Mantova (Mantua) and Sabbioneta are two of the most beautiful Renaissance cities in northern Italy. Mantova and Sabbioneta are located in the Lombardy region. Specifically, about 150km southeast of Milan, and 45km south of Verona. Also, you can reach Mantova by train from Verona in the North or Modena in the south.
Mantova is formed by the river Mincio and is surrounded by three artificial lakes. Also, the lakes (as they appear today) were completed in 1190 to defend the city from invasions. Specifically, the view of the town from the lake is quite stunning.
Notably, you can reach Venice Italy by boat from the Lower Lake and the Mincio River. Also, there’s a river cruise that makes the voyage in the summertime. For example, the journey takes a full day from 8 am to 6 pm.
The modern city of Mantova got built on top of the old Roman city. Prominently, upon arrival in the city center, you can see the marvelous Piazza Sordello with the Castle and the Duke Palace on the left.
Mantova was the capital of the Dutchy of Mantova until 1708. The house of Gonzaga, one of the noblest families of Italy, ruled the area. Later, in 1708, the last duke died, and the city became part of the Austrian Empire.
The Gonzaga Family is responsible for many of the stunning monuments the city has to offer.
Mantova: The Ducal Palace
The Ducal Palace in Mantova is probably one of the greatest palaces in northern Italy. For example, the palace is massive, and a visit takes between two and three hours. Here, the most famous room is the Wedding Room (Camera degli Sposi) with the fresco painted by Andrea Mantegna.
Moreover, the wedding room got painted between 1465 and 1475, and celebrates members of the Gonzaga Family. Prominently, you will find the angels looking at the family from the Heavens.
The Palace in Mantova is open from Tuesday to Saturday, between 8:15 am and 7:15 pm. Also, it is open on Sunday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm. (Tickets and Information are available here)
Mantova: Piazza Delle Erbe
Next, you can walk southbound from the Piazza Sordello, through the “Voltone di San Pietro” to Piazza Delle Erbe.
In this Piazza, you can see the city hall and the famous “Rotonda di San Lorenzo.” Interestingly, this ancient round church is one of the unique buildings of the Lombard Romanesque style. The church got built between 1050 and 1151. Unfortunately, in 1579, Duke Guglielmo I ordered the church closed, and it remained neglected for centuries.
Additionally, the external walls were surrounded by private buildings making the church hidden. Then, in 1907, the municipality bought the surrounding shops and buildings to tear them down. Then, during the demolition, they re-discovered the entire church. Finally restored, you can now visit it!
Then, proceeding southbound on Via Roma, you’ll reach the Loggia of Giulio Romano on the Rio Canal. Distinctly, this building was the old fish market of the city.
Mantova: Palazzo Te
Also, you’ll find Palazzo Te just outside the city center.
The famous Architect and Painter Giulio Romano, a student of Raphael built the Palazzo Te. Built for Duke Federico II Gonzaga, it became a place to impress his guests. Extraordinary, one of the most interesting rooms is the Room of Psiche. Here, you will find its frescos of the Gods having a banquet on Mount Olympus.
Lastly, the most impressive room is The Room of the Giants. Here, the artist paints the falling of the giant while Zeus and the Gods are watching. (For time and tickets click here.)
Next, in Mantova center, I recommend visiting the famous Bibiena Theatre. In particular, this gorgeous theatre got built in the Baroque style. Also, it’s flawlessly preserved and still in use for concerts today!
Mantova: It’s Local Food
When in Mantova, you must try some of it’s delicious, local food. For example, the most famous dish is “Risotto alla Pilota,” a mix of local rice with pork sausage. Also, there is Pumpin Ravioli (Tortelli di Zucca). It is served in brown butter and sage.
Specialty Mantova cured meats include a variety of garlicky salami. Also, if you feel adventurous, you can also try the deep-fried frogs!
The typical wine in Mantova is Lambrusco: sparkling red wine with a mildly sweet note.
Last, the famous dessert is the “Torta Sbrisolona,” a crumbly shortbread with almonds.
Mantova has plenty of typical restaurants. For example, one of our favorite restaurants is “Osteria ai Ranari.” Known as a typical restaurant in the area, “Ranari” offers a tremendous homey feeling. Naturally, “Ranari” style restaurants serve all the regional specialties.
Discover Sabbioneta, Italy
You can drive from Mantova to Sabbioneta in about 40 mins. Sabbioneta is close to the bank of the Po river. Interestingly, this charming town got built for Vespasiano Gonzaga. Further, Mantova became known as an ideal city. Indeed, Mantova was the capital of its state ruled by the Duke.
Sabbioneta is enclosed within its large city walls with massive bastions and two gates.
Sabbioneta: The Galleria
The “Galleria” is the most famous monument to visit Inside the city walls. Duke Vespasiano built this 97-meter long building to display his collection of ancient artifacts. In the short walls, two frescos reveal an optical illusion of perspective.
The Galleria is attached to the “Palazzo Giardino.” Indeed, the Duke used the palace as his summer residence and garden.
Also, you can visit the Synagogue of Sabbioneta – just a few steps from the Galleria. This small old Synagogue is still in use and hosts a collection of early Jewish artifacts.
Sabbioneta: The Ducal Palace
You can find the Ducal Palace in the main piazza of Sabbioneta. Notably, the Duke used the Palace as his residence and political headquarters. Once inside the palace, you can see the famous wooden cavalcade display The cavalcade is a series of equestrian wooden statues that date back to 1586.
Santa Maria Incoronata
In the nearby church of “Santa Maria Incoronata,” you can admire the Duke’s Mausoleum. Here, the bronze statue is a masterpiece by Leone Leoni. Interestingly, a restoring team discovered the statue in the 1980s. Excitingly, it got found underneath the monument: “The Duke’s Skeleton.” Furthermore, the team discovered the skeleton wearing his “Order of the Golden Fleece“. Indeed, the robe was gifted by the King of Spain.
The Sabbioneta Theatre is newly restored and renovated since our last visit. Stay tuned for more photos of its updated look and review.
Lastly, I hope you enjoyed my notes about Mantova and Sabbioneta. Really, please leave a comment below!
Andrea was born and raised in Northern Italy. At the age of 30 he moved to Vancouver Canada. Over the years he traveled extensively in North America, Europe, Central America and Asia. He is passionate about traveling, cruising and travel photography. He likes to write about his traveling and shows his travel photos.