Mantua - Lombardy
Mantua is a little jewel that the locals are trying to keep secret. This enchanting city is situated in a magical position on a small peninsula on the right bank of the Mincio River, at the point where it widens to form three charming lakes: Lago Superiore, Lago di Mezzo and Lago Inferiore.
Today Mantua has about 50,000 inhabitants and is famous in Italy for its high standard of living and fabulous lifestyle. The best times to visit Mantua are during the spring and the fall. The city becomes very crowded during the summer, and fog is an unpleasant part of the cold winter months.
The city has been inhabited since prehistoric times, named by the conquering Romans and brought to its greatest glory under the Gonzaga family. There are many luxurious buildings and glorious churches which are a constant reminder of the city's past splendor. The center of the city is formed by the Mantegna and the delle Erbe squares, embellished by the presence of the cathedral of Sant'Andrea, one of the most outstanding religious buildings of the Renaissance, which was designed by Leon Battista Alberti. The cathedral's construction began in 1472, on top of the foundations of an old Benedictine monastery, while the dome was built by a different artist, Filippo Juvara, in a totally different style from the church without disturbing the harmonious beauty of the entire building. The squares are surrounded by medieval buildings, while narrow streets lead the curious traveler to the magnificent Sordello Square, the former center of the political and artistic life of the city and home to the Palazzo Ducale, a complex of buildings of various periods rich with numerous works by famous artists like Pisanello, Domenico Morone, Giulio Romano and Rubens. On the other side of the city another magnificent Palace reigns, Palazzo Te, designed by Giulio Romano for the Gonzaga family.
Rigoletto's Home, located in Piazza Sordello, is a favorite place for many. Rigoletto was the court jester, and a bronze statue of the little man stands untouched by time in the small courtyard of his simple house. Another popular area is outside the city in Pietole. It was the birthplace of one of the greatest Italian poets, Virgil. His house and statue can be visited every day.
As you can now tell, there are many buildings of historical interest are many, but there are plenty of places to relax and enjoy a flavorful gelato. Piazza Sordello is full of little gelaterias, cafes, family run-trattorias and modern restaurants.
Palazzo Ducale - Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9-6 (closed 1-2); Sunday to Monday from 9 to 1
Palazzo Te - Open Tuesday through Sunday from 9-6
S. Andrea Cathedral - Open daily until 7 p.m.
Mantegna's home - Open daily from 10-6; closes at 12 for one hour lunch break.