MANTUA, THE CITY OF VIRGIL

The city, landscape, lakes and splendid monuments all testify to the ancient glory and annals of Mantua.

History

The city\'s past tells us about a small Roman town, but the true birth of Mantua as a city, harks back to the commune age, when Alberto Pitentino ordered the great works aimed at regulating the waters of the Mincio river, to create lakes from marshes. The city expanded further, and the commune erected its palazzos, opened the markets and heralded the start of a more prosperous age, which saw the city participate in the two Lombard Leagues, obtain mastery and establish a territorial state. The state lasted under the Gonzagas until 1707, and the city enjoyed a brilliant epoch. The Gonzagas had a double policy: urban expansion to cover the entire river island, and the creation of the "court", a kind of city within a city.  The decline was due to the wars for the succession of the dukedom, to the savage sacking by the Imperials and the plague of 1630. Mantua became an Austrian possession, one of the strongholds of a four-sided area, together with Verona, Peschiera and Legnago. It was not until 1866 that it was definitively united with the Italian Monarchy.

The city and its monuments

This Lombard city has a rich variety of places to visit. They were erected to testify the annals of ancient Mantua. An example of these is the church of Sant\'Andrea, built to a design by Leon Battista Alberti and completed in two stages on about 1600 and 1700, when the dome was added. The Gothic bell tower stands at its side and, inside it, one can admire frescoes and altar pieces by XVI century painters. There is an exceptional series of monumental buildings in piazza delle Erbe: the rotonda of San Lorenzo, the Clock tower, the palazzo della Ragione and the palazzo della Podestà.  The adjoining piazza Broletto houses a niche with the statue of Virgil and the Tazio Nuvolari and Learco Guerra museum, dedicated to the two Mantuan motor car and bicycle champions. The Ducal Palazzo and the Cathedral are situated in piazza Bordello:  the Palazzo  consists of several buildings erected in different periods, which make up one of the richest complexes in Italy, extends along the banks of the lower lake and includes palazzos, churches, piazzas, gardens and porticoes which give a good account of the city\'s fervour in the age of the Gonzagas. Instead, the Cathedral dates from medieval times and contains some works of great interest. In the city\'s second circle, the "civitas nova", stand the “Francesco Gonzaga” diocesan Museum, Palazzo d’Arco, palazzo Sordi, palazzo Valenti and the church of San Sebastiano.

The geographical area

In spite of its glorious past, through the centuries Mantua maintained a kind of discretion in the life of the city and province. The industrial sector has developed and is accompanied by a first class agricultural economy, thanks to the unique fertility of its lands. There are many towns that stand out in the Mantuan countryside:  Asola, Suzzara and Canneto Sull’Oglio just to name a few. The territory of the Lombard city is washed by the Mincio river, with its natural park and the great lakes at the gates of the city. A large section of the Mincio can be travelled through by boat to discover the territory and its park, established by a provincial law which protects the typical cane thickets and the species of wild animals and fish to be found there. At one time there were four lakes, before one of them was dried to accommodate an industrial estate. The lakes have always been an excellent defence system for the city, and are today a place to relax through sporting and pleasure pursuits.