Located in the center of the Po Valley, Mantua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008 together with nearby Sabbioneta, it is the symbolic city of the Italian Rebirth.
It is surrounded by three lakes, the Lower Lake, the Middle Lake and the Upper Lake.
In summer, hundreds and hundreds of lotus flowers bloom on the surface of the latter.
The symbol of the city is Palazzo Ducale in Piazza Sordello, originally Piazza San Pietro, where, for almost four centuries, the Gonzaga family lived and ruled, until the exile of Duke Ferdinando Carlo.
In reality, the Palace is made up of several buildings joined together, whose original nucleus consisted of the Palazzo del Capitano, which already existed before the Gonzaga family arrived. The latter increased exponentially the surface of the complex with structures such as the Corte Vecchia and Nuova, the Palazzina della Ru-stica and the Cortile d’Onore with its gardens.
The sumptuousness of all these buildings has not remained intact: once the family fortunes were over, the Gonzagas were forced to sell most of their furnishings and furnishings and much of what remained was expropriated by the Napoleonic troops.
The Castle of San Giorgio deserves special mention: born as a military environment, but immediately stripped of its guise, it is particularly known for the Camera degli Sposi or Camera Picta. Painted by Andrea Mantegna, the room is an unprecedented celebration of the prestige of the Gonzaga family.
Also in Piazza Sordello, whose name derives from the famous poet and troubadour Sordello da Goito, already mentioned by Dante in his Divine Comedy, there is the most important church in Mantua, the Duomo, dedicated to San Pietro. Today, the church competes with the nearby church of San Francesco for the remains of the members of the Gonzaga family.
In a corner of the square, you can find a statue of Rigoletto, the famous jester who bears the title of the homonymous work by Giuseppe Verdi.
Palazzo Ducale is not the only building that enhances the glory of the Gonzaga; in fact it is added to Palazzo Tè, whose name derives from the name of the island of Teieto.
Its construction started on the initiative of Francesco Gonzaga and was to be functional as a manor house, immersed in the tranquility of the island. Only twenty years later, Federico Gonzaga, designed by the architect Giulio Romano, transformed the house into the wonderful building that we can see today. Worthy of note is the artistic masterpiece of Titian, which reaches its peak in the Camera dei Giganti.
In Mantua there is Piazza delle Erbe, named after the traditional presence of the fruit and vegetable market.
But even here the architectural wonders are certainly not lacking: we start with Palazzo della Ragione, today the seat of the town hall, alongside which is the Clock Tower, a true engineering masterpiece. Built in the fifteenth century by the mathematician and astrologer Bartolomeo Manfredi, the Tower is also a symbol of aesthetics: in addition to the hours, the dial also contains the Roman numerals, the zo-diakali signs, the planetary hours, the days of the Moon and the position of the stars.
Below there is also a statue of the Immaculate Madonna to protect the city.
Although not comparable to the imposing Duomo, the Church of San Lorenzo still retains its importance: built in the image and likeness of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, it is the oldest church in the city, built by the will of Matilde of Canossa.
Finally we can not forget the less famous municipality of Sabbioneta.
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008, the city was built from scratch by Vespasiano Gonzaga in less than 30 years.
Today it is labeled as the ideal city and still retains its ur-banistic structure with the imposing walls to defend the village and the monumental gates.