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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.