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Copyright Enrico Massetti 2016
Published by Enrico Massetti
All Rights Reserved
Mantova, the capital of Matilde di Canossa and of the Gonzaga family, is an enchanted island surrounded by three lakes formed by the Mincio.
The monumental scenography of the Gonzaga period, the marvelous frescos of the Mantegnafamily, the splendid inventions of Giulio Romano in the Tea Palace, the churches; the patrician houses narrate the history.
A few kilometers from Mantova, we can admire the beautiful Sanctuary of the Beata Vergine alle Grazie, the Benedictine Abbey of Polirone, in San Benedetto Po, the small village parishes, and the old courts.
Mirage in the fertile countryside is Sabbioneta, the “small Athens” of Vespasiano Gonzaga.
According to legend the town was founded by the soothsayer Manto when he fled from Thebes; Mantua enters history with the Etruscans. It goes from Roman rule to the barbarian invasions until, around 1000 A.D. it becomes part of the feudal dominions of the Canossa.
It becomes a free commune in the XII and XIII centuries, continuing to grow while the unhealthy marsh by which it surrounded is drained and reclaimed. In 1237 Pinamonte Bonacolsi comes to power and consolidates its economic prosperity until 1328, when control passes to Luigi Gonzaga, founder of the dynasty to which Mantua owes most of its artistic beauty. It is, in fact, under Gonzaga rule that Mantua becomes notably more important politically, enjoys economic prosperity and is acknowledged as a primary center of culture and Renaissance art.
The family residence soon becomes one of the largest and most magnificent palaces in Europe.
Mantegna frescos the bride and bridegroom’s bedroom, L.B.Alberti designs the churches of Saint Andrew and Saint Sebastian and Giulio Romano builds the Palazzo del Te.
Damaged by the War of Succession, decimated by the plague, the city declines rapidly.
The Gonzaga dynasty falls in 1707 and the city passes into the hands of the Austrians. In 1866 Mantua becomes part of the Italian State.
Palazzo Ducale – Grande Galleria
Renowned for its architectural splendor and medieval charm, Mantua is a town rich in history and ducal splendor, the city of Virgil, greatest of Roman poets, of Mantegna, among the best Renaissance painters, of the Gonzaga, one of the most remarkable of Italian princely families, situated on the River Mincio, Milton’s “smooth-sliding Mincius, crowned with vocal reeds”.
The Ducal Palace and Palazzo Te are the two main attractions of a cultural itinerary in town, identified by the image of the salamander.
Leaving the castle, Castello di San Giorgio, one enters Piazza Sordello, which is, together with its surroundings, the original center of the town.
The square is dominated by the vast portico “facade” of the Ducal Palace (which comprises Palazzo del Capitano and the Magna Domus), the Cathedral and, on the right, the Bishop’s Palace, the Uberti Palace and the Castiglioni Palace.
Going under the archway, Voltone di San Pietro, walking along the Renaissance porticos in Piazza Broletto one can see the Palazzo del Podesta’.
Through the Sottoportico dei Lattonai, one enters Piazza Erbe where the other side of the palace can be seen; the square, the liveliest in the historic center, is dominated by the Palazzo della Ragione, with its adjoining Clock Tower and by the Rotonda di San Lorenzo, while in the nearby Piazza Mantegna, the imposing facade of the Basilica di Sant’Andrea dominates the scene.
Walking towards the second attraction of this itinerary, Mantegna’s House, the Tempio and Palazzo di San Sebastiano can be seen before reaching Palazzo Te, the masterpiece of Giulio Romano.
Camera degli Sposi
• Il Palazzo Ducale and St. George Castle. Piazza Sordello, 40. Hours: Tu-Su: 8:45AM-7:15PM This complex is a marvel of medieval and Renaissance architecture and artistry. It was the home of the Gonzaga family from 1328 to 1707, extended through the period, and including more than 500 rooms. € 6,50. ADVICE: The Bridal Chamber will be temporarily closed in winter to allow for the completion of renovation work on the main floor for the reopening final.
• Basilica Di Sant'Andrea, piazza L.B. Alberti or piazza Andrea Mantegna, this world famous church (dating from 1472 onwards), is the work of the architect Leon Battista Alberti, one of the founders of Renaissance architecture.
• Duomo Di Mantova, Piazza Sordello, (cathedral) is the main church in Mantua, with several additions in different architectural styles, from Romanesque, to Renaissance and Baroque.
• Palazzo Del Te Palazzo del Te or Palazzo Te is a splendid palace in the south end of Mantua. Built as a suburban residence, now inserted in a residential area. It is a fine example of the mannerist style of architecture, is the acknowledged masterpiece of architect Giulio Romano. Also known for theInternational Centre of Art and Culture.
Mantua old town
The origins of Mantua date back to the Etruscans – Mantus was a god of Hades. Here was born the great Latin poet Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro 70-10 B.C.). Visiting Mantua, walking along the old town heart is like stepping back in time. The imposing Piazza Sordello is enclosed by the Ducal Palace, the Cathedral and the palaces dating back to the Middle Ages.
Piazza Sordello originally named piazza S.Pietro, the very first nucleus of Mantua, was the scene of the coup d’état of August the 16th 1328 when the Gonzaga family took over the power of the city from the Bonacolsi family, rulers of Mantua since 1272. The Gonzaga family ruled for nearly four-hundred years up to 1707 when the city passed under the Austrian government. The Gonzaga’s builtThe Ducal Palace, the largest court in Europe covering 34.0000 square meters with over 500 rooms, 15 open spaces among gardens and courtyards. A real city within the city, magnificent and enchanting.
Among the court internal squares the largest is the sixteenth-century Piazza Castello surrounded by a portico with a central exedra leading to the entrance of Castello di S. Giorgio. Built at the end of the fourteenth century by military engineer Bartolino da Novara has four defensive towers and a central moat, further reinforcing the natural defence of Mantua already surrounded by water.
Under a long portico where you can still see traces of frescos with fruit festoons, foliage and painted marbles you come to Piazza S. Barbara with the imposing Basilica Palatina once linked to the palace through an inside passage.
The Ducal Palace
The Ducal Palace Was the main residence of the Gonzaga family, lords, marquises and finally Dukes of the city. Under the Austrian domination with Maria Teresa of Austria it was called Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace)
Piazza Sordello, +39-037-224832,www.mantovaducale.beniculturali.it. Tue-Sun 08:15-19:15 (last tickets 18:20), €12.00.
The palace was built in different times starting from the 13th century, first by the Bonacolsi’s and then by the Gonzaga’s. Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga in the second half of the 16th century started to give a unity to the buildings up to then detached one from the other. The task was given to the Chief of the Buildings Giovan Battista Bertani who created an enormous imposing complex (34.000 square meters) spreading from Piazza Sordello to the inferior lake. After Bertani’s death the works were carried on by Bernardino Facciotto who completed the unification of gardens, squares, loggias, galleries, exedras and courtyards giving the palace its final structure.