Your must-have travel gadget for this trip
A good camera
Table of Contents
Mantua is a city built around three lakes fed by the Mincio river, which few people are aware of. This transforms it into a true water metropolis in the heart of the Po Valley, with an incredible metropolitan picture, particularly when viewed from the Ponte di San Giorgio. Perhaps this is the ideal way to begin your journey to the Lombard capital, and then gradually approach the splendor of this Italian art and architecture jewel.
We recommend doing it in July or August, when Lake Superior is covered in hundreds of lotus blooms. We don't know if it's because of a legend about an eastern girl or because of a failed investment in "lotus flour," but the fact is that in these two months, Mantua's already beautiful scenery is transformed into an oriental enchantment. Once you've recovered from your awe, you'll be impressed once more by the majesty of Palazzo Ducale and the delicacy of Palazzo Te. You will undoubtedly come across Piazza Sordello with the Duomo and Piazza Erbe with the Rotonda di San Lorenzo, the lovely Casa del Mercante, the Astronomical Clock Tower, and the Palazzo della Ragione on your tour of Mantua.
The Gonzaga dynasty resided and ruled in the nearly 500 rooms that make up the Ducal Palace of Mantua from 1328 to 1707, or until Duke Ferdinand Charles was forced into exile.
The outcome of the sixteenth-century fusion of many buildings positioned between the Lower Lake and Piazza Sordello is what many consider to be a Royal Palace of similar grandeur to those of Paris, Vienna, or Caserta. The Palazzo del Capitano and the Magna Domus, both built by the Bonacolsi family, formed the initial nucleus. When the Gonzagas arrived, these structures were combined with other ones to form the Corte Vecchia. The cycle of frescoes that Pisanello created at Gianfrancesco Gonzaga's request may be found here, among courtyards, gardens, and chambers. The Castle of San Giorgio, which houses Mantegna's famed Bridal Chamber, was added to the Corte Vecchia in the 16th century. The Domus Nova was completed in 1480, leaning against the Corte Vecchia, and the Ducal Palace took on its final form. Unfortunately, little of the lavish interior survives: the Gonzagas were compelled to sell their works and furnishings due to the family's declining resources. The rest was done in Italy by Napoleon's forces. Fortunately, the Gonzaga family in adoration of the Trinity by Rubens is still visible.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 8.45 am to 7.15 pm (last admission at 6.30 pm). Sunday and midweek holidays it closes at 1.00 p.m. (except the first Sunday of the month). Closed on Mondays.
The Camera Picta or Bridal Chamber, painted by Mantegna from 1465 to 1474, is housed in the Castle of San Giorgio and is Mantua's most important work of art. Mantegna succeeded in making the walls into a space in which the characters of the Gonzaga family appear, thanks to a deft division of space and remarkable use of perspective.
All members of the Gonzaga family are depicted on the first wall ("of the court"): Marquis Ludovico II and his wife Barbara of Brandenburg are flanked by their children and relatives. Ludovico receives a letter from Raimondo dei Lupi's secretary, as tiny Paola offers an apple to her mother. The dwarf and his dog Rubino are both looking at the spectator. The celebration of the dynastic line is depicted in the second scene (named "of the gathering"), in which Ludovico II Gonzaga is joined by his son Francesco, a cardinal, who is holding the hand of his brother Ludovico, who is holding the hand of his nephew Sigismondo. Rome can be seen in the backdrop. Mantegna has three signatures, which is a curious fact. The first above the door, in a plaque held by winged putti, the second right next to it, on the pillar, where the artist depicts himself as a sort of flower. The third, in the clouds on the left in the vault.
Opening hours: from Tuesday to Sunday from 8.45 to 19.15 (last entrance at 18.30). Sunday and midweek holidays it closes at 13.00 (except the first Sunday of the month). Closed on Mondays.
Palazzo Te, contrary to popular belief, is named after a small island near Mantova called Teieto.
In order to enjoy the peace and quiet of the island, Francesco Gonzaga built a small manor house and stables in the early 1500s. The construction of Palazzo Te as we know it now began in 1524, when Federico II Gonzaga was inspired by a concept by Giulio Romano. Romano was Raphael's best student, and he was an artist who designed "not residences of mankind, but palaces of the Gods," as Vasari later remarked. If you're curious about this artist's appearance, there's a Titian portrait of him outside the ticket office! From the facades to the exedra to the infinite rooms that follow one another in an extraordinary sequence of symbols and references to the Gonzaga family's life and the politics of the time, the Palace is undoubtedly magnificent. The aesthetic zenith is attained in the Chamber of the Giants, a graphic cycle that has long been unrivaled in terms of technical competence and imaginative capacity. Jupiter punishes the giants for their effort to dethrone the gods, as seen in the fresco. Thanks to a perspective technique gained by painting the entire wall, from floor to ceiling, Giulio Romano manages to launch the observer into the middle of the combat. This is an event not to be missed.
According to legend, the earth with Christ's blood that Longinus, the Roman centurion who wounded his side, collected at the foot of the Cross is kept in the Church of St. Andrew.
Longinus buried the Holy Grail after his death (37 AD) in order to prevent it from being distributed. The traces were lost for approximately 800 years, and it took St. Andrew to point out where the first urn could be found. Mantua was made a bishopric as a result of this finding, and a tiny church dedicated to the Apostle Andrew was built. The second discovery of the relic and the bones of S. Longino, to whom a chapel was dedicated, occurred in 1048. Even though the artist's death and subsequent revisions affected the Renaissance form, the church was finally reorganized in 1472, based on a project by Leon Battista Alberti. The crypt houses the relics, which are only taken out on Good Friday, according to a complex 12-key mechanism.
The San Lorenzo Rotunda is Mantua's oldest church. It has a central plan with a gallery at the top, similar to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. According to legend, Matilde di Canossa wanted it to evoke the location where Jesus was buried, as well as the adjoining Church of St. Andrew, where the blood of Christ is preserved. The structure is thought to date from around 1000 and has served as a rest station for pilgrims on their way to the Cathedral for centuries. It was "encircled" by buildings throughout the decades until it vanished completely. It was used as a warehouse and then as a courtyard until being reopened in 1926 and restored to its former glory by eliminating the homes that blocked the view.
The interior features a single nave, with an ambulatory with eight columns preceding the center section. The church was extensively frescoed, but its vicissitudes over the centuries have preserved only fragments of frescoes, including a "San Lorenzo sulla graticola." The old dome was destroyed during the renovations, and the one from the church of San Bartolomeo in Almenno, near Bergamo, was used as a model.
Monday through Friday: Summer: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2:30-6:30 p.m. Winter: 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and holidays: 10.00-19.00
The largest and most important square in Mantua is named for the troubadour poet Sordello, but it was known as Piazza San Pietro for centuries. Piazza Sordello, a little jewel of harmony, is the site of Mantua's founding and the best synthesis of the Lombard city's beauty.
The Duomo is the city's most important church, yet it pales in comparison to the neighbouring Sant'Andrea. The most significant members of the Gonzaga family are buried inside. The Bishop's Palace, Palazzo degli Uberti with the evocative Bonacolsi alley, Palazzo Castiglioni, and Palazzo Acerbi with the Torre della Gabbia are located on the left side of the square, while the Bishop's Palace, Palazzo degli Uberti with the evocative Bonacolsi alley, Palazzo Castiglioni, and Palazzo Acerbi with the Torre della Gabbia. The imposing shadows of the Palazzo del Capitano and the Magna Domus, the original nucleus of the Ducal Palace, lie on the other side of the Piazza. Behind the Duomo is a lovely 1400 home with a loggia and a garden, which is always used by the clergy of the neighboring Duomo. This home was used as a set for the opera Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi. This, together with the addition of a statue of the jester in 1978, transformed the house into the House of Rigoletto, which is now a popular spot for selfies. Today, it serves as a Mantua information center, where visitors may obtain maps and other city-related publications.
In Mantua, as in many other Veneto and Lombard cities, the name Piazza delle Erbe refers to the city's centuries-old status as a commercial center, particularly a fruit and vegetable market.
The economic and tourist centre of Mantua is now characterized by stores beneath arcades, little tables of bars, and those of restaurants. The Merchant's House is located in the far right corner of the San Lorenzo Rotunda (see point 5), while the Astronomical Clock Tower is located on the left of the Rotunda, and the Palazzo della Ragione is located adjacent to it. The Palazzo del Podestà, also known as the "Palazzo del Broletto," closes the plaza. On the back side, there is a thirteenth-century statue of Virgil on a chair, which the Mantuans refer to as the vècia, or "old woman."
Mantua, as we've already shown, is a watery city, so much so that Montesquieu referred to it as "a second Venice." We arrive at the Loggia delle Pescherie after following the Rio, a river that runs through Mantua at numerous points. You'll see them along the path leading to Palazzo Te, and they're noticeable.
We are in the heart of the Pianura Padana (Po Valley), whose fertile soil was primarily used by Mantuans to grow pumpkins, which are now employed in a variety of cuisines ranging from the famed tortelli to sweets. There are kilometers of rice fields from Mantua to Veneto where the famed "Vialone Nano" is grown, which is best expressed in the "Risotto alla pilota" seasoned with swine sausage.