Visiting the Ducal Palace of Mantua, Italy

Mantua in Italy: what to see and how to get there

Home of the ancient Roman poet Virgil, Mantua in Italy is perfect for travelers who are partial to history and culture. The city is the administrative center of the province of the same name in the Italian region of Lombardy and can serve as one of the ideal destinations for a day out if you vacation around Bologna, Verona, Milan and even Venice.

Mantua is known not only as the birthplace of Virgil. Here the greatest Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna worked, no less famous Flemish Baroque painter Peter Rubens started his career. Romeo, the hero of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, was exiled to Mantua for the murder of Juliet’s cousin Tybalt.

The small city, surrounded by the waters of the Mincho River, is famous above all for its ancient monuments. From one point of interest in Mantua to another here at a stone’s throw, but you need to try very hard to have time to see them all in one day.

In virtually every building the city has managed to preserve the memory of the past

Once Mantua was like an island city: in the XII century the architect and engineer Alberto Pitentino created artificial lakes around the city, which served as natural protection and provided water for the inhabitants.

By the 17th century the outskirts of the city had gradually turned into swamps, so it was decided to drain one of the lakes. Therefore, today Mantua is a rather unusual city-peninsula.

How to get to Mantua

Thanks to its convenient location almost midway between Venice and Milan, Mantua is quite easy to reach, whichever city in Northern Italy you start your trip from.

In Piazza Don Leoni, a 10-minute walk from the historic center, is Mantua’s train station. Trains from Verona, Bologna, Milan, Padua and Ferrara go here. Travel time from Verona – the nearest major city – is about 40 minutes, to clarify the schedule and to see the price of tickets you can on the website Omio.ru.

The train to Verona takes no more than 40 minutes

If you arrive at any airport in Northern Italy, the easiest way to get to Mantua is by cab. The kiwitaxi service is an easy way to get up to date prices and travel time from the starting point of your trip. Especially since the site has both a Russian-language version and Russian support.

If you are traveling by car, Mantua is even easier to reach as the A22 highway connects Modena and Verona (Mantova Nord exit on the Verona side and Mantoca Sud exit on the Modena side).

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Mantua is a small town surrounded by the waters of the Mincho River

In the city you can leave your car in one of the free parking lots located along the perimeter of the peninsula around the old town. If you have not yet decided on a car rental in Italy, it is better to start with the international price comparison service – it usually turns out to be more profitable.

Hotels and lodging

Despite the fact that Mantua is a relatively small city, here there is a wide selection of hotels for every taste and purse. And prices, compared to Verona, are much more affordable.

For those who plan to explore the historical sights of the city, a hotel in the center is the best choice. Those who travel by car and want to spend time exploring the surrounding cities, take part in a gastronomic tour or spend a day or two shopping in Mantova Outlet Village, should look for hotels further away from the center for a better and cheaper experience.

Below you will find a list of deals on hotels in Mantova Outlet Village:

Climate & Weather

Mantua is located in a subtropical climate zone, so it rains a lot throughout the year. Due to the high humidity, the city is often shrouded in a light haze.

The average temperature never drops below 0°C, even in winter. In summer the thermometer easily reaches 30°C. The weather in Mantua is perfect for the summer holidays, but in the winter the city will please Russian speaking tourists who are used to frosts and cold winds.

What to see in Mantua: 9 main attractions

Since 2008 the historic center of Mantua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city, which has become a reflection of the ideals of the Italian Renaissance, keeps the memory of the past in literally every building. So the main question for travelers who find themselves here is not “what to see in Mantua”, but “how to see everything”.

Palazzo Ducale

The famous Palace of the Dukes of Mantua is one of the main attractions in northern Italy. The palace complex includes the Castello di San Giorgio (Castle of Saint George) and the palace itself (Palazzo Ducale). The owners of the palace were representatives of the Gonzago family, who ruled the city since 1328.

The palace belonged to the representatives of the Gonzagho family, who ruled the city since 1328

Castle St. George was built at the end of XIV century. In one of its four towers is the famous “Room of the spouses” (Camera degli Sposi), which is decorated with frescoes by Andrea Mantegna, created in the second half of the XV century.

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From the frescoes of the plafond through the railing of the round gallery people look at the audience, and above them on skillfully painted sky “float” clouds – so the artist tried to create an illusionistic scenery, which can be considered one of the first in the art of Western Europe.

The “room of the spouses” is decorated with frescoes by Andrea Mantegna (15th century).

The “Room of the Archers” (Sala degli Arcier) contains a huge portrait of the Gonzago family by another famous artist, Rubens, in the early 17th century.

The Palazzo Ducale has more than 500 rooms, 600 entrances and 15 gardens; the palace also includes numerous squares and courtyards, a basilica and even a theater. In the heart of the palace, several rooms are occupied by “dwarf apartments,” which would be ideal for occupants no taller than three feet.

The Palazzo Ducale has more than 500 rooms, 600 entrances and 15 gardens

The palace of Francesco II Gonzago’s wife, the most famous Marquise of Mantua, Isabella D’Este, hosted Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, Correggio, Titian, Raphael and many other world-renowned artists and poets.

Mantua Cathedral

Located in Piazza Sordello, the Cathedral is interesting for its combination of late Gothic rose windows on the side wall, preserved from a Renaissance building, and the white Carrara marble facade, which replaced its Gothic “predecessor” in the mid-18th century.

The building, which appeared at the beginning of the twelfth century, was repeatedly rebuilt due to fires or at the behest of the city’s rulers. It houses the body of St. Anselm Baggio, patron saint of Mantua.

The House of Rigoletto

Rigoletto is a character in Verdi’s opera of the same name, which takes place just in Mantua. However, the building at the end of Piazza Sordello, hiding a sculpture of a sad jester in its courtyard, should be treated more as a tourist attraction.

In the courtyard of the “House of Rigoletto” you can see a sculpture of a sad jester

The fact is that in the original version, the events of Victor Hugo’s play The King is Amusing are set at the French court (and originally this story was included in Verdi’s opera libretto almost without change). It was only to satisfy the demands of censorship that Verdi was forced to change the libretto of a future opera and move the setting to Italy.

Today, there are art exhibitions in the building. It is also home to a tourist center, where you can get a free map of the city and useful information on what to see in Mantua first.

Bibiena Science Theatre

In Via Accademia there is a theater built for Maria Theresia of Austria by Antonio Bibiena in the second half of the 18th century.

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The name of the theater corresponds to the spirit of enlightenment of the time: it was intended not only for plays, but also for scientific meetings and debates. A month and a half after the theater opened, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself, who was only 14 years old at the time, performed here.

The Basilica of Sant’Andrea houses sacred vases that contain the blood of Christ

Basilica of Sant’Andrea

The Basilica di Sant’Andrea was begun in 1472 upon the project of Leon Battista Alberti and was not completely finished until 1732.

It contains sacred vases with the blood of Christ; it was brought to the native city by Roman centurion Longinus, who, according to legend, pierced the side of the crucified Christ with his spear. Painter Andrea Mantegna is also buried here.

Rotunda

The Rotonda di San Lorenzo bears a striking resemblance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerasulim; it was designed by Countess Matilde of Tuscany of the Canossa dynasty who commissioned its construction. It is the oldest surviving church in Mantua and was built in 1082.

The Rotunda, built in 1082, is the oldest surviving church in Mantua.

The church was closed by Guglielmo Gonzaga in 1579 and was subsequently used as a warehouse and commercial and residential premises.

Services in the church were resumed only in 1926 after restoration (by the beginning of the XX century the rotunda lost its roof and was completely hidden by the surrounding superstructures). Inside you can see frescoes of Byzantine style of the XI-XII centuries.

The Clock Tower

Next to the Rotunda rises the Clock Tower of the Palazzo della Ragione. The palace was built in 1250, the tower was added to the palace in 1472 and the astrological clock, which shows the phases of the moon and the position of the sun in the zodiacal constellations, appeared on the tower in 1493.

Palazzo Te

While Mantua’s main attractions are concentrated almost in one place, Palazzo Te (Palazzo Te) is located somewhat away from the historic center of the city.

Palazzo Te (1524) is considered the pinnacle of European mannerism

The sixteenth-century mansion was designed as a country villa where Federico II Gonzaga hosted balls and receptions. A square building with an inner garden framed by a colonnade, it appeared next to the family stables, from where horses were supplied to the courts all over Europe.

The Te Palace, built in 1524-1525, is considered the pinnacle of European Mannerism, and in this, of course, credit is due to Mantua’s chief architect and painter, Raphael’s pupil Giulio Romano.

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The Hall of Cupid and Psyche is one of the jewels of the palace

The palace’s interior decoration is as striking as its exterior. In the Hall of Giants (Sala dei Giganti; Camera dei Giganti) a single fresco by Giulio Romano covers the entire surface of the room.

The Hall of Horses (Sala dei Cavalli) is filled with stylized images of the duke’s favorite horses. The Chamber of Amor and Psyche (Camera di Amore e Psiche) is striking, with very explicit paintings filling the entire space of the room.

The palace also houses the House of Metamorphosis, the Hall of Eagles, the Chambers of the Sun and the Moon and many other rooms, each devoted to a specific theme.

A fresco by Giulio Romano in the Hall of the Giants

Mantegna House

On the way to Palazzo Te, you can visit the artist Andrea Mantegna. The red-brick building, designed by the artist himself on a plot of land received as a gift from the Marquis Ludovigo Gonzaga, is known for its cylindrical courtyard.

Lastly

We at BlogoItaliano hope this article helps you better organize your trip to see the most. If this is your first time traveling to Italy, we recommend making sure you sign up for our free email course with useful tips for travelers. It contains a lot of valuable information to make your trip even more interesting.

Enjoy your trip and we will be glad if you share this article with your friends.

Photos by: Fabio Ferrari1970, Pinterest, MeteoWeb, acciamoungiroincentro.blogspot.co.at, Your Italy, Mantova Outlet Village, Mincio&Dintorni, italianways.com, people-dont-have-to-be-anything-else.wikia.com, meeting-hub.net , Guide Verona, Hotel Rechigi, Mincio&Dintorni, floornature.com, wikimapia.org

Palazzo Ducale in Mantua

The Ducal Palace of Mantua, or Palazzo Ducale, is located in the northeast of the city, between Piazza Sordello (once San Pietro) and the Lower Lake, being an alternation of buildings, passages, courtyards and gardens.

Originally a collection of isolated blocks, the palace took its natural form in the first half of the 16th century, becoming a grand palace complex covering an area of 35,000 sq. m.

Palazzo Ducale was the residence of the Gonzaga family from 1328 to 1707, when it was abandoned by the last Duke of Gonzaga, Ferdinand Carlo. During the Austrian rule, part of the courtyard on the Piazza Sordella side was rebuilt into representative residences. Since the end of the nineteenth century the complex ceased to be residential and, after restoration at the beginning of the twentieth century, became a state museum.

Corte Vecchia, or Old Courtyard

The old courtyard is the heart of the Palazzo Ducale: first the Bonacolsi lived here and since 1328 the Gonzaga. It remained their residence until 1459, when the Marquis Ludovico Gonzaga moved to Castello.

© Vladimir Korostyshevskiy / Shutterstock.com

During your visit you will see the Captain’s Corridor, the Apartments of Guastalla, the Hall of the Princes (aka “Pisanello Hall”), the Papal Hall, the two alcoves, the New Gallery, adjacent to the Domus Nova, begun in 1480 by Duke Federico I and later rebuilt by Vincenzo I. In the rooms of the latter you will visit the Archery Hall, the Mirror Gallery, the Duke’s apartments and the Moors’ Corridor. From here you go through the Loggia San Barbara, the Small Room of the Moors and Falcons to the Apartment of Guglielmo, consisting of the Room of the Zodiac, the Refectory (or Room of Rivers) that overlooks the Hanging Garden and the Room of the Tapestry, enlarged in the XVIII century to house the new tapestries with themes from Raphael’s paintings (Acts of the Apostles).

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Sometimes from the refectory (depending on the time of year) a passage opens to the Empress’ apartments with their neoclassical interiors and furniture.

Going down the grand staircase, one finds oneself in the Santa Croce courtyard, which leads to the Isabella d’Este apartments (consisting of a reception and a private part with a study, stylized grotto and the Marquise’s private garden).

On the first floor we can also see a miniature replica of the Holy Staircase made in 1615 by Duke Ferdinand, which was used by the court dwarfs because of its size. Unfortunately, for security reasons their apartments are closed to the public.

Castello San Giorgio

From Piazza Castello you get through the exedra into the mansion built at the end of the XIV century by Captain Francesco I and later rebuilt by Ludovico I as a margrave’s residence.

The spiral staircase, also called the “horse staircase”, leads up to the Hall of Frescoes, once home to the priceless Gonzaga Library, and then to the famous Camera degli Sposi, painted between 1465 and 1474 by Andrea Mantegna. Andrea Mantegna.

Andrea Magnegna, Camera degli Sposi / Photo: Wikimedia Commons Andrea Magniña, Camera degli Sposi / Photo: pinterest.com Andrea Magnegna, Camera degli SposiAndrea Magniña, Camera degli Sposi / Photo: pinterest.com

The itinerary continues in three rooms (Soli, Mezzo and Cappe) where, as in the Armorial Room, a valuable collection of works and objects related to Gonzaga, gathered by the Mantuan businessman Romano Freddy, is on display.

When you go down from the second floor, you find yourself in the Castello courtyard, designed according to the Italian Renaissance canons by Luco Fancelli in the middle of the fifteenth century.

The third floor, where the Gonzagas also once lived, became a prison during the Austrian rule, where the Mantuans, who unsuccessfully rebelled against the Austrians, who are called “Martyrs of Belfiore”, were also imprisoned. Because of the 2012 earthquake, this part of Castello is still closed to the public.

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