The waters of the Mincio, which descends from the Po near the city and extends into three lakes, delicately lap the shores of a real architectonic Italian jewel: Mantova. The city of the Gonzaga, a court among the most plush and representative of the Italian 16th century, Mantova is a city that boasts of its glorious past in its proud present, valorising it.
The city centre, in fact, is a real open air museum: the castle of San Giorgio, symbol of power of great lordly families, the system of connected squares, Palazzo Ducale and Palazzo Te, a pace away from each other, all open up to the visitor like halls of an incredible Renaissance museum.
Palazzo Ducale and Palazzo Te are certainly the city's best known symbols. In the first, the Gonzaga gathered the works of the favourite artists: Pisanello, Mantegna, Tiziano, Correggio, Rubens. Andrea Mantegna's Camera degli Sposi or Room of the Newly-Weds is by all accounts, among all masterpieces, the most celebrated one. The frescoes on the walls celebrate Ludwig II Gonzaga and his court, whereas from the ceilings cherubs, animals and young boys peep out from a balustrade onto the hall, with enigmatic smiles.
If Palazzo Ducale was for centuries a representative building, Palazzo Te was certainly the place for the court's leisure, designed by Giulio Romano for Frederick II Gonzaga. The wide halls, the garden with the exedra added in the 17th century, the frescoes of the family's favourite horses still give a sensation of rest and leisure for refined gentlewomen and men of power.
When you have visited the architectural marvels of the centre, don't forget that Mantova is a city that enjoys living well. You could choose to go for an aperitif in one of its elegant caffè, visit the many antique markets and second-hand dealers organised in the city squares, or go further a little for a beautiful walk on the shores of the Mincio, where small woods conserve a fauna that is still surprisingly varied. If you have time available, remember that the Mincio is the only river that is navigable all year, as it is regulated by locks. From Mantova you can sail by boats, passing through San Benedetto, Revere, Ferrara, onto to Venice.
The most significant cultural event for the city, which has relaunched its image in Italy and abroad, is certainly the FestivaLetteratura, held at the beginning of September. Born quietly as a date for operators in the field and book lovers, this Festival has, in the past few years, become a real event that transforms Mantova, for a week, into the Italian capital of literature.
In 2003 the city will also host, beginning in the month of March, various events to commemorate driver Tazio Nuvolari, who died fifty years ago. For the occasion the museum dedicated to Nuvolari and Learco Guerra was restored.