This itinerary starts from Piazza Sordello which, together with its surroundings, constituted the ancient town, founded upon what was the original island and is still today the heart of the city.
The piazza, dedicated to Mantuan poet Sordello da Goito, mentioned by Dante in the 6th canto of the Purgatorio, was created over the course of the 14th century; it was the center of the religious and political scene, where first the Bonacolsi and then the Gonzaga family built their imposing palaces.
It is rectangular in shape, with the Cathedral standing on the north side.
On the east side, to the right looking at the Cathedral, the square is dominated by the two porticoed buildings which make up the facade of the Ducal Palace complex: the Magna Domus and the Palazzo del Capitano.
Not far beyond stands the Castello di San Giorgio, built by Francesco Gonzaga, around the end of the 14th century in order to extend the palace and defend it with a strong bulwark. The building is an imposing fortress built in brickwork on a square plan, with four massive towers at the corners and a moat all around.
Returning to the piazza, opposite the Ducal Palace stands the Bishop’s Palace and several adjoining historic family mansions: the Uberti Palace, the Castiglioni Palace and the Acerbi Palace.
The Bishop’s Palace was built between 1776 and 1786 and belonged to the Marchesi Bianchi family who lived in it until 1823 when it was turned into the bishop’s seat. On the facade, two impressive telamons at the sides of the entrance support a marble balcony.
At the corner with vicolo Bonacolsi, stands the late gothic Uberti Palace, built by a Mantuan branch of the Florentine family from which it takes its name. Traces of the original 13th century structures are still visible, partly walled up during later reconstructions, especially the windows facing vicolo Bonacolsi.
Next is Castiglioni Palace, otherwise known as Bonacolsi Palace, as it was believed to be the home of the Bonacolsi family, built by Pinamonte in 1281; it was more likely built by Luigi Gonzaga after he took over the town, in around 1340. Since 1808 it has been property of the Castiglione family, descendants of the famous Baldassare, author of Il Cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier). The vast facade in brickwork is crowned by Ghibelline merlons; on the upper floor are three-mullioned windows in terracotta and white marble. On the lower floor is a series of single lancet windows, nowadays almost all bricked-in. On the ground floor to the far left side, the original entrance, topped by a pointed arch, bears the Bonacolsi family coat of arms. The present entrance door and the balcony are 18th century additions. The tower facing vicolo Bonacolsi is also part of this complex.
Next to the Castiglioni Palace, stands the Acerbi Palace, one of the Bonacolsi family mansions, with the adjoining Tower of the Cage, the tallest tower in town. It gained this name in 1576 when Guglielmo Gonzaga had an iron cage placed on it which was used to imprison criminals.
A few meters from the Cathedral, along via Cairoli, stands the Seminary. Its neo-classical facade was built in 1825 from designs by Giovan Battista Vergani.
end of the book excerpt. You have the full content at: “Mantua a complete guide“
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