Snapshots of Mantova, Italy: A look into one of Lombardia’s most livable cities:
Equidistant from Milan and Venice and just next door to Verona, Mantova is an easy-to-reach city chock full of history, culture and absolutely mouth-watering food. Declared the Italian Capital of Culture in 2016 as well as the European Capital of Gastronomy for 2017, it’s time you added Mantova to your must-see list!
1. Palazzo Ducale
Like the Medici’s in Florence, the Gonzaga family ruled over Mantova, bringing the brightest artists, musicians and writers to the town. The family’s primary residence, Palazzo Ducale is a massive castle with over 500 rooms. They say it’s as big as seven football fields. Walking through the enormous, empty halls it can be difficult to imagine it as it once was, filled with people, guests and furniture, but the second-story garden helps. Quite empty for my tastes, it’s worth a visit to see Mantegna’s ‘Camera degli Sposi’, or Room of the Spouses, a small room completely covered in frescoes of the Gonzagas.
2. Centro Storico
The historical city center of the city is Piazza Sordello, a piazza dedicated to the poet Sordello da Goito who was cited by Dante in the Divina Commedia. The oldest square in the city, it’s also a part of Mantua’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the piazza is the impressive Palazzo Ducale and the city’s Cathedral.
3. Palazzo Te
An enormous villa, Palazzo Te was built between 1525 and 1535 as a suburban residence for Federico II Gonzaga, of the famous Gonzaga family. Originally a stable, the layout of the structure still resembles that with large squares of offices and rooms creating vast courtyards between them. Palazzo Te eventually came to be used for official court receptions, housing rulers from abroad. Be sure to visit the famous Room of the Giants.
4. Mantova’s Lakes
Mantova is surrounded by lakes created by the Mincio River, a tributary of Lombardia’s famous Po River. Crossing into the city on the San Giorgio bridge offers the best view: the city’s skyline seems to rise out of the water like Triton’s crown, towers and roofs peaking through the water and persistent fog.
Long time readers know I don’t typically recommend restaurants, but this is one for the books. The amazing, amazing place where we went to eat lunch, it seems to be a favorite of many. Located near to the main piazza, Osteria ai Ranari specializes in traditional, local dishes. You can read more about our lunch experience here.
Via Trieste, 11 – 46100 Mantova
6. Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle
Located in Piazza Sordello, the city’s Duomo was built in the 14th century and is the burial ground for the artists, bishops and Gonzaga’s of Mantova.
Built by Bibiena in 1767, the much anticipated theatre, made entirely of wood, was inaugurated December 3, 1769 by 14-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with a memorable concert. Afterward, Mozart’s father wrote to his wife: “In all my life I’ve never seen anything, of the sort, more beautiful.”
8. Astronomical Clock Tower
Located on the Palazzo della Ragione, once the home of the Court of Justice, the clock was one of the first mechanical clocks. Better described as an astronomical/astrological clock, it tracks hours, lunar phases, celestial equator, the plants and zodiac signs. The citizens of Mantova used it to guide their lives – it determined when to plant seeds, bottle wine, depart on a trip and more.
9. Rotonda di San Lorenzo
The Rotonda di San Lorenzo is Mantova’s oldest church. Found in Piazza delle Erbe, the completely round structure filled with Byzantine frescoes is now deconsecrated.
Snapshots is a series to offer a glimpse into the life or sites of each location. Far from a complete guide, it’s a photo-heavy look at the beauty, history or fun each destination has to offer.