Mantova is famous for its captivating Renaissance character

Mantova, also known as Mantua is flourished during the Renaissance and still features to this day most of the architecture and historic landmarks of that period – giving the city a storybook atmosphere that visitors often fall in love with. Aside from its rich history and affluent architecture, the city has plenty of green space and stunning scenery for those who love the outdoors.

Mantova is strategically located by the River Mincio and flanked by the three lakes of Lago Inferiore, Lago di Mezzo and Lago Superiore. So, it is not all about history and beautiful architecture when you get there. Rent a bicycle and pedal your way across a network of bike trails that will take along picturesque lake promenades and scenic woodlands. You can also hop on a boat and cruise down the River Mincio or Lago Superiore. The city is also home to Mincio Natural Park where you can go for wildlife watching.

cWhat to see

Mantova is famous for its captivating Renaissance character. Most of its attractions date back to that period and being there almost transports visitors to the time of affluent royals, inspired artistry and burgeoning intellectual pursuits.

The Ducal Palace

The Ducal Palace of Mantova is the area’s biggest attraction and symbolic of its grandeur. As a collection of buildings built between the 14th and 17th centuries, the Palazzo Ducale was used by the Gonzaga family as their main residence. All the buildings are connected by galleries and corridors and visitors can admire different outdoor and indoor gardens. With more than 500 rooms in the complex, there is plenty to see. One of the most famous aspects of the palate is the impressive frescoes at Sala Degli Sposi.

The Ducal Palace is located at Piazza Sordello, a mere 10-minute walk from the train station.

Basilica of Sant’Andrea

One of the most important religious monuments in the city is the Basilica di Sant’Andrea, which was built on the orders of a member of the Gonzaga family, Ludovik II. The construction of the church began in 1462, based on the draft by Leo Batiste Alberti, at the site of the old Benedictine monastery. The original monastery bell is still the same.

It is located on Piazza Mantegna, and it is very important because it contains a relic of the name “Most precious Christ’s blood”. Jesus’ blood believers and tourists can be seen on the procession that takes place on Great Friday.

Rotonda di San Lorenzo

Another important religious building in the town is the Rotonda di San Lorenzo. It is the most ancient church in the city. It is now sunk below the level of the Piazza della Erbe. It probably stands on the site of a Roman temple that was dedicated to the goddess Venus.

It was built during the reign of the Canossa family in the late 11th century. Inspired by the Holy Sepulchre church in Jerusalem and dedicated to the martyr St. Lawrence, it has a central plan and has maintained ancient features like the matronaeum (loggia for female faithful) and frescoes of the Byzantine school from the 11th-12th century. Another fresco fragment in the apse, portraying the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, dates to the 15th century. The construction, according to the Lombard tradition, is in bricks, but has two columns and other details in marble, coming from ancient edifices.

Palazzo Te

Approximately one kilometre from the historic centre, there is Te Palace, which is a valuable example of Manirist architecture. It was built by Raphael’s student Giulio Romano, and the most beautiful part of its palace is its many frescoes. Today, the palace is home to the City Museum, which has a large collection of archbishops from Arnoldo Mondadori and Ugo Sissa.

To check out other atmospheric architecture in the city, proceed to Piazza delle Erbe where you will discover the medieval structures of Palazzo del Podesta and the Palazzo della Ragione. Here you will also encounter the impressive Renaissance architecture of Casa del Mercante, which was once home to well-heeled merchants back in the day.

A view of San Giorgio’s bridge

There is no better way to admire the Mantova than to look at the city’s reflection on the lakes that surround it. Think about getting rid of boat trips by the lake, which is very romantic.

Piazza Sordello

Piazza Sordello is the main square in the city. For centuries, it was the heart of artistic and cultural life in the Mantova. Around square, you can find the cathedral, Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo Acerbi and Torre della Guardia. Mosaics and remains of Roman domus buildings were discovered here in 2006. Sit at one of the cafes in the area and soak up the lovely view and the old-world charm of the piazza.

Teatar Scientifico del Bibiena

A few hundred meters from Piazza Sordello, this theatre was arranged by Giuseppe Piermarini, a man who is credited with the look of Milan’s Skale. A month after the opening, Mozart also appeared with the new opera, and today this theatre is considered a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, and worth visiting.

Teatro Sociale

The early 19th century Teatro Sociale is also worth visiting. There is a popular cafe in the theatre’s foyer where you can simply hang-out and mingle with the locals.

Festivaletteratura

To get the best of Mantova spirit, visit it in September, when Festivaletteratura – the most important Italian literary festival is held. Festival attracts numerous writers, including Nobel Prize winners, and writers from all over the world.

How to get to Mantova?

Those who are interested in visiting Mantova should know that the city for every aspect of traffic is easily accessible. There are trains from nearby cities like Cremona, Modena, and Verona, as well as Florence and Bologna. There are also well-organized bus lines, both state and private, linking the city with various other locations in the region.

City tour

The fact that Mantova is not a very big city, making it ideal for tourists. The main monuments and sights for sightseeing are located in the centre of the place, so it is very easy to see them all. You can also use local public buses or bicycles.

Accommodation

Mantova attracts many tourists who are looking for architecture, villa and palace. The best accommodation can be found near the railway station. Some of the best hotels in the city are Rechigi Hotel, ABC Comfort Hotel, Hotel Mantegna, Hotel Broletto, Hotel Dante Residence and Albergo Bianchi Stazione.

What to Eat in Mantos?

There are plenty of good restaurants in the Mantova that you can choose from. Those who love traditional dishes and regional specialties, should visit the osteria, which serve simple, healthy dishes at low prices. Be sure to try Rissoto alla pilota, Agnoli in broth, Stracotto d’asino, Sbrisolona, ​​Tagliatelle pie …

Also, many good bars and pubs offering a selection of quality homemade wines. Some of the best restaurants are Ristorante Aquila Nigra, Osteria della Fragoleta, Griffon Bianco Restaurant, Trattoria Alla Nuova Marasca, Trattoria L ‘Ochina Bianca, Trattoria Due Cavallini and Trattoria Leoncino Rosso.

Shopping in Mantova

Mantova has several good shopping streets that are full of clothes, handbags, jewelery and footwear. In the old part of town, many small traditional shops selling locally made handicrafts and souvenirs. The food shops offer a good selection of cheeses and premium olive oils as well as domestic wines.

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Barga is a Hidden Tuscan Gem

Barga is one of the most beautiful medieval villages in Tuscany. The town has remained virtually unchanged throughout time, with narrow winding alleyways, old churches and an imposing castle standing sentry on a hill.

Barga is located about 22 miles north of Lucca, Italy. The back-country road that will take you to this atmospheric town may not look promising, but wait until you get to this medieval enclave and you no doubt will give yourself a congratulatory pat on the back.

Thanks to Barga’s out of the way location, you will not find bus loads of tourists crowding around its cobblestone streets. Wander around and enjoy the picturesque view of the surrounding countryside and the towering Apuan Alps at the distance while keeping an eye for delightful surprises along the way.

A short train ride from Lucca is the best way to reach Barga. If you are coming from another city in Tuscany, you might want to consider taking the bus to avoid changing trains several times to get there. However, considering that Tuscany makes for one memorable road trip, driving a car rental is always a good idea.

Head straight away to Barga’s ancient walls where most of the town’s attractions are located. At the distance, you will experience a charming landscape of russet roofs and rustic structures peppered with green patches of trees. Once you get there, it is all medieval atmosphere, with its narrow winding alleyways, old churches and an imposing castle standing sentry on a hill.

The ancient castle of Barga is difficult to ignore. It looms over the historic centre like a king watching over its subjects. The castle is in good shape despite its age and well worth a visit. It is also a strategic place to take in the spectacular panoramic view of the town and the scenic countryside.

Check out the town’s ancient gates of Porta Reale, Porta Borgo and Porta Machhiaia. These are small openings into the massive ancient walls of Barga. Walk through these gates – that are more like alleyways – and you will realize just how gigantic the town’s walls really are. The fact that they have been standing since the medieval times, make them even more fascinating.

Another popular attraction in the area is the magnificent Duomo. This Romanesque cathedral dates back to the 11th century and features an interesting limestone facade. Explore the cathedral’s interior and marvel at the elaborate wooden statue of St. Christoper and the ornate 12th-century pulpit. The cathedral’s campanile is also of interest, with its three bells – one of which is about 500 years old.

You should not miss a visit to the fare offered in small trattorias and restaurants you will pass by along the way in your exploration of Barga. Fast food is not an option here. Treat yourself to delicious slow home cooked meals that will keep your stomach full and your palate blissful.

Barga is also popular for its local produce and great shopping is waiting for you as you visit. There are several olive groves for the best quality olive oil, dairy farms for delectable cheeses and vineyards for the best bottles of wines.

Finally, the surrounding countryside is a hiker’s haven. Follow the trails and treat yourself to spectacular natural scenery along the way as you discover Barga’s outer areas.

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Viterbo, a small town with a beautiful medieval core

Before heading out to the stunning region of Tuscany from the imperial city of Rome, a stopover at Viterbo is well worth your time.

This medieval walled hill-town is located north of the Lazio region and famous for ancient Etruscan relics, medieval architecture and great antique finds. You can step into the pages of medieval history at the town’s historic centre or go way back to ancient times at the nearby Etruscan archaeological sites.

If ambling around the countryside is more your thing, you can go on easy hikes around the verdant landscape dotted with sparkling deep lakes. You can also take a tour at the therapeutic thermal spas of the area or take an excursion around Viterbo’s grand villas.

Viterbo offers picturesque medieval architecture, good traditional food and relaxing spas, just 90km from Rome.

To get to the atmospheric little town of Viterbo from Rome, you can take a Cotral bus from the Saxa Rubra stop or you can just hop on a commuter train from Stazione Ostiense for a two-hour trip. It’s not fast but the pleasant scenery along the way will keep you happily occupied.

The train will stop at Porta Romana station of Viterbo, just outside the medieval town walls. Make sure to visit the tourist information office located right at the station to get your hands on maps and brochures of the local sights and attractions. With your haul at hand, sit back and relax for a moment and plan out the itinerary that best suits your interests before starting your tour of the area.

The historic medieval centre

Although many of Viterbo’s attractions can be found in the town’s surrounding areas, the walled Old Town at the top of the hill is a must-visit. It is a small and compact place surrounded by walls and towers. There are numerous Romanesque buildings and palaces from the 13th to the 14th centuries. Viterbo’s highlights are centrally located on two of its most popular town squares, the neighbouring Piazza San Lorenzo and Piazza del Plebiscito.

Begin from Piazza San Lorenzo where you will find the famous Palazzo dei Papi or the Papal Palace, the site of the longest conclave (papal election) which is three years in the making. The Palazzo also features a beautiful seven-arched loggia, which is a must-see. The cathedral of San Lorenzo is nearby. Although the cathedral is not spectacular at first glance, it features ornate details such as the striking tiled floor, the lavish font and interesting frescoes that are worth checking out. Also, go and see the neighbouring Museo del Colle del Duomo to view the church’s valued treasures.

Also beautiful is the church of Santa Maria della Verità from the 12th century, nowadays converted into a city museum and a Renaissance town hall. For the believers is a great attraction the church of Santa Rosa, where the body of St. Rose of Viterbo is kept.

Piazza del Plebiscito, on the other hand, boasts of the towns important civic buildings such as the Palazzo dei Priori and Palazzo del Podesta. The piazza also makes for a lovely place to savour some Italian fare from one of the many cafes or small restaurants surrounding the square, with a view of the piazza’s beautiful fountain. You can then proceed downhill to Palazzo Comunali where you will discover lavish rooms and spectacular frescoes.

If you are interested in Viterbo’s museums, check out the 14th-century fortress of Rocca Albornoz to visit the Museo Nazionale or Piazza Crispi for a look at the exhibits of Museo Civico. Both museums display valuable finds from the Etruscan era.

Walking aimlessly around the walled town is also rewarding. You will discover countless fountains, interesting sculptures at unexpected places and several fascinating shops with plenty of antiques to offer.

Cultural events and traditional festivals

Throughout the year, and with particular intensity in spring and summer, the city of Viterbo is animated by a series of cultural events and traditional festivals. They range from cinema to music, from literature to historical re-enactments, from theatRE to innovation, to events that perpetuate and enhance the identity and history of Viterbo.

It starts from Medioera in March, the digital culture festival that offers talks, meetings and seminars on technology, new media, social networks, startups, new knowledge related to the digital age. During the May 1st long weekend, San Pellegrino in Fiore, now in its thirtieth year, is held. It is a floriculture event and much more, in which the characteristic views of the medieval old town are decorated with floral arrangements, creating an atmosphere of colours and unique scents.

In June Ludika 1243 offers events and re-enactments in medieval costume and is broadened by an emphasis on the world of fantasy literature. Performances, cosplay, role play, meetings with authors, medieval taverns, street theatre and much more for an event that always ends with the commemoration of the pitched battle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, in memory of the historic siege of Federico II in Viterbo in 1243.

Between June and July, Caffeine is a great cultural and literary festival with hundreds of events including book presentations, meetings with authors, journalists, TV personalities, politicians, intellectuals, theatre and musical performances, children’s activities, food and wine, in the most picturesque locations in the historic centre.

In July, the spectacular Piazza San Lorenzo hosts the Tuscia Film Fest, almost two weeks of screenings and meetings with Italian film stars. The best films of the last cinema season are offered during this occasion. The films are presented by the best known Italian actors, directors, screenwriters and producers. Between July and August, Piazza San Lorenzo hosts the Tuscia Opera Festival, an event dedicated to classical and symphonic music, opera, dance and other cultural facets that leads to the performance of well-known masters and young Italian and international talent.

In the beginning of September, Viterbo is enlivened by patronal festivities, culminating in the spectacular transportation of the Santa Rosa Car on September 3, which a few years ago become part of the intangible humanitarian heritage recognized by Unesco. 30 meter high and 5 tonne light tower is carried on the backs of about 100 Santa Rosa Porters along a path of more than one kilometRE along the city streets. The festival is dedicated to Saint Rose, patron saint of the city.

Finally, don’t miss the attractions near Viterbo such as the spa complex of Terme dei Papi, the hot pools of Bagnaccio, the spectacular gardens of Villa Lante and the wine offerings of Montefiascone, among many others.

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