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Mantova, the capital of Matilde di Canossa and of the Gonzaga family, is an enchanted island surrounded by three lakes formed by the Mincio.

The monumental scenography of the Gonzaga period, the marvelous frescos of the Mantegna family, the splendid inventions of Giulio Romano in the Tea Palace, the churches; the patrician houses narrate the history.

A few kilometers from Mantova, we can admire the beautiful Sanctuary of the Beata Vergine alle Grazie, the Benedictine Abbey of Polirone, in San Benedetto Po, the small village parishes, and the old courts.

Mirage in the fertile countryside is Sabbioneta, the “small Athens” of Vespasiano Gonzaga.

Mantova history

According to legend the town was founded by the soothsayer Manto when he fled from Thebes; Mantua enters history with the Etruscans. It goes from Roman rule to the barbarian invasions until, around 1000 A.D. it becomes part of the feudal dominions of the Canossa.

Mantegna Mantova

It becomes a free commune in the XII and XIII centuries, continuing to grow while the unhealthy marsh by which it surrounded is drained and reclaimed. In 1237 Pinamonte Bonacolsi comes to power and consolidates its economic prosperity until 1328, when control passes to Luigi Gonzaga, founder of the dynasty to which Mantua owes most of its artistic beauty. It is, in fact, under Gonzaga rule that Mantua becomes notably more important politically, enjoys economic prosperity and is acknowledged as a primary center of culture and Renaissance art.

The family residence soon becomes one of the largest and most magnificent palaces in Europe.

Mantegna Mantova

Mantegna frescos the bride and bridegroom’s bedroom, L.B.Alberti designs the churches of Saint Andrew and Saint Sebastian and Giulio Romano builds the Palazzo del Te.

Damaged by the War of Succession, decimated by the plague, the city declines rapidly.

The Gonzaga dynasty falls in 1707 and the city passes into the hands of the Austrians. In 1866 Mantua becomes part of the Italian State.

Mantova attractions

Renowned for its architectural splendor and medieval charm, Mantua is a town rich in history and ducal splendor, the city of Virgil, greatest of Roman poets, of Mantegna, among the best Renaissance painters, of the Gonzaga, one of the most remarkable of Italian princely families, situated on the River Mincio, Milton’s “smooth-sliding Mincius, crowned with vocal reeds”.

Palazzo Te Mantova
Palazzo Te

The Ducal Palace and Palazzo Te are the two main attractions of a cultural itinerary in town, identified by the image of the salamander.

Leaving the castle, Castello di San Giorgio, one enters Piazza Sordello, which is, together with its surroundings, the original center of the town.

The square is dominated by the vast portico “facade” of the Ducal Palace (which comprises Palazzo del Capitano and the Magna Domus), the Cathedral and, on the right, the Bishop’s Palace, the Uberti Palace and the Castiglioni Palace.

Going under the archway, Voltone di San Pietro, walking along the Renaissance porticos in Piazza Broletto one can see the Palazzo del Podesta’.

Through the Sottoportico dei Lattonai, one enters Piazza Erbe where the other side of the palace can be seen; the square, the liveliest in the historic center, is dominated by the Palazzo della Ragione, with its adjoining Clock Tower and by the Rotonda di San Lorenzo, while in the nearby Piazza Mantegna, the imposing facade of the Basilica di Sant’Andrea dominates the scene.

Walking towards the second attraction of this itinerary, Mantegna’s House, the Tempio and Palazzo di San Sebastiano can be seen before reaching Palazzo Te, the masterpiece of Giulio Romano.

Where to stay in Mantua

There are hotels, apartments, B&Bs and guesthouses available, check it out and make a reservation here.