An Insider’s guide to the alluring city of Mantova

29 January 2024
Written by Teresa Cremona
Insider's Guide


Mantova and its neighbouring town Sabbioneta have been a Unesco World Heritage site since 2008. Under the rule of the Gonzaga family from the 14th to the 18th century, Mantova became a model and testimony of urban, architectural, and artistic achievement in the Renaissance period. Sabbioneta, on the other hand, was built by Duke Vespasiano Gonzaga in the second half of the 16th century. Its star-shaped city walls, grid-like street plan, public spaces, and monuments make it one of the best examples of an ideal city in Europe.

From September 4th to 8th, 2024 Mantova will host the Literary Festival. Since 1997, it has been one of Italy’s most anticipated cultural events, featuring five days of meetings with authors, readings, guided tours, shows, and concerts with artists from around the world who gather in Mantova to experience an unforgettable festive atmosphere.

Chiesa di San Francesco
The dome of Basilica of Sant’Andrea

what to see

Mantova

Palazzo Ducale

With over 500 rooms, including the famous Pisanello Room (dedicated to Antonio di Puccio Pisano, known as Pisanello, born in Pisa in 1395), featuring frescoes inspired by the stories of the Knights of the Round Table. Other notable areas include the Tapestry Apartment, the Hall of Mirrors, the Hall of Rivers, the Garden of Simples, and the Bridal Chamber frescoed by Mantegna between 1465 and 1474. WEBSITE

Torre dell’orologio

Built in the second half of the 15th century by the astrologer Bartolomeo Manfredi, known as Bartolomeo dell’Orologio. Climbing to the top of the tower, at 32 meters high, provides a magnificent panorama of the city and the surrounding lakes. WEBSITE

Rotonda di San Lorenzo

Located in Piazza delle Erbe, this medieval church is the oldest in the city. Built by the will of Countess Matilde di Canossa, it is an exact reproduction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Basilica di Sant’Andrea

The largest church in Mantova, designed by Leon Battista Alberti, housing works by Mantegna, Correggio, Romano, Fetti, and Campi.

Palazzo Te

The most famous work of architect Giulio Romano, built in the 16th century by order of Marquis Federico II Gonzaga. Inside, it preserves extraordinary, unmissable, and exciting frescoes in the Hall of the Giants. WEBSITE

Sabbioneta

Galleria degli Antichi

Known as the “Grand Corridor,” this 97-meter-long gallery in Sabbioneta was built between 1584 and 1586 to house the duke’s collections. After the Uffizi in Florence, it is the longest art gallery in Italy.

Palazzo Giardino

Built between 1577 and 1588 as the private residence of Duke Vespasiano Gonzaga, it has numerous beautifully frescoed rooms on the noble floor and, on the first floor, the Hall of Mirrors, where the Camerino delle Grazie opens onto a splendid Italian garden.

Teatro all’Antica

Designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, built to host performances and concerts reserved for the court of Vespasiano. Due to its innovative features, it is considered one of the first Renaissance theatres in modern Europe.

What to do

Views of Mantova from the lake, Italy

Boat Trip

Take a boat trip to admire the charm of the city from the perspective of the three lakes fed by the Mincio River – Lago Superiore, Lago di Mezzo, and Lago Inferiore. A river cruise (Duration: 2 hours, reservations directly on the riverbank) offers a splendid view of the imposing buildings of the historic centre. WEBSITE

Walk along the Gonzaga Lakeside

From Belfiore to Porto Catena, especially in the stretch from the San Giorgio bridge leading to Porto Catena, alongside one of the most beautiful profiles in Italy with the Castle of San Giorgio and the courtyard of the Cavallerizza.

Where to stay

Frescoed apartment

In Mantova, there’s a beautiful frescoed, two-roomed apartment a short distance from the Duomo. The spacious accommodation is situated within a 17th century, historical palazzo with a minimal, design approach to interiors – all the while preserving the detailed hand-painted walls, rustic wooden doors and antique fireplace. Home cooks will love the fully equipped kitchen and there’s Wi-Fi installed for those who may need to work from home. Finally, there’s private parking for those with a car. WEBSITE

Where to eat

Antica Osteria Ai Ranari

A traditional trattoria with a welcoming atmosphere and a centuries-old history that has maintained constant quality over time, becoming one of the most reliable addresses in the city. WEBSITE

dal Pescatore

Approximately 40 km from Mantua, in Canneto sull’Oglio, the restaurant ‘Dal Pescatore’ has held three Michelin stars for fifteen years. Here, chef Nadia Santini elevates the cuisine of the Bassa Padana to excellence. WEBSITE



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