Strikes are Commonplace in Italy
On Friday, October 24, 2003, Italy conducted an all-nation strike of Union Members....all Unions.
The strike concerned their pensions. The government was proposing that the Union workers would have to work until the age 40 or for so many years. Thus, the entire country was shuting down.
In Mantova, we walked out of our hotel to discover hordes of people marching, some with flags; some with drums, and some on bikes.
This pictures shows just the beginning. It went on and on...the flags represented the particular Union that the person belonged to. There were teachers, railroad workers, truck drivers, people who worked at the Tourist Attractions, and several others.
A loud speaker and podium were set up in Piazza Sordello. Music was blasting, marchers were shouting slogans, dogs were barking, and drums were beating. It was quite a festive event.
Then the numerous Union leaders started to speak, and the crowds were cheering them on. We were told that all Tourist attractions were closed except one, the Palazzo Te. Fortunately for us, that is the very spot that we were headed!
I must say that we have never been to Italy (3 times) without encountering a strike. So, we were not shocked this time, but we were glad that we were not using Public Transportation.
St George's Castle
Bartolino of Novara built St George's Castle in the late 14th century for the Gonzaga family. It was the linchpin of the city's defenses. Originally, it was surrounded by a moat, now filled in. The interior is noted for its frescoes.
Ducal Palace is more than a palace; it's really a complex, and a magnificent complex at that. There are more than 500 rooms (not all open to the public), 15 courtyards, several little squares, hanging gardens, and many pieces of valuable art.
The Ducal Palace is also called the Gonzaga Palace . It consists of a series of buildings which date to different periods that were joined together in the course of the 13th to the 17th centuries. It made a "city within a city". The area covers over three hectares...quite immense! This Palace was almost abandoned in the early 1900's; some wings are still semi-abandoned or in the process of being renovated.
This is an incredible place with frescoes, tapestries, paintings, statues, gardens, and a multitude of architectual types.
My favorite room was "Galleria degli Specchi (Hall of Mirrors). There are frescoes in the vaulted ceiling and lunettes; the walls were redone in Neoclassic style, and the mirrors were an addition after 1779. There are many mythological and allegorical scenes; it's a perfect fusion between the artistic demands of the 16th and 18th centuries with 17th century marble busts. The most famous of the vaulting scenes are "Olympus" and the "Chariots of Day and Night" The horses of the chariots seem to turn when you reach the other end of the Gallery, and a picture of a woman pointing her finger seems to follow you from beginning to the end of the room!
This is not to be missed!
Piazza Sordello is enclosed by Palazzo Ducale, Domus Nova, and the Basilica of Santa Barbara. The Palazzo Ducale was also known as the Gonzaga Palace, and boasts over 500 rooms. Parts of Romeo and Juliet were filmed here.
Beyond Palazzo Ducale is the Castle of San Giorgio. It houses significant frescoes by Andrea Montegna, who was born in Mantova. The "Camera degli Sposa" is one of the most celebrated rooms in all of Renaissance painting. It was painted by Montegna between 1465 and 1474 for Ludovico and his wife Barbara of Brandenburg.
Palazzo Te is considered a masterpiece of Renaissance Architecture. Orignally a villa, there were various building phases from 1525-1535 commissioned by Guilio Romano. Part of this structure housed the Gnzaga Stables, and Federico II spent his leisure hours there.
"Rotonda of San Lorenzo"
Circular Romanesque Church was built in 1082 for Matilda of Canossa. According to tradition, it is the oldest church in Mantova.