Author Sarah Dunant set her latest novel in Ferrara, a town that captivated her with its rich history – especially that of its grand medieval convents
The first problem I had when I started writing a novel set in a 16th-century convent in Ferrara was that my spellchecker kept trying to turn the city into a car. It was one of many realisations that this history-rich place on the banks of the River Po is one of Italy’s hidden treasures.
We’ll get inside the convent later – first, Ferrara itself. I arrived there early one summer morning on a train from Florence. My walk to Florence station had been an obstacle course of cars and crocodile files of sweating tourists so busy adjusting their commentary earphones that they barely managed to lift their eyes to see what particular Renaissance wonder the guide was instructing them to appreciate.