by the Superintendency of Emilia-Romagna has brought to light, firstly the necropolis located in the Trebba (1922-1935 excavations) and the Pega lagoons, examined in the fifties, and secondly, in the sixties, the settlement situated in the Lepri-Mezzano lagoon.

The life of the port, founded by the Etruscans and built in the last decades of the sixth century bc, was inextricably intertwined The Hall of Gold Jewellery (detail)with the events of the river, which determined its fortune, but also contributed to its decline. Surrounded by massive embankments and drainage works, consisting of clusters (insulae) of houses/huts separated by canals and roads, the city developed according to detailed urban criteria. The houses, built on slightly raised ground and made with wooden support beams, external walls of reeds and clay and thatched or tiled roofing, were on average composed of two rooms, divided by half-timbered walls with clay or wood flooring. Life revolved around the hearth, where the vertical frame used by the women for weaving wool was positioned. The excavations have revealed the presence of workshops for the manufacture of ceramics and metalwork. Also leather tanning, deer-antler craftwork, meat and fish preservation and goat/sheep farming activities were all an important part of Spina life, representing the internal economy of the city. But the main activity was trade with Athens, its business partners and with the upper Po Valley, Etruscan and transalpine areas. The huge cargo ships full of amphorae of Greek wine and Attic pottery arrived in the river port of Spina, and then returned to sea laden with grain, bronze, slaves, horses, animal hides, salt and amber, all of which had been attained through forms of exchange governed by barter. The richness and sophistication of the ceramic tableware that was discovered confirm the idea that Spina had an upper-middle class population with sophisticated habits. Wealth and refinement were also eloquently represented in the necropolis, where over four thousand tombs for cremation or burial were found. The Spina population was heterogeneous, as befits a cosmopolitan port city, frequented by Greeks, Phoenicians, Venetians, Illyrians and Celts. People of different ethnicities from the Etruscans, who used the Etruscan language to put their names on vases but also knew how to speak Greek, the language of commerce. The population's downfall, at the hands of the "barbarians" (Celts), is archaeologically dated in the mid-third century BC. The change in the hydro-geo-morphological structure of the delta, with the sea withdrawing from the city, also contributed to the demise of Spina. Efforts were made to remedy this situation by building artificial canals, but these operations were not conclusive.

Habits, religious beliefs, trade links, language and ethnic presence are all described in the museum, which has been enriched with display panels, teaching aids and bilingual instructional captions (Italian and English). Particular attention has been paid to the settlement room which, together with the sections devoted to worship, writing and to the peoples of Spina, complete the exhibition circuit already extended by the sala degli ori (The Hall of Gold Jewellery) and enriched by the rearrangement of the dugout boat room and the reopening of the gardens to the public. Multimedia devices have also been used to represent the full and exciting everyday life of Spina. A final innovation is the facility for the hypo-sighted and the blind, built into the exhibitive sequence of the museum.

Recently, the museum has also become a meeting place, where we can participate in conference cycles, listen to music or take part in guided tours and performances inspired by the cults and stories of gods and heroes depicted on vases that formed the symposium objects for the people of Spina. All these initiatives have contributed to the enrichment of the Museum and an increase in visitors.