MANTOVA

The City of Mantova, whose economy throughout history was essentially agricultural, is situated, along with Cremona, in the middle of one of the most beautiful areas of the Padana Plains. It faces an evocative lagoon divided into Lakes – Superior, Di Mezzo and Inferior – this position, other than offering an unusual view, also allows the modern industrial settlements to be totally separate from the old historic part of the City.

The name Mantova is indissolubly linked to a few names: the poet Virgilio, who was born nearby in 70 BC, and the Dukes of Gonzaga, who for centuries, dominated the City by keeping it a political/military reference point. It was also one of the birthplaces of the Renaissance, thanks to the presence of Andrea Mantegna, Leon Battista Alberti and Giulio Romano; Isabella d’Este, the wife of Francesco II, between 1490 and 1539, who allowed the cultural development of the City, which in so doing, turned it into a Meta for philosophers, mathematicians and artists. In 1607, for the first time, the Orfeo di Monteverdi was performed, which was also considered as the first ever lyrical opera. In 1707, Mantova passed hands to the Austrians who made the City one of the vertices of the so called “quadrilatero.”

In the historic centre, the urban ambience is still that of the medieval era, in that the Renaissance presence is grafted all over it: arches, narrow roads, irregular geometrical squares, warm coloured plasterwork and brickwork.

Piazza delle Erbe, with neighbouring narrow roads which correspond perfectly with this look: was the old Bourgeois centre of the City which still carries an almost intact medieval testimony. The Roman temple, the Rotonda di S. Lorenzo is striking and dates back to the 11th Century. It was constructed to the original level of the square and is characterized by its simple structure; the interior, bare but evocative, still shows the old threefold divisions, subdivided into inferior deambulation levels, open galleries of the superior women’s gallery and a high dome. The old Clock Tower pokes out beside the Rotonda, and dates back to 1473, and has a very beautiful polychromed clock-face. Moving further ahead, we come across the structure of the Regional Palace dating back to the 13th Century. A portico was added during the 15th Century to the recognizable medieval structure, with its three-mullioned windows and merlons. At the far end of the square, you can find the “Broletto,” the old palace of the Podestà, with its origins dating back to the 12th Century.

Not far from the Piazza delle Erbe, following via dell’Accademia, you come to the 18th Century Scientific Theatre (or Academy): a theatrical building by Antonio Bibbiena, dating back to 1769. It is a small treasure of its kind containing stalls, proscenium and four arranged stages, still in their original condition.

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