We only had a day in Mantua and spent much of our time visiting the Ducal Palace of the Gonzaga family who ruled for several hundred years from 1328. The Gonzaga family were great collectors and patrons of the arts. The palace is a vast collection of buildings and courtyards of differing styles and ages. There was an elaborate route set out for visitors, plenty of staff and CCTV cameras in place. We travelled through great rooms, around courtyards, up steps, down steps and round corners, but we saw barely another soul. We stopped for a coffee about half way round in an empty cafeteria. It was necessary to search our pockets for money because our bags had been taken for security. We did not know the time or where we were exactly in this vast place !
If you want to see something special, go and see the Ducal Palace NOW, before the crowds discover this hidden gem !
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!
The Duomo or Cathedral of San Pietro is pre 11th Century, but today's facade dates to 1756. It's made in Carrara marble by a Roman architect in a style which combined the Neoclassic purism with the Mannerist and the Baroque.
This church has been rebuilt more than once. Gothic chapels still remain on the right flank while the bell tower is Romanesque. The inside was completely redone after a fire in 1545. It is a Latin-cross basilica. The dome fresco is of the "Glory of Paradise" and next to the altar, on the left, is the "Vision of Saint John Evangelist".
The adjacent Sacristy, initially was part of the larger chapel. It has vine tendrils and medallions of the school of Mantegna which refer to the "Mysteries of the Virgin" on the ceiling.
There is a house behind the cathedral which belongs to the Canons, where Rigoletto (on whom Verdi based his opera) is said to have lived. There is also a statue of him in the courtyard.
Basilica of Sant'Andrea is a Renaissance church and was first constructed to house the blood of Christ which was brought to Mantova (Mantua) the soldier who pierced the side of Christ on the cross; he was converted to Christianity and gathered earth bathed in Christ's blood.
He hid it in jars, and it was not discovered until 804 (8 centuries later). A sanctuary was built for these holy relics to be worshipped. There have been many renovations of the church, and 300 years lapsed between the original design and the final realization.
We found the interior to be airy and richly decorated. It has a Latin-cross plan, with a nave and square side chapels alternating with smaller chapels covered by cupolas.
We could not take interior pictures.
In the sixth chapel is an altarpiece with the Nativity, a fresco of the Crucifixion and the Discovery of the Most Precious Blood. There is a sarcophagi on either side of the altar which contain the relics of Longinus, the saint who brought the blood of Christ to Mantova (Mantua), and of Saint Gregorius Nazianzeno.
The dome of this church is huge and extraordinary. It is called a "Juvarra's Dome". The church is so large that it's impossible to remember everything about it. It is a site not to be missed.
This picture is the view out of our Hotel Room window! It shows the Rotonda of San Lorenzo.
It stands next to the Torre dell'Orologio, but on a level lower than the square. It is a circular Romanesque church and is the oldest church in Mantova (Mantua). It was built in 1082, but in 1579 Guglielmo Gonzaga had it closed to worship and partly torn down.
Not until 1908-1926 was this old church brought back to light and missing parts were rebuilt in a neo-Romanesque interpretation.
We went inside this round church, and it seemed so strange to step down instead of up. The interior has a central core, whose taller roof is visible from the outside, surrounded by a two-storied ring aisle.
The upper part was the matroneum and was supported on round masonry piers. There are a few remains of the 12th and 13th century frescoes with "Christ as Judge". There are also figures of angels (in Byzantine style) on the vault and left of the altar.
The "Appartamento della Grotta" (Apartment of the Grotto) stands at the far end of Palazzo Te & contrasts with the spectacular Giants' Hall.
Visitors often overlook this "secret garden" (we almost did). With its flowerbeds, elegant loggia, and faded frescos, it is well worth a visit. The vault of the loggia is richly decorated with mysterious scenes, which are probably an allegory of life.
It was built between 1528 and 1530. Entrance is through an octagonal vestibule which is decorated with grotesques. Then comes the square with its series of allegorical pictures which allude to the evil virtues of the Gonzaga Family.
In the center of the ceiling is Fame, the Four Cardinal Virtues, and finally scenes from ancient history. Finally we see a small rectangular secret garden, orginally frescoed with perspective views to make it appear larger.
These have practically vanished now; however a series of niches still remain on three sides. At the back of all this was the grotto, which was originallly encrusted with mosaics and shells as well as sculpture and water plays. Very little remains today.
Originally the Gonazga family's stables, Federico II commissioned Giulio Romano to make the stables into a great palace. He wanted it for his pleasure with his mistress, Isabella Boschetti.
Palazzo Te is a large square volume with the courtyard at the center & followed by a vast rectangular garden. The garden is bordered on the right by the Fruttiera, now used for exhibitions. On the left stands the Grotto.
Fredrico loved HORSES. The State Room's walls are subdivided by frescoed Corinthian pilasters & with niches containing painted statues. The pilasters frame six horses standing in front of the landscape backgrounds. The horses look lifesize & in 3-D!
Somewhat sexual, "Room of Cupid & Psyche" contains several erotic scenes. It was used for banquets & has compartments of various shape, with the story of Psyche, which celebrates the power of love.
THE MOST IMPORTANT cycles in "Italian Mannerist Painting" is "La sala dei Venti o dello Zodiaco" (Room of the Winds or of the Zodiac) a mythology buff's delight.
My favorite, Room of the Eagles of Phaethon, the bedchamber of Federic II, takes its name from the myth, Fall of Phaethon with Amazons, Centaurs, Titans, Naiads & Eagles.
"Loggia Grande or Loggia di Davide" connects with the garden. The paintings depict the Stories of David, king of ancient Israel.
"Sala dei Giganti" (Room of the Giants) is the best-known room. The decoration is paintings of the "Fall and Ruin of the Giants Struck by the Wrath of Zeus"
The acoustics in this room are quite unusual with sound waves bouncing off the ceiling which amplify the voice from one corner to the one diagonally opposite. It's fun to whisper & have your partner in the other corner hearing every word.
After the Room of the Giants come a series of rooms decorated in the early nineteenth century with grotesques called "Ala napoleonica (Napoleonic wing).
It takes about 1 1/2 hours to tour & costs 9 Euro, which includes an Art Exhibition.
This gentleman was kind enough to take me on a tour through his truck. It is all hydraulic with airconditioning that even was working when the truck was open. His prices must have been very good as he was very busy. He was not to busy, however, to take time out to show me around.
This was the first time we have seen an outdoor market as big as Mantova's. The majority of the market stands were actually very modern, sophisticated trucks. The sides and ends of the trucks opened up automatically using hydraulics. The trucks could open and display their wares in a short time and when the market was over close up and be gone in a few minutes.
The truck in this picture is owned by Angelo and Attilo Mimini who only sell candy part time out of the truck. Both are full time farmers in Brescia. The truck cost them as much as a new house. All the candy racks slide out of the truck which is equipped with a sink and airconditioning.
ecco il cuore di mantova: la sua piazza + "grande" (tutto è relativo quando la città è minuscola!)
Passeggiando non saprete dove guardare: di fronte a voi il duomo, alla vostra destra il palazzo ducale (uno dei + bei palazzi d'Europa) e alla sinistra una sfilza di palazzi d'epoca... da giramento di testa!
Attenti ai ciotoli: non indossate scarpe col tacco....
Mantova's biggest square (in a relativistic way as the city in itself is tiny!). walking around you don't know where to watch as you'll find a prestigious cathedral surrounded by ancient palaces (on the right hans side you'll see Palazzo ducale one of the most beautiful in Europe )
Pay attention to the pebbles and do not wear high heels!
The church of San Francesco was built between the late 13th and early 14th century on the site of an oratory dedicated to one of the followers of Saint Francis. The Franciscan order and the church was under the protection of the Gonzaga, thus the church became no less then mausoleum for the Gonzaga family.
The church was seriously damaged in the allied bombings in WW II, and was completely rebuilt.
At the back inside the church is the Gonzaga Chapel, where numerous members of the family were buried.
See the glimpse of the majestic interior pf the Basilica di Sant'Andrea.
This great monumental interior, in Latin-cross plan, have a nave and square side chapels alternating with smaller chapels covered by cupolas. The idea of a single hall with side chapels is typical of Alberti and was later frequently adopted in 16th and 17th century architecture.
One of the smallest chapel holds the tomb of Andrea Mantegna, buried beneath the floor in 1506. On the left, next to the entrance door is the lovely bronze bust of Mantegna.
The bell tower of Palatine Basilica of Santa Barbara rises above the scenographic Cortile della Cavallerizza, which makes a part of the Palazzo Ducale complex.
The bell tower, detached from the body of the church, was designed by Bertani who may have taken inspiration from San Biagio in Montepulciano.
The complex of the Palatine Basilica of Santa Brbara was built in the 16th century, to serve as the palatine church where services were to be held for court ceremonies involving personages of high rank.
Entrance is through an elegant pronaos (porch) with three arches and pilaster strips. On the left side, detached, but incorporated in the portico is the bell tower with the sort of round aedicule at the top. Inside the church there are catafalques for the funerals of the Dukes.
The building which now houses the Accademia Nazionale Virgiliana was built for the empress Maria Theresa of Hapsburg.
The structure of the building is an outstanding example of the new idioms of Milanese Neoclassicism introduced into Mantova by architect Giuseppe Piermarini.