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Literary Ferrara - Giorgio Bassani’s Ferrara

Born in Bologna into a well-to-do Ferrarese family of Jewish origin, Giorgio Bassani grew up and completed his secondary education in Ferrara, the city in which all his works of fiction are set.
Literary Ferrara - Giorgio Bassani’s Ferrara

He graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in 1943. After the Second World War he moved to Rome where he began to write. He is most famous for his fiction, which culminates in The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1962). In his works all facets of the Estense city exist side by side: the Ferrara of the Jewish community and that of Catholic culture, the city of the rich middle-classes and that of the more humble classes.
The locations, streets and squares mentioned in his novels are ordinary, real places but acquire special meaning: Corso Ercole I d’Este is not just the main thoroughfare of the Renaissance city, but “straight as a sword” leads towards the house of the Finzi-Continis; the wall around the castle “where the pavement follows the Castle moat in a straight line” (from A Night in 1943) regains its dark, dramatic colours of the night when eleven of the town’s citizens were slaughtered there; the Mura degli Angeli is a nice place to stroll, today as it was then, but is also the place where the leading character of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis takes refuge when he finds out he has failed in mathematics: “I stopped under a tree, one of those ancient trees, limes, elms, horse chestnuts...”. These and many other places, such as the synagogue with its plaques in memory of the deportations mentioned in A Plaque in Via Mazzini and the house in which he was born, described in the novella Behind the Door, appear in his work. The fascination in searching for the places linked to the events that Bassani narrates lies in being able to actually compare fantasy with reality: the ordinary, real place is filtered by our memory and loaded with rich and meaningful emotions.

Bassani’s House
Via Cisterna del Follo, 1 - Private, not visitable
The house where the writer grew up has a simple façade. A magnolia tree, often mentioned by the writer, stands in the courtyard and can be seen from the outside.

Jewish Museum and Synagogues CLOSED
Via Mazzini, 95
In the Jewish Museum there is an exhibition of traditional and ceremonial objects that illustrate different aspects of the life of every Jew, from birth to death (fragments of tombstones and wooden blocks placed in graves). An elegant example of an 18th century Elijah chair, lacquered in green, comes instead from Lugo: it was on this chair that circumcision was performed. In the display cases there are many metal objects, mainly silver; the majority of them serve as decorations for the Torah scrolls; a nine-light candelabra of particularly refined artistry that is still used in the Temple during the feast of Channukkà (light); the keys to the gates of the ghetto, a real historic rarity.

Jewish Schools
Via Vignatagliata, 79 / 81 - Private, not visitable
This building had been home to the Jewish community schools for centuries when Bassani, together with other teachers and students who had been expelled from the public education system under the racial laws, began to teach there in 1938.

Palazzo Paradiso – Ariostea Library
Via Scienze, 17
Bassani used to frequent the library when he lived in Ferrara and its rooms are described in the novel The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. All the various editions and translations of the author’s works are conserved there.

Jewish Cemetery
Via delle Vigne
The author and his parents are buried here. It is an evocative and silent place dominated by nature, which embraces and almost envelops the simple gravestones.

"The Fictional Garden"
It is not unusual to find tourists searching for the legendary Garden of the Finzi-Continis along the streets of Ferrara. They are greatly disappointed when they find out that Bassani invented it. The writer himself admitted he was inspired by the vast green area which before the Second World War occupied the northern part of the city and which has now become a populous district. Connoisseurs of the famous novel must not despair however: part of that green area still exists. Half way along the Mura degli Angeli to the north of Piazzale San Giovanni, a path descends from the ramparts and passes between meadows and the green boundaries of the Jewish Cemetery. It leads to Via delle Vigne and, passing through a small gateway, a second path is reached that in turn leads through green orchards to Via delle Erbe. The surrounding atmosphere exudes great calm and when the wind rustles the leaves or the autumn colours the plants with all its hues, if you close your eyes, it is not difficult to imagine yourself in that fabulous garden and with a little luck hear Micòl’s and Alberto’s bicycles approaching.

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last modified Mar 04, 2024 11:56
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