Travel Guide of Mantua, Lombardy, Italy

Mantua is a world heritage listed city in Lombardy, Italy. Because of the power and influence of the Gonzaga family, which used to own the city for over 400 years, Mantua was considered one of the most important cultural cities in the Renaissance and it still maintains a lot of the buildings that made it famous during that period. In 2008, Mantua’s centro storico (old town) and Sabbioneta were declared by UNESCO to be a World Heritage Site.

Mantua’s historic power and influence under the Gonzaga family has made it one of the main artistic, cultural, and especially musical hubs of Northern Italy and the country as a whole. Having one of the most splendid courts of Europe of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and early 17th centuries.Mantua is noted for its significant role in the history of opera; the city is also known for its architectural treasures and artifacts, elegant palaces, and the medieval and Renaissance cityscape.

It is the city where the composer Monteverdi premiered his opera L’Orfeo, the earliest opera that is still regularly performed today. It’s also where Romeo was banished in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. It is the nearest town to the birthplace of the Roman poet Virgil, who is commemorated by a statue at the lakeside park “Piazza Virgiliana”.

Mantua, one of the most beautiful cities in Lombardy, rich in art and culture. Rich in priceless art treasures, Mantua, homeland of the poet Virgil, conquers with its aristocratic charm. Observing every street in which there are traces of those powerful Gonzagas who loved her so much, and who gave her splendidly decorated palaces.

Among the first things to see are Palazzo Ducaleand its 500 rooms frescoed and decorated by artists such as Giulio Romano, Raffaello and Mantegna. With numerous buildings connected by corridors and galleries, courtyards and gardens, this beautiful place resembles a real city-palace spanning some 35,000 square meters.

Near Piazza delle Erbe there are two other splendid buildings: Palazzo della Ragione and Palazzo del Podest à (1227), one of the oldest public buildings of the medieval age in the city. Next to the two buildings, the characteristic fifteenth-century Clock Tower is not to be missed.

In the eastern area stands the grandiose Palazzo Te, among the most beautiful places in Mantua, surrounded by greenery and conceived as a place of idleness and worldliness for Prince Federico II Gonzaga. Among the religious places, to visit the Duomo (or Cathedral of San Pietro), with the Romanesque bell tower, the Gothic right side and the neoclassical facade, and the Basilica of Sant’Andrea designed by Leon Battista Alberti, which houses works by Mantegna, by Correggio and Giulio Romano.

Mantua is surrounded on three sides by artificial lakes, created during the 12th century as the city’s defence system. These lakes receive water from the Mincio River, a tributary of the Po River which descends from Lake Garda. The three lakes are called Lago Superiore, Lago di Mezzo, and Lago Inferiore (“Upper”, “Middle”, and “Lower” Lakes, respectively). A fourth lake, Lake Pajolo, which once served as a defensive water ring around the city, dried up at the end of the 18th century.

The area and its environs are important not only in naturalistic terms, but also anthropologically and historically; research has highlighted a number of human settlements scattered between Barche di Solferino and Bande di Cavriana, Castellaro and Isolone del Mincio. These dated, without interruption, from Neolithic times (5th–4th millennium BC) to the Bronze Age (2nd–1st millennium BC) and the Gallic phases (2nd–1st centuries BC), and ended with Roman residential settlements, which could be traced to the 3rd century AD.

In 2016, Mantua was designated as the Italian Capital of Culture. In 2017, it was named as the European Capital of Gastronomy, included in the Eastern Lombardy District (together with the cities of Bergamo, Brescia, and Cremona). Also in 2017, Legambiente ranked Mantua as the best Italian city for the quality of the life and environment.

Mantua was an island settlement which was first established about the year 2000 BC on the banks of River Mincio, which flows from Lake Garda to the Adriatic Sea. In the 6th century BC, Mantua was an Etruscan village which, in the Etruscan tradition, was re-founded by Ocnus. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire at the hands of Odoacer in 476 AD, Mantua was, along with the rest of Italy, conquered by the Ostrogoths. In 962 Italy was invaded by King Otto I of Germany, and Mantua thus became a vassal of the newly formed Holy Roman Empire.

In the 11th century, Mantua became a possession of Boniface of Canossa, marquis of Tuscany. The last ruler of that family was the countess Matilda of Canossa (d. 1115), who, according to legend, ordered the construction of the precious Rotonda di San Lorenzo (or St. Lawrence’s Roundchurch) in 1082. The Rotonda still exists today and was renovated in 2013.

After the death of Matilda of Canossa, Mantua became a free commune and strenuously defended itself from the influence of the Holy Roman Empire during the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1198, Alberto Pitentino altered the course of River Mincio, creating what the Mantuans call “the four lakes” to reinforce the city’s natural protection. Three of these lakes still remain today and the fourth one, which ran through the centre of town, was reclaimed during the 18th century.

From 1215, the city was ruled under the podesteria of the Guelph poet-statesman Rambertino Buvalelli. Ludovico Gonzaga, who had been Podestà of Mantua since 1318, was duly elected Capitano del popolo. The Gonzagas built new walls with five gates and renovated the city in the 14th century.

During the Italian Renaissance, the Gonzaga family softened their despotic rule and further raised the level of culture and refinement in Mantua. Mantua became a significant center of Renaissance art and humanism. Marquis Gianfrancesco Gonzaga had brought Vittorino da Feltre to Mantua in 1423 to open his famous humanist school, the Casa Giocosa.

In 1627, the direct line of the Gonzaga family came to an end. At Ferdinand Carlo IV’s death in 1708, the Duke of Mantua was declared deposed and his family of Gonzaga lost Mantua forever in favour of the Habsburgs of Austria. Under Austrian rule, Mantua enjoyed a revival and during this period the Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts, the Scientific Theatre, and numerous palaces were built. On June 4, 1796, Mantua was besieged by Napoleon’s army, the city passed into Napoleon’s control and became a part of Napoleon’s Kingdom of Italy.

After the brief period of French rule, Mantua returned to Austria in 1814, becoming one of the Quadrilatero fortress cities in northern Italy. At the Battle of Solferino (Second Italian War of Independence) in 1859, the House of Savoy’s Piedmont-Sardinia sided with the French Emperor Napoleon III against the Austrian Empire. Following Austria’s defeat, Lombardy was ceded to France, who transferred Lombardy to Piedmont-Sardinia in return for Nice and Savoy.

Mantua, although a constituent province of Lombardy, still remained under the Austrian Empire along with Venetia. In 1866, Prussia-led North German Confederation sided with the newly established, Piedmont-led Kingdom of Italy against the Austrian Empire in the Third Italian War of Independence. The quick defeat of Austria led to its withdrawal of the Kingdom of Venetia (including the capital city, Venice). Mantua reconnected with the region of Lombardy and was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy.

Today, retail trade and tertiary services play an important role in the city economy. The clothing sector is also very active, with important settlements in the municipal area of the city, Lubiam, Valstar and Corneliani, in particular specialized in men’s fashion, and the mechanical sector. In the handicraft sector the ancient workings of ceramics and porcelain are still widespread and renowned.

Main Attractions
Mantova is above all an original mix of history and art, come to Mantua and live it, enter its palaces and get lost in its alleys and alleys, stop in a tavern and savor the refined cuisine of its rich past. From the Etruscans to a sumptuous Renaissance listen to its history rich in mysticism and magic, small and well designed.

The city reached its splendour not only in the Middle Age but expecially during the long domination of the lords Gonzagas, refined art collectors, who gave hospitality to famous architects, painters, poets, philosophers, musicians and scientists. The “City of the Three Lakes” is like a chest full of treasures, made by artists such as Mantegna, Pisanello, Giulio Romano, Rubens, Leon Battista Alberti and many others.

Relax among history, art, traditions, nature, culture, music and literature festivals. There are numerous palaces, museums, churches and places of interest to visit in Mantua. Mantua was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site on 7 July 2008 as an exceptional testimony of Renaissance urban, architectural and artistic achievements.

The city imposes itself as an art treasures that famous names in the world were able to fill with very precious works; Mantegna, Pisanello, Giulio Romano, Leon Battista Alberti, Fancelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Ariosto the Tasso, Aretino… Though many of the masterworks have been dispersed, the cultural value of Mantua is nonetheless outstanding, with many of Mantua’s patrician and ecclesiastical buildings being uniquely important examples of Italian architecture.

Mantova is a city on a human scale where you can walk in cobbled streets and secluded lanes while the lively or silent squares follow one another; sitting on the outdoors tables of bars and restaurants you can taste the local cuisine that has its roots in the sumptuous banquets of the Gonzaga’s court or in the simple popular kitchens.

A good itinerary to visit Mantua is the one that begins with entering the historic center of Mantua from the San Giorgio bridge, from which you can admire the famous skyline of Mantua, very suggestive at sunset. Crossing the bridge you will find the Castle of San Giorgio, the confluence point of the roads that run along the three lakes of Mantua (Lago Superiore, Lago Inferiore and Lago di Mezzo).

Built between 1395 and 1400, the Castle of San Giorgio is recognizable for its 4 towers (the North-East Tower houses the famous Camera degli Sposi frescoed by Andrea Mantegna).

Walking along the right side of the Castle of San Giorgio, you enter Piazza Sordello, the real heart of Renaissance Mantua. On the left side of Piazza Sordello is the Palazzo Ducale, residence of the Gonzagas in the fourteenth century, where many treasures are kept, including paintings, statues, tapestries.

On the right side of Piazza Sordello is the Mantua Cathedral (Cathedral of San Pietro), built in the thirteenth century and renovated by Giulio Romano in 1545. Also in Piazza Sordello in Mantua there are also the Bishop’s Palace, episcopal seat since 1823 and Palazzo Bonacolsi (also called Palazzo Castiglioni).

Going beyond the vault of Piazza Sordello you are in the historic center of Mantua. Continuing to the left in Via Accademia, it is possible to visit the Bibiena Theater, a small 18th century jewel designed by Antonio Bibiena at the behest of Maria Theresa of Austria and inaugurated by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the age of only 14.

From here, crossing the square where the monument of Dante Alighieri is present, continuing along Via Adigò, you reach Piazza Broletto, which houses the Palazzo del Podestà, the Arengario and the suggestive Sottoportico dei Lattonai, which connects Piazza Broletto to Piazza Erbe. The Palazzo del Podestà of Mantua, built in 1227, is connected to the Palazzo del Massaro through the Arengario. On the façade of the Palazzo del Podestà there is the Aedicule of Virgil, a marble statue depicting the great poet.

Continuing we arrive in Piazza Erbe, where you can admire the Palazzo della Ragione, built in 1250, the Clock Tower (with an example of an astronomical clock), the Rotonda di San Lorenzo, the oldest church in Mantua (dating back to 1082), with a circular base, built on the model of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. Piazza delle Erbe in Mantua is bordered by the arcades of late Gothic and Renaissance houses, including the Casa del Mercante, built in 1455 for the merchant Boniforte da Concorezzo.

Continuing along Corso Umberto I you arrive at the Social Theater of Mantua, built between 1818 and 1822 by Luigi Canonica. Then along Via Nievo, you can reach the central Via Verdi and Piazza Canossa, with an eighteenth-century imprint.

From here you can reach Piazza Virgiliana in a few minutes, where there is a statue dedicated to Virgil and the Diocesan Museum.Then arrive in Piazza d’Arco, where the Palazzo d’Arco is located. Continuing along via Scarsellini you can admire the seat of the University of Mantua and the Church of San Francesco. Continuing along Via Solferino, Via Bonomi, Via Tito Speri, you arrive in via Chiassi, where the Church of San Barnaba is located. Continuing straight along via Poma, on the left you can see the House of Giulio Romano, built between 1538 and 1544.

At the end of Via Roma, turning right into Via Acerbi, you can reach the Casa del Mantegna, a building that the Paduan artist had built in 1476. Opposite you can admire the Church of San Sebastiano (Famedio), designed by Leon Battista Alberti in 1460, which today houses the monument to the fallen partisans of the First World War.

And continuing you arrive at Palazzo San Sebastiano, the residence of Francesco II Gonzaga, and today the seat of the city museum. Palazzo Te Less than a hundred meters away is Palazzo Te, built between 1525 and 1534 by Giulio Romano on the commission of Federico II Gonzaga. Do not miss the various towers in the streets of the center of Mantua.


Ducal Palace
Ducal Palace is perhaps more correct to speak of a “city-palace”, as the architectural complex is made up of numerous buildings connected to each other by corridors and galleries, and enriched by internal courtyards, some hanging, and vast gardens. The palace of the Gonzagas, by extension of the roofs, is the second in Europe surpassed only by the Vatican. It does not appear improper to define the Gonzaga palace as the Ducal Palaces, given the habit of almost every Duke to build his own dwelling which was joining what had previously been built. Even before the Gonzaga came to power, the first nuclei of the Palace had been built.

The history of the complex is identified above all with that of the family that ruled the city until 1707. Among others, the so-called Camera degli Sposi (Camera picta) in the Castle of San Giorgio, part of the “city-palace”, frescoed by Andrea Mantegna and dedicated to Ludovico III Gonzaga and his wife Barbara of Brandenburg. Once Mantua became Austrian, the renovations continued until the second half of the 18th century by the governors sent by the Emperor.

Palazzo Te
Palazzo Te is the work of Giulio Romano who in 1525 conceived it on commission of the Marquis Federico II Gonzaga who used it for his leisure. He made his “official” lover Isabella Boschetti live there. The “Palazzo dei lucidi inganni” stood in the center of an island rich in woods and surrounded by the waters of a lake, now drained: mysterious, full of symbols and myths that stand out in the rooms beautifully frescoed by Giulio Romano himself, like the the famous Hall of the Giants and that of Cupid and Psyche and, last but not least, the Hall of Horses which celebrates the Gonzaga stables at the time famous throughout Europe.

Palace of the Reason
Palazzo della Ragione was built when Guido da Correggio was podestà (1242), in the communal period, with public functions and in order to allow city assemblies and meetings. On the ground floor the building housed, as now, numerous shops, while in the large hall on the upper floor, justice was administered. On the walls of this room you can see the remains of medieval frescoes from the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries recently restored. This hall is accessed via a steep staircase located under the Clock Tower built in the fifteenth century, a period from which the arcades overlooking Piazza Erbe also date back. The Palace is now used as an exhibition venue hosting art exhibitions organized by the Municipality of Mantua.

Bonacolsi Palace (Castiglioni)
Bonacolsi Palace is located in Piazza Sordello, was built by Pinamonte dei Bonacolsi around 1272 and adapted by Luigi Gonzaga after the conquest of power in 1328. It was the ancient home of the Bonacolsi family, who ruled the city from 1272 to 1328. The palace is currently still home to the family of the Castiglioni counts, descendant of Baldassarre Castiglione, a 16th century politician and scholar, author of Il Cortegiano. On the ground floor the original entrance door with a large two-colored pointed arch decorated with shields with the Bonacolsi coat of arms.

Palazzo del Podestà
Palazzo del Podestà also known as “Palazzo del Broletto”, it was built in 1227, commissioned by the Brescian Laudarengo Martinengo appointed mayor of Mantua. From 1462 it underwent a major restructuring by Giovanni da Arezzo on behalf of Ludovico III Gonzaga.

Palace of San Sebastiano
Palace of San Sebastiano was built between 1506 and 1508 at the behest of the Marquis Francesco II who lived there and died there in 1519. It was used by the Gonzagas for thirty years and already in 1536 abandoned and stripped by subsequent dukes. In the main hall of the palace there were the nine canvases by Mantegna depicting The Triumphs of Caesar which were sold to the English crown and are now kept at Hampton Court. It underwent multiple transformations until 1998 when the restorations began. Since 2005it is used as the City Museum. In the rooms that still retain traces of frescoes from the glorious past such as the Camera del Crgiuolo, the Camera delle Frecce, the Camera del Sole and in the Loggia dei Marmi, paintings, statues, busts, friezes and other architectural finds are exhibited.

Arco Palace
it was built in 1784 on a pre-existing 15th century palace by the architect Antonio Colonna for the family of Trentino origins D’Arco. Characterized by the large neoclassical façade inspired by the art of Palladio, the building is a museum for the art treasures it contains: still furnished with the furniture of the family, it houses important artistic collections including the eighteenth-century paintings by Giuseppe Bazzani, a library of over six thousand volumes and a collection of scientific instruments. In the Sala dello Zodiaco there are frescoes (1520) attributed to Giovanni Maria Falconetto. In the Palace there was celebrated in 1810 the trial ofAndreas Hofer hero of Tyrolean independence against French domination.

Religious architectures:

Cathedral of San Pietro (Duomo)
Dedicated to St. Peter, the current Romanesque-style cathedral with Gothic additions, was built between 1395 and 1401 after a fire, centuries earlier, had destroyed a previous early Christian temple. It was renovated in 1545 by Giulio Romano, who left the façade intact but modified the forms, inspired by the early Christian basilicas. The current facade, in Carrara marble, dates back to 1761. The side features Gothic inserts such as rose windows, cusps and pinnacles, remains of the ancient facade. Inside you can admire the coffered ceiling overlooking the three naves: the main one is decorated with statues of sibyls and prophets dating back to the sixteenth century. Under the main altar is the uncorrupted body of Sant’Anselmo da Baggio, patron saint of the city. The Cathedral, located in the monumental Piazza Sordello, is the bishopric of Mantua.

Basilica of Sant’Andrea
Designed by Leon Battista Alberti, it was built starting from 1472 and completed 328 years later with the construction of the dome on designs by Filippo Juvarra. In the crypt the relic of the Precious Blood of Christ brought to Mantua by the Roman centurion Longinus is kept inside the Sacred Vessels. In one of the chapels there is the funeral monument of Andrea Mantegna, surmounted by the bronze effigy of the painter of the Gonzaga court.

Palatine Basilica of Santa Barbara
The church of the Gonzaga court was commissioned by Duke Guglielmo who commissioned the Mantuan architect Giovan Battista Bertani with the project. An integral part of the Doge’s Palace, the construction of the church was completed in 1572.

Rotunda of San Lorenzo
Rotunda of San Lorenzo is the oldest church in the city, built in the 11th century during the Canossa domination. With a round central plan, the Rotonda di San Lorenzo is located at a lower level than Piazza delle Erbe and preserves a women’s gallery and traces of Byzantine school frescoes dating back to the 11th-12th centuries. Over the centuries it underwent radical transformations; deconsecrated, it became a warehouse so that at the beginning of the twentieth century it was incorporated into buildings following its construction. Expropriated in 1908, the rotunda of San Lorenzo was restored and reopened in 1911and finally returned to its original religious destination in 1926.

Church of San Sebastiano
Church of San Sebastiano begun in 1460 by Luca Fancelli on a project by Leon Battista Alberti, it was completed in 1529. Deconsecrated in the eighteenth century, it was used for various purposes until 1925 when, after a questionable restoration that added the two entrance stairways, it was transformed into a famine of the Mantuan fallen of all wars.

Norsa Torrazzo Synagogue
Norsa Torrazzo Synagogue was moved and faithfully rebuilt in its present location, when the demolition of the Jewish quarter was decided, between 1899 and 1902.

Episcopal seminary
Episcopal seminary located next to the Duomo in Via Fratelli Cairoli, was renovated in 1825 in a neoclassical style as can be seen in particular in the façade and in the internal courtyard.

Civil architectures:

Casa del Mantegna
Home of the painter Andrea Mantegna, it was built on land donated by the Marquis Ludovico Gonzaga who appointed him court painter in 1457. It is a square red brick building with a cylindrical courtyard in the center open to a circle of sky, re-proposed in the famous Camera degli Sposi in the Doge’s Palace.

Rigoletto’s house
Giuseppe Verdi set the story to music and the Mantuan people gave him the residence; towards the end of Piazza Sordello is the house of the ” Rigoletto “, the Gonzaga court jester. The character actually has little of Mantua, the homonymous opera by Verdi was in fact taken from a play by Victor Hugo and adapted in the Mantuan territory, transforming the king of France into the Duke of Mantua, and changing the name of the protagonist from Triboulet to Rigoletto. The 15th – century structure houses the sculpture of Rigoletto, the work of Aldo Falchi, placed in the small internal courtyard.

House of the Blessed Osanna Andreasi
House of the Blessed Osanna Andreasi is a unique example of a Mantuan residence built in the fifteenth century, in Fancellian style, where the blessed Osanna Andrea lived there, a member of an illustrious family that was part of the ruling and cultural class of the Gonzaga state.

Bertani’s house
Bertani’s house was the home of Giovan Battista Bertani, an architect in the service of the Gonzaga dukes, who between 1554 and 1556 transformed the pre-existing 1300 building owned by the Marquis Striggi. The idea of inserting two tombstones with engraved texts by Vitruvius and two Ionic columns, one of which sawn in half with engravings and decorations that didactically show the rules inferable from the Vitruvian treatise, De architectura, was singular. Subsequently the ownership of the Bertani house changed numerous times reliving a new short artistic season when in the fifties of the twentieth centuryit was bought by the Mantuan painter Vindizio Nodari Pesenti.

House of Giulio Romano
House of Giulio Romano was Federico Gonzaga who convinced Giulio Pippi known as Giulio Romano to come to Mantua. In need of a Giulio Romano house, in the year 1544, in the then Contrada Larga, the residence was built which, despite an intervention in the nineteenth century by the architect Paolo Pozzo, maintains the Roman architectural style unchanged.

Merchant’s House
Merchant’s House is also known as the “House of Boniforte da Concorezzo “, the former owner who had it built in 1455. The building is characterized by a surprising facade entirely in terracotta with Venetian-style decorations.

Market house
Market house presumably corresponding to the Domus Mercati, was rebuilt in 1462 by the architect Luca Fancelli on commission from the Marquis Ludovico Gonzaga. During the restoration works (1997-2001), important frescoes attributed to the school of Andrea Mantegna came to light.

House of the Rabbi
House of the Rabbi was built in the years around 1680 by the Flemish architect Frans Geffels, in Mantua as prefect of the Gonzaghesche factories. Four-storey building, the facade is characterized by stucco panels depicting biblical places and episodes. It was built inside the ghetto established a few decades earlier, welcoming, as per tradition, the families of the religious leaders of the large Mantuan Jewish community.

Great Hospital of San Leonardo
Commissioned by Ludovico III Gonzaga for public assistance and completed around 1470 by the architect Luca Fancelli, in 1797 it was transformed into a prison and later into a barracks. It currently houses the offices of the State Police.

Accademia Palace
Based on a project by Giuseppe Piermarini of 1770, it was the architect Paolo Pozzo who took care, between 1773 and 1775, of the reconstruction works of the medieval building which had first become the seat of the Accademia degli Invaghiti and then of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Fine Letters, current Virgilian National Academy. The neoclassical style building includes a typical example of Baroque represented by the Scientific theater of the Academy called Bibiena, named after the architect Antonio Bibiena who built it between 1767 and1769

Agriculture palace
Agriculture palace was built in 1926 – 27 as Palazzo dei Sindacati on a project by Eng. Carlo Finzi. It assumed its current name, becoming the seat of the major provincial organizations linked to agriculture such as the Agricultural Consortium, the Federation of Direct Cultivators, the Federation of Farmers and the Agricultural Inspectorate.

Bank of Italy building
Bank of Italy building was built between 1914 and 1923 on a project by the architect Gaetano Moretti, exponent of Liberty and Eclecticism. The latter style is evident in the finishes and decorations of the facades that recall the Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and exotic architecture. Built to house the provincial headquarters of the Bank of Italy, this function ceased at the end of 2008 with the closure of the Mantua branch of the issuing institute. In the meantime, on January 29, 2007, the building was classified of historical and artistic interest by the Regional Directorate for Cultural and Landscape Heritage of Lombardy.

Canossa Palace
Canossa Palace was built in the seventeenth century on commission from the Marquis Canossa, a family of ancient lineage from Verona. The rusticated façade recalls the sixteenth-century solutions of Giulio Romano and is characterized by a marble portal watched by two dogs from the family crest. Another detail of particular architectural value is a monumental Baroque staircase that leads to the noble floor of the building.

Palazzo Capilupi
Palazzo Capilupi became the home of the noble Capilupi family in 1414. The entrance portal was designed by Giulio Romano.

Cavriani Palace
Cavriani Palace was the home of the noble Cavriani family since the fifteenth century. It was rebuilt in 1756 by the architect Alfonso Torreggiani. The exterior has a series of windows with sturdy railings, while those on the upper floor have triangular and half-moon roofs. The interior opens with a large hall full of stuccos and frescoes by Mantuan painters including Giuseppe Bazzani and Francesco Maria Raineri.

Colloredo Palace
Colloredo Palace, also known as “Palazzo Guerrieri-Gonzaga”, was purchased by Giovanni Battista Guerrieri in 1599 who entrusted the renovation to the architect Antonio Maria Viani. The pre-baroque facade is characterized and decorated by twelve herms made of lime mortar with a surface finish in marmorino alternating male and female figures. It became the property of the Colloredo counts with Carlo Ludovico Colloredo husband of Eleonora Gonzaga (1699-1779) of the Vescovato line, on 30 March 1872 it was purchased by the Municipality and destined to be the seat of the Judicial Offices of the Court. Since then it has become the “Palace of Justice” of the city.

Bath Palace
Bath Palace, 18th-century palace underwent 19th-century intervention on the façades by the architect Giovanni Cherubini. The interiors were decorated by valuable painters such as Giuseppe Bazzani and Giovanni Cadioli. It is currently the seat of the Prefecture and the Provincial Administration.

Municipal building
Municipal building is the seat of offices and the council chamber of the municipality of Mantua. The building that belonged to the Gonzaga di Bozzolo branch from the 15th century, after numerous changes of ownership, was purchased by the civic administration in 1819, which arranged for its internal and external restructuring between 1825 and 1832, with the assignment of the task to the neoclassical architect Gian Battista Vergani.

Palazzo Sordi
Palazzo Sordi was the first Marquis of the Sordi family, Benedetto, who wanted the building of the same name to be built. He commissioned the project and the follow-up of the works, begun in 1680, to the Flemish architect Frans Geffels, prefect of the Gonzaga factories. One of the rare examples of Baroque in the Virgilian city was born. Of particular value above the entrance portal, a tondo with the Madonna and Child, a high relief by Giovanni Battista Barberini, a work inserted in a Doric facade and plaster and partially ashlarrustic rich in other decorations and bas-reliefs in marble and stucco. The palace is private and therefore closed to the public.

Valenti Gonzaga Palace
Valenti Gonzaga Palace, residence of the Marquises Valenti Gonzaga since 1500, the palace underwent a radical transformation in the seventeenth century, constituting a gigantic architectural structure, sumptuous on the outside, an amazing internal courtyard richly decorated with stucco, and rich in ‘frescoes and statues of the author inside. Since then it has represented one of the most important examples of architecture and decorations of the Baroque period in Mantua. As with other works of this style, the author was the architect Frans Geffels (1625 – 1694). Recently restored, it is used as offices.

Fishmongers, also called Loggia di Giulio Romano, they were precisely designed by the great architect of mannerism. The work, carried out in 1536, consisted in the transformation of the medieval bridge that crossed the Rio with the construction of two parallel arcades that were destined for the fish trade.

Villa Nuvolari
Villa Nuvolari, originally called Villa Rossini; it was in fact commissioned by the shooting champion Romolo Rossini, to the architect Luigi Corsini, in 1926. Its construction began in 1929, while in the forties it was bought by Tazio Nuvolari, who never lived there, limiting himself to using the garden as a garage. On the death of the car champion, the widow Carolina Nuvolari ceded the villa to the Carlo Poma city hospital in exchange for an annuity. Since 2005 the building has become the seat of banking institutions.

Military architectures:

Walls of Mantua
The walls of Mantua formed the defensive system of the city of Mantua, in today’s Lombardy. The first circle of walls was built to protect the oldest nucleus of the old city (civitas vetus, about 800-1115) and extended from the current via Montanari, via Sant’Agnese, via Cavour to via Tazzoli and largo Vigili del Fuoco. The north-eastern part of the city was naturally protected by Lake Mezzo and Lake Inferiore. The walls were protected by a moat (“moat of the oxen”), buried in the sixteenth century, which occupied the area of Via Accademie and entered the Lower Lake. They were later partially destroyed and incorporated into the construction of the houses.

With the expansion of the city, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, the city was inhabited and fortified by a second wall up to the Rio, the canal commissioned by the engineer Alberto Pitentino, which connected the Upper and Lower lakes by regulating the floods of the Mincio. A third wall, following the expansion of the city to the south, was created at the beginning of the fifteenth century by Francesco I Gonzaga, fourth captain of the People of Mantua, in the direction of today’s via Piave, viale della Repubblica, via Allende. The defensive system remained almost unchanged until the beginning of the sixteenth century, when Francesco II Gonzaga, fourth Marquis of Mantua, decided on a profound restructuring, continued by his son Federico II. The superintendence of the works was entrusted to the military engineer of the court Alessio Beccaguto, who also included the construction of new bastions.

At the fall of the Gonzaga (1708), Mantua passed under the domination of the Austrians, who transformed it into one of the most important bastions of northern Italy. New bastions, embankments and defense bulwarks were erected. Between 1815 and 1866 Mantua belonged, together with Verona, Peschiera and Legnago, to the Austrian defensive system called Fortresses of the Quadrilatero. With the annexation to the Kingdom of Italy, the city progressively lost its strategic role and the defensive system was progressively dismantled.

Fort of Pietole
Fort of Pietole was part of the Mantua defense system. The fort was built by the French in 1808, but then passed to the Austrians after 1814, who completed and upgraded it to make it a powder keg. At the outbreak of the First World War, the fort was also used as a deposit for weapons. On April 28, 1917, a fire broke out, which destroyed a large part of the powder magazine. Later, the fort was stopped and the military left it permanently in 1983. Since then the fort has remained so without use, abandoned in the middle of the woods. Only in May 2011, a group of volunteers undertook to partially clean up the fortress. The fort enjoyed a massive fortified structure, defended on three of the four sides by large embankments and four bastions. A covered road runs along its perimeter, which connects with the interior of the fortress in two points. Particular are the countermina tunnels that run below the fortification, which could be mined and blown up if necessary, destroying the enemy forces under which they passed.

Fortress of Sparafucile
Erected in medieval times, Fortress of Sparafucile was part of the eastern fortifications of Mantua, in particular used for the defense of the bridge of San Giorgio, so much so that for a long time it was exclusively called “Rocchetta di San Giorgio”. Its current name was established after the setting on the “deserted bank of the Mincio”, of the tavern of the assassin Sparafucile, site of the tragic epilogue of Rigoletto, one of the most famous works by Giuseppe Verdi. The building is immortalized in the painting Death of the Virgin by Andrea Mantegna, from 1461-65 (Madrid, Museo del Prado).

Castle of San Giorgio
Castle of San Giorgio, manor to defend the fortress-city of Mantua, it was built from 1395 to 1406 by Bartolino da Novara commissioned by Francesco I Gonzaga on the ruins of the Church of Santa Maria di Capo di Bove.


Defensive Towers:
Tower of the Cage: the tower was raised by the Bonacolsi in the last decades of the 13th century and acquired its current name in 1576 when Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga had the large iron cage built as an “open-air prison” where the condemned were exposed to public mockery.
Torre di Sant’Alò or New Tower: the tower is a construction of 1370 located in Piazza Arche, which was part of the defensive system of the city.
Tower house of the Bonacolsi: the tower, which stands at the end of Vicolo Bonacolsi, is part of the 13th century Palazzo Bonacolsi.

Civil Towers:
Clock tower: the tower, with a rectangular plan, was erected in 1472 to a design by Luca Fancelli and the mechanical clock designed by Bartolomeo Manfredi was placed there the following year. In the niche below, created in 1639, a statue of the Immaculate Virgin was placed.
Tower of the Podestà: the “Civic Tower” of Broletto (another name of the tower), which is leaning on Casa Tortelli, stands on the homonymous square, has a height of almost 47 meters and since 1227 on the initiative of the mayor Laudarengo Martinengo, is an integral part of the majestic Palazzo del Podestà. On the side facing Piazza Broletto stands the weapon of the podestà Gabriello Ginori, from 1494.
Tower of the Zuccaro: the tower, 42 meters high, was built in the first half of the 12th century. The first written records date back to 1143. It is located in via Enrico Tazzoli. The name derives from the family that would have owned it, even if popular imagination has fueled the idea that the name was born from the presence of sugar stored nearby, in fact it is called ” Tor dal Sücar ” in the local dialect. It was bought by Pinamonte dei Bonacolsi in 1273 from the Ripalta family.
Torre dei Gambulini: the tower, 37 meters high, stands in via Ardigò. From documentation of the time it already existed in 1200, deriving the name from the family that owned it. From these ceded to the Ripalta family and then to the da Oculo, in 1289 it became the property of the Gonzagas, not yet sovereigns of Mantua. The building attached to the tower became the occasional residence of Aloisio Gonzaga, lord of Castel Goffredo. The leader Giovanni dalle Bande Nere died here on 30 November 1526. It was later merged into the College and the convent of the Jesuits and since 1883it is part of the Mantua State Archives complex. In recent times, the project has been launched to transform the tower into a panoramic terrace that allows a 360-degree view of the historic center of Mantua.
Salaro Tower: from the 13th century, it was used as a salt deposit.
Arrivabene Tower: the corner tower rises in via Arrivabene and was erected together with the homonymous family palace, attributed to Luca Fancelli, in 1481.
Tower of San Domenico: It stands next to Giulio Romano’s Pescherie and is what remains of the church and convent of San Domenico erected in the Gothic style in 1466.
Burgo Paper Mill: The building was designed by Pier Luigi Nervi commissioned by Cartiere Burgo and built between 1961 and 1964. The primary objective was to place a single continuous cycle machine in a single 250-meter-long room to transform wood pulp into newsprint. The solution found by Nervi for the roof meant that the building was called a “suspended factory” in particular for the four steel cables suspended from two reinforced concrete frames 50 meters high.


City Museum of Palazzo San Sebastiano
The Museum of the City of Palazzo San Sebastiano is a museum in Mantua based in the sixteenth-century palace of the same name owned by the municipality. The palace was built between 1506 and 1508 to be the favorite residence of the Marquis Francesco II Gonzaga, who died there in 1519. Gerolamo Arcari and Bernardino Ghisolfo directed the works and were in charge of the interior decorations were painters such as Lorenzo Leonbruno, Matteo, Lorenzo Costa the Elder and Carlo del Mantegna. In the upper hall there were the nine canvases by Mantegna depicting the Triumphs of Caesar. The recovery began in 1999 with the aim of restoring the original project as much as possible and recovering at least part of the internal and external wall decorations. The restoration made it possible to recover precious fragments of the frescoes that decorated the Palazzo externally, following the typical taste of the Mantuan buildings of the second half of the fifteenth century.

The museum was inaugurated on March 19, 2005. Part of the works belonging to the Civic Collections that already constituted the Museo Patrio in the nineteenth century are exhibited in the City Museum. What is proposed has the ambition to tell the most emblematic moments in the history of Mantua and represent its great artistic civilization. The Museum of the Risorgimento in Mantua was inaugurated on March 3, 1903 on the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Belfiore. After various locations and vicissitudes, in 2005 the collections of the Museum of the Risorgimento, without a seat, were formally merged with the new City Museum of Palazzo San Sebastiano.

Casa del Mantegna
The architectural design of the building is characterized by a plant with a perfect geometric design: the circle of the courtyard is included in the square of the building. Connected by a circular path, the rooms overlook the cylindrical space of the courtyard with arched doors or windows, an evident Renaissance re-proposal of the atrium of a Roman domus. There is nothing accidental in these two different ways of approaching the architectural complex that Andrea Mantegna wanted to design to be both his home and workshop.

They express the complex impression that arises from the analysis of the architectural building which, in its general simplicity, instead proposes a certainly unusual volumetric system. In fact, inside the parallelepiped block that is perceived on the outside, a cylindrical body is inserted at the bottom, inscribed in a cube that overhangs it. Today the building is used as a place for temporary exhibitions and is the official seat of the cultural sector of the Province of Mantua.

Historical Gallery of the National Fire Brigade
The historical gallery of the fire brigade of Mantua, is the largest exhibition in Italy, of the vehicles and historical relics of the fire brigade. The gallery is housed in a building near the tower of Sant’Alò in Largo fire brigade in Mantua. The spaces and rooms occupied by the gallery are part of the monumental complex of the Doge’s Palace of which they were the stables. Established in the 90s of the last century, by the will of Nicola Colangelo, former commander of the Mantuan brigade, it is managed and cared for by the provincial fire brigade command of Mantua in collaboration with the Superintendence.

The exhibited material is plentiful and varied; pass from static historical relics such as uniforms, helmets and other tools, to motor vehicles (vehicles, boats and even a helicopter) from all over the national territory. The means of transport are those of national and also foreign production as long as they are used by the Italian firefighters. The historical evidence of the objects on display date back to the early eighteenth century, there are horse carriages and even a steam pump. These are real mechanical masterpieces of the time for the most part restored and still working.

Tazio Nuvolari and Learco Guerra museum
The Tazio Nuvolari and Learco Guerra museum is a museum located in Mantua, housed in the former Carmelino church. It is dedicated to two well-known Mantuan sportsmen of the past: Tazio Nuvolari (1892-1953), universally recognized as one of the greatest drivers in the history of world motoring; Learco Guerra (1902-1963), road cyclist, world champion in 1931. The museum houses cups, trophies, medals, honors, letters, photographs, posters, newspapers and period magazines.

National Archaeological Museum of Mantua
The National Archaeological Museum of Mantua is an archaeological museum located in Mantua, in which material recovered from various excavations and researches in the territory of the province of the same name is collected. The area where the museum now stands, within the perimeter of the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, housed the theater of Corte dei Gonzaga from the mid-16th to the end of the 19th century. It became municipal property in 1896, the “cocoon market” of silkworms was built there, then destined for the fruit and vegetable trade and finally donated by the municipality of Mantua to the Ministry for cultural heritage and activities and for tourism so that it could begin the restructuring and transformation into an archaeological museum intended to collect the numerous finds from excavations in the province of Mantua.

The restoration project has set itself the goal of preserving the environmental and architectural characteristics of a notable example of paleo-industrial architecture of the end of the 19th century, maintaining its original external appearance, the internal structure of the trussed roof supported by pillars arranged in two rows.. The huge original building is now cut by three floors in order to make a rational use of the interior space. Although only partially using the restored building, the museum already offers an exhibition of collections of artifacts ranging from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, to the Etruscan, Celtic, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance periods, all materials found in the area Mantua. Since 11 April 2014, the Lovers of Valdaro are permanently exhibited in a glass case, two Neolithic skeletons found at Valdaro near Mantua in 2007, so named because the two skeletons, a man and a woman, were found embraced.

Church-Museum of Santa Maria della Vittoria
Commissioned by Francesco II Gonzaga in 1496 in memory of the victory obtained against the French army commanded by Charles VIII in the battle of Fornovo in 1495.

Public space:

Squares and streets

Sordello square
Sordello square is the ancient fulcrum of the artistic and political life of Mantua, of modest size (150 × 60 m) it welcomes among the main monumental buildings of the city, such as the Palazzo Ducale (Palazzo del Capitano and Domus Magna), the Acerbi palace, to which inside there is the Bonacolsi chapel, dominated by the Torre della Gabbia, the Bonacolsi palace (now Castiglioni), the bishopric of the Bianchi palace (from the name of the family that built it in the eighteenth century) and the Cathedral. A recent accidental archaeological discovery (December 2006) has brought to light the mosaic floors and the remains of a Roman domus of imperial age currently open to visitors inside a temporary structure.

Broletto street
Broletto street, important road artery that connects Piazza delle Erbe to Piazza Sordello, passing under the Voltone di San Pietro.

Broletto square
with the expansion of the city beyond the primitive historical nucleus, around the year 1190, Piazza Broletto was created which still today is surrounded by buildings of the municipal period such as the Palazzo del Massaro, the Arengario and the Palazzo del Podestà, called also Palazzo del Broletto, with the Municipal Tower. On the facade of the latter building, stands a thirteenth-century statue of the Veronese school depicting ” Virgilio in cathedra “, traditionally called “La Vecia” (the old one) in the local dialect. A fountain with a Veronese marble basin and three vertically placed dolphins has been placed in the center of the square since 1894.

Piazza delle Erbe
Piazza delle Erbe is a place of trade, opens to the south with the “House of Giovan Boniforte da Concorezzo” (or “House of the Merchant”) of 1455, continues with the Romanesque Rotonda di San Lorenzo, the Clock Tower, the Palazzo della Reason and ends with Palazzo Broletto (or del Podestà) built in the 12th century, which separates it and gives its name to the adjacent square.

Piazza Canossa
The 17th-century Palazzo Canossa, the church of the Madonna del Terremoto and, on the third side, a porticoed palace from 1720 overlook the square. From the sixteenth century to the present day, the square changed its name several times, taking in sequence the names of Plateola cum uno puteo (square with the well), “piazza alberriggia” and, in the seventeenth century, “piazza del haeno” when the construction of Palazzo Canossa was transformed in a definitive way. On the square there is also an ancient liberty newspaper stand, dating back to 1882 and restored by the FAI Italian Environment Fund.

Virgiliana square
Piazza Virgiliana was commissioned by General Sextius Alexandre François de Miollis, governor during the French occupation, who led the city authorities to transform the shapeless space, often partially submerged by the flooding of Lake Mezzo, into a square used for military exercises and to host a monument that reminded Mantua to be Virgil’s homeland. The task was given to the architect Paolo Pozzo. The hollows were filled and low-value buildings that surrounded the clearing were demolished to allow the insertion of trees, plants and shrubs., was destroyed in 1919 to be replaced by the current work in Carrara marble, whose project was entrusted to the architect Luca Beltrami. The inauguration took place in 1927.


Bridge of the Mills
Bridge of the Mills was designed by the engineer Alberto Pitentino, built in the 12th century in order to regulate the waters of the Mincio river and avoid its swamping. A difference in height of a few meters was then artificially created between Lake Superiore and Lake Mezzo, which from the year 1229 fed 12 mills. The ancient medieval building was destroyed by the air raids of the Second World War.

Bridge of San Giorgio
Bridge of San Giorgio was included in the defensive military system joining the fortified village of San Giorgio with the Gonzaga court. Initially in wood, it was built in masonry by Ludovico Gonzaga at the end of the 14th century, thus dividing Lake Mezzo from Lake Inferiore. In 1922 the arches were buried and the bridge assumed its present shape.

Mantua has been elected as Italian Culture Capital for 2016, and its food is an important part of that historical and artistic heritage. Mantuan cuisine is the set of dishes of the culinary tradition of the Italian province of Mantua, some of which date back to the times of the Gonzagas. It is a strong gastronomy of dishes appreciated outside the territory even in the past centuries. It is a cuisine linked to the land by peasant traditions, but it is very rich and varied. There can be several local variations of the same dish.

The province’s traditional cuisine can be defined as based on popular recipes using local produce, hearty tastes that were later refined at the court of the Gonzaga Family. Given the geographical position occupied by the province of Mantua, the Mantuan culinary tradition is similar to the Emilian cuisine of salami and pasta and to the Lombard cuisine of rice. Walk along the Wines and Flavors Trail of Mantua.

Wild herbs are often used to season bread dumplings called capunsei or to add flavoring to egg frittatas and savory crepes. Among it best appreciated pasta dishes in Mantua is the Pumpkin Tortelli, usually accompanied with mostarda. Filling for Agnolini on the other hand is always different according to the zone they are made in. Consider tasting Mantua local cold meats such as the Coppa Dop, Vaniglia Cotechino and Mantuan salami, perfect to be paired with a glass of fine red wine. Local desserts include the sugolo, a kind of grape-based pudding, almod sbrisolona, and tagliatelle pie, commonly prepared in celebration of Santa Lucia.

Mantua is a typically agricultural province. The tourist itineraries that the province offers are varied and can combine the naturalistic element, the – truly unique – historical / artistic one and why not, food and wine, giving a “gourmet” public great pleasures of the palate.

In the midst of postcard landscapes, fascinating historic buildings and enchanted gardens. Discover the wonders of a UNESCO World Heritage treasure, first-hand experi-ences about cities, mountains, lakes, villages.

Castellaro Lagusello
Castellaro Lagusello seems to come straight out of a postcard; you will love it when you visit it. A village near Monzambano, it lies among the morainic hills in the Alto Mantovano in the north-west and is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. A heart-shaped lake and a magnificent castle are the ingredients for a fabulous experience. Don’t forget to try the capunsei, gnocchi made of bread typical of the area.

Castiglione delle Stiviere and the Red Cros
The idea of the Red Cross came to Henry Dunant here, after seeing the generosity of the inhabitants in aiding the wounded of the battle of Solferino in 1859. The International Red Cross Museum bears witness to this. Here’s a special recommendation: go up to the castle, from which you can enjoy a great view. The colours of the countryside are magical.

The hills of Cavriana
Cycling in the hills of Cavriana, one of the favourite residences of the Gonzagas in which to relax. Ideal for a walk or a bike ride through the vineyards and the moraine hills, Cavriana, a village in the north-west of the province, is dominated by the castle, once one the most important forti-fications in the area. Today, unfortunately, there are only ruins, but the view is breathtaking.

Sabbioneta, the Renaissance “ideal city”
An open-air work of art. One of the most beautiful small towns in Italy, a Unesco World Heritage site and Bandi-era arancione of the Touring Club Italiano. High town walls and a moat encircle this “ideal city” in the heart of the Mantuan plain. The two immense gateways into town (Porta Vittoria and Porta Imperiale), the Galleria degli Antichi, the Piazza and the Palazzo Ducale, the Palazzo del Giardino, the Olympic Theatre and the church of Santa Maria Assunta are all definitely worth a visit. A true 16th-century architectural jewel.

Solferino, on the trail of history
One of the most important battles of the Second War of Independence was fought here, on 24 June 1859. Piazza Castello is worth a visit, and is reach through an arch between the walls. From the top, on clear days, you can see all the way to Lake Garda. In the square there is the church of San Nicola and the Civic Tower built by the Gonzagas. Take a visit too to the medieval fortress, 23 metres high, which dominates the whole town and houses a museum with war memorabilia.

Volta Mantovana, the Italian castle and gardens
The medieval castle dominates the centre of this village in the Alto Mantovano, north-west of the city of Mantua. Built around the eleventh century, it preserves the original town walls, with the elegant “Porta Mantovana”. A visit to the Palazzo Gonzaga-Guerrieri with its Renaissance decorations and the four enchanting Italian gardens that cover the whole hill right to the centre of the village.