Located in the province of Lombardy in northern Italy, Mantova is the perfect destination for tourists wanting the culture and cuisine of Italy without the crowds.

Although the settlement’s history reaches back to 2000 BC, the first recorded mention of Mantova registers the site as an Etruscan village (the name deriving from Mantus, an Etruscan god). Taken by the Romans in the mid-3rd century BC from the-then dominant Cenomani tribe, Mantova prospered economically and culturally under the Empire. Ravaged by various tribes after Rome’s collapse, Mantova only re-stabilised as an independent commune in the 11th century until internal turmoil resulted first in the noble Bonacolsi family takeover in the 13th century and then the Gonzaga family’s dominance decades later. The Gonzaga era inaugurated another period of prosperity and the end of the family line brought about the hugely destructive War of the Mantuan Succession in the 17th century. Finally taken by the Austrian Habsburgs in the early 18th century, their rule proved an unstable one which was definitively ended in 1866 by the Risorgimento.

Now a central part of Lombardy, Mantova’s tempestuous history is on show for tourists and, coupled with an unmatched tranquillity for such a city, is an attractive and unique spot for visitors.


Historically associated with high culture, being the birthplace of the great Roman poet Virgil and the home of artists such as Andrea Mantegna, Giulio Romano and Donatello, Mantova’s architecture reflects this reality. Particularly illustrative is the Palazzo del Te in the Viale Te, constructed between 1524 and 1534 for Federico II of Gonzaga as a suburban home. Designed by Romano, a pupil of Raphael, in Mannerist style, the interior is lavishly decorated with frescos and carvings such as Romano’s own Fall Of The Giants. Despite extensive looting during the War of the Mantuan Succession, the Palazzo is still a must-see monument and is also home to Mantova’s Museo Civico.

Far more unconventional but equally impressive is the Palazzo Ducale di Mantova. Built between the 14th and 17th centuries in the Piazza Sordello as a royal residence for the Gonzagas, the Palazzo encompasses a number of buildings, including the Palazzo del Capitano, the Magna Domus, the Domus Nova and the Church of Santa Barbara. Among the many beautiful artworks found in the Palazzo Ducale, the altarpiece of the Gonzagas in adoration by Peter Paul Rubens stands out and reflects the site’s importance.

Elsewhere, the chief religious building in Mantova is the Basilica di Sant’Andrea. Designed by Leon Battista Alberti for the Gonzagas, work started in 1472 and was only completed some three centuries later. Standing now in Renaissance style with an interior covered with frescos by Romano and the great painter of the Parma School, Correggio, the Basilica also houses the tomb of Andrea Mantegna.

There are many other fabulous edifices in Mantova such as the 12th century Renaissance-style Rotonda di San Lorenzo and the Torre della Gabbia, so feel free to look around. You’ll find something spectacular wherever you wander.

As well as the aforementioned Museo Civico, Mantova is home to the Palazzo d’Arco Museum in the Piazza Carlo d’Arco (covering the history of the 18th century palace), the National Archaeological Museum in the Piazza Castello and Mantegna’s House in the Via G. Acerbi (surveying the life of the great artist).

Mantova hosts a number of festivals and events annually, the most important of which being the Festivaletteratura, an annual book fair held in September which has attracted big literary figures and Noble Prize winners in the past.

Football is the dominant sport in Mantova and the city is represented by AC Mantova, who play their games in Serie B at the Stadio Danilo Martelli.


Mantova is not especially recognised for its shopping. However, if you’re willing to travel just outside the city, try the Bagnolo San Vito shopping village, which specialises in high-street fashion.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Mantova has a strong gastronomic pedigree, with local specialities like polenta e gras pistà (grilled polenta minced with garlic and parsley), agnolini (a special type of homemade ravioli) and tortelli di zucca (ravioli with pumpkin filling). The city also stocks and produces fabulous local cheeses, wines and sweets such as torta di tagliatelle (noodle cake) and torte delle Rose (Rose cake).

There are many great places to eat in the city, but the Antica Osteria Broletto in the Via Broletto and the Mocambo Pizzeria around the centre are highly recommended.

Matching the general ambience, Mantova does not exactly have a hectic nightlife, reserved largely for the pubs and bars around the Piazza Sordello and the Piazza Mantegna. Tourists looking for a night out generally travel to the nearby towns around Lake Garda.

Tourist Information


The nearest international airport to Mantova is Verona’s Villafranca International Airport, some 45 km away.

International and domestic connecting flights are regularly available to limited destinations within the continent.

British Airways (multiple airports) use Villafranca International Airport to and from British destinations.

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