I just recently returned from a day exploring the most magnificent city of Mantua, Italy. This place is a Unesco World Heritage Site and for good reason. It has some of the best examples of Renaissance genius in the form of paintings, palaces, the cityscape and more. From the moment myself and a group of other bloggers hit the scene, we were all agreeing that it’s one of those places that everywhere you go, it’s another photo. A truly pleasant place which if you’re traveling through Italy isn’t to be missed in my humble opinion.
We started off exploring the streets which is always a favorite thing of mine to do. Lots of small cobble stone streets connecting to another and people going about their daily business in the eclectic mix of new meets old. Before we go any further, you need to know about the House of Gonzago to fully get an idea of what Mantua is all about. They were a very wealthy noble family who made lots of their money off being mercenaries and horse breeders who controlled the area for ~400 years after destroying the Bonacolsi family who were once allies in a bloody duel which took place in 1328.
The bloody battle happened just outside the Palazzo Ducale di Mantova aka Ducal Palace which is in the heart of Mantua. The city square was painted red and from there, the Gonzaga family took rule for the next four centuries and subsequently built the Ducal Palace into a city within itself at roughly 35,000 square meters; have you an idea how large that is? The place was also decked out beyond your wildest dreams with tapestries and frescoes as nice as I’ve ever seen anywhere in recent memory. This palace had roughly 500 rooms and each one seemed to be well decorated, unreal!
If you’re visiting the Ducal Palace, be sure to visit the Bridal Chamber as it has stunning frescoes painted by Andrea Mantegna, from 1465 to 1475. Sounds like a long time to paint a room but when you see it, you’ll get a better understanding. It depicts the family at the time and is some of the best example of the genius which was Renaissance art. For the first time in history, during the Renaissance people started using perspective in their photos and giving them a 3D effect which now is common place but back then, strokes of genius.
There was a gent from the House of Gonzaga called Vincenzo who may have been the inventor of the popular acronym swimming around the internet called “YOLO” aka “You only live once.” He managed to basically squander much of the family fortune with his unquenchable thirst for ladies, late nights and everything great. After him, his son had to start selling works of art to make ends meet and it was the beginning of the end of an era. That said, I’m sure hanging out with Vincenzo would have been a blast and when he went to war, he even brought an orchestra with him; that kinda guy.
We only known of him ever killing one man, and it was a Duke who refused to get out of his way while walking down the street. Imagine if that type of behavior went on today? It makes road rage look quite tame, I dare say. Vincenzo also liked to entertain and in his apartment within the palace which was basically a mansion to itself he had this room with a painting that always looked like it was pointing at you so it gave the appearance of the walls moving and such for those attending his party who were drinking fine wine and dancing late into the night.
I could go on about the Ducal Palace for days but we’ll end it here and talk about the Palazzo Te which was at the other end of the village. This palace is quite refined in it’s own right and by no means a small place but size wise it’s a few stones compared to the Ducal Palace; it’s that big. I will note that inside the Palazzo Te, I saw what I’d argue to be the most stunning ceiling I’ve ever seen in my life. The detail is unreal and to call it a work of art is an understatement. The photo above is merely a portion of this brilliant masterpiece.
I spent a day in Mantua which is called Mantova in Italy but easily could have spent a week. I’d like to say I’ll return one day but the world is massive and my list of places to go back and visit or spend some time is growing at a ridiculous rate; that said if the opportunity arises, I’ll most certainly capitalize on it. I will note though that if you’re into the Renaissance Era, you would be missing out if you didn’t visit Mantua. I’m aware I only scratched the surface but very glad to have had the glimpse I got.
There is so much more to Italy than any of us can imagine; I encourage you to dig a little deeper…
This post is from the Blogville campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Lombardy Tourism and Emilia Romagna Tourism. That said, obviously all thoughts are my own as they always have been and always will be.