Mantua is an enchanting city, declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco in 2008 , and in 2016 also named Italian Capital of Culture . It is easy to understand the reasons, given the exceptional artistic, urban and architectural achievements that you can find in the city. There are indeed numerous palaces, churches, museums, places of interest that are part of the artistic and cultural heritage of the city.
1 – Piazza Sordello and the Duomo
The largest and most important square in Mantua and is dedicated to the poet troubadour Sordello , even if for centuries it has been called Piazza San Pietro. Small jewel, it represents the place where Mantua was founded and where the beauty of the city finds its best synthesis. Here, in fact, in addition to the most important buildings in the city, we find the Duomo . Although not particularly architecturally beautiful, the most important members of the Gonzaga family are buried in the Cathedral .
Turning on oneself in the center of the square you can make a roundup of the most beautiful and significant buildings for the city: Palazzo Vescovile, Palazzo degli Uberti with the suggestive Bonacolsi alley, Palazzo Castiglioni and Palazzo Acerbi with the Tower of the Cage. On the other side of the square, the evocative silhouettes of the Palazzo del Capitano and the Magna Domus , the original nucleus of the Doge’s Palace, stand out.
Coming from Piazza delle Erbe, to enter Piazza Sordello you will surely pass under the Voltone di San Pietro , one of the three ancient gates of access to the city. Stopping just before you can admire a beautiful glimpse of Piazza Sordello, with the Duomo framed by the port, the perfect place to take a photo!
A piece of history in the square : look up at the façade overlooking Via Cavour, about 30 meters above the ground, a beautiful cage of about two meters by one meter hangs. It was installed by Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga to expose the condemned to the public pillory.
- How to get: in Piazza Canonica S. Pietro, in the historic center. It can be reached on foot in 2 minutes from the Castle of San Giorgio and in 7 minutes from Piazza delle Erbe. Reference bus stop Duomo –
- Timetables: piazza always accessible / Duomo every day 8: 00-12: 00 and 15: 00-19: 00. Limited tourist visits during the celebration of Holy Mass and religious holidays
- Ticket cost: free
2 – Palazzo Ducale
The place that saw the birth and development of the power of the Gonzaga family who lived and ruled here from 1328 to 1707. It is one of the largest court palaces in Europe . In the more than 500 rooms you can admire various treasures by Renaissance artists, such as Tintoretto, Pisanello, Tiziano and Andrea Mantegna, who was a court painter.
Although magnificent, Palazzo Ducale is the result of the sixteenth-century fusion of several buildings arranged between the Lower Lake and Piazza Sordello. The original nucleus are the Palazzo del Capitano and the Magna Domus, built by the Bonacolsi family. With the arrival of the Gonzagas, these buildings were integrated with new constructions, to form the Corte Vecchia . In 500, the Castello di San Giorgio was added to the Corte Vecchia , where the famous Camera degli Sposi di Mantegna is located . From 1480, the Domus Nova was built against the Corte Vecchia and the Ducal Palace took on the final aspect that we still admire today.
Do not miss the Hall of the Labyrinth : it is a real jewel, the coffered ceiling is decorated with a golden labyrinth on a blue background with the repeated inscription “Perhaps that yes perhaps that no” which alludes to the uncertainty of life, to situations in which it is difficult to find a way out.
- How to get: in Piazza Sordello 40, in the historic center. Easily reachable on foot in 6 minutes from the Palazzo del Podestà and in 6 minutes from the Gardens of Piazza Virgiliana. Reference bus stop Duomo
- Timetables: Tue-Sun 8: 15-19: 15, closed Mon
- Ticket cost: full € 12.00, reduced € 7.50
3 – San Giorgio Castle and Camera degli Sposi
The Castle of San Giorgio was born as a defensive building at the end of 1300, it is recognizable by its 4 towers . Inside are preserved important historical and artistic testimonies, such as the Apartment of the Nani , the Summer Apartment and the Gallery of the Months .
But the flagship of Castello di San Giorgio is represented by the most important work of art in Mantua : the camera picta or Camera degli Sposi , painted by Mantegnabetween 1465 and 1474. Thanks to a skilful division of spaces and the exceptional use of perspective, Mantegna was able to transform the walls into a space where the characters of the Gonzaga family enter the scene. Due to the small size and to preserve the work of art itself, the Camera picta is accessed in small groups and only for a few minutes.
Discover the representation of the “wrong Rome” : in the Camera degli Sposi, on the west wall, a view of Rome is the background to the meeting between Ludovico and his son. The main monuments are recognized but the geographical reconstruction is wrong. This was due to the fact that Mantegna had never visited Rome.
- How to get: in Piazza Sordello 40, in the historic center. Easily reachable on foot in 6 minutes from the Palazzo del Podestà and in 6 minutes from the Gardens of Piazza Virgiliana. Reference bus stop Duomo –
- Timetables: Tue-Sun 8: 15-19: 15, closed Mon
- Ticket cost: included in the ticket for the visit of the Doge’s Palace (full € 12.00, reduced € 7.50)
4 – Palazzo del Podestà
Also known as Palazzo del Broletto , it was built in 1227 and was the seat of the municipal government of the city for several years . The palace closes the Piazza delle Erbe with its rear side, while the facade is on Piazza Broletto .
The side facing this square houses a niche with the statue of Virgil in the Chair . The right side is occupied by a civic tower which served as a prison, while at the base we find the Portico dei Lattai, which leads to Piazza delle Erbe.
Palazzo del Podestà located in Piazza Broletto, 280 m, 3 min walk from Piazza Sordello. Reference bus stops Palazzo Ducale and Cavallotti –
5 – Basilica of Sant’Andrea
The largest church in the city and one of the most important examples of Renaissance art . It was commissioned in 1462 by Ludovico II Gonzaga to Leon Battista Alberti , who created the marvelous facade. The church took 3 centuries to complete : the dome was built in the eighteenth century by Juvarra ; in the crypt there is the sacred relic of the ” Precious Blood of Christ ” brought to Mantua by Longinus , the Roman centurion who had pierced Jesus with his spear. Every Good Friday, the Holy Vessels are displayed and carried in procession through the city.
The wonderful coffered ceiling is worth notingfinely decorated. Inside you can admire works of art by well-known artists such as Correggio and Mantegna, the latter buried inside the Basilica itself . It is undoubtedly the most impressive church in the city, even more beautiful than the Duomo.
The most famous pastry shop in Mantua : after the visit, don’t forget to stop at the La Tur dal Sucar pastry shop, for a delicious snack and to take home a sweet souvenir. It is the most renowned pastry shop in the city where you can find the best typical doci such as Sbrisolona and the Ring of Monaco
- How to get: in Piazza Andrea Mantegna, 1, in the historic center. It can be reached in 4 minutes on foot from Piazza Sordello (400 m). Reference bus stops Calvi and Corso Libertà
- Timetables: Mon-Fri 8: 00-12: 00 and 15: 00-19: 00, Sat 10: 30-12: 00 and 15: 00-18: 00, Sun 11: 45-12: 15. Limited tourist visits during the celebration of Holy Mass and religious holidays
- Ticket cost: free
6 – House of the merchant
The Casa del Mercatne is a building that cannot go unnoticed in Piazza delle Erbe. Arranged over three floors, the workshop house was owned by Giovan Boniforte da Concorezzo who, in memory of his travels to the East, decided to decorate the facade with late Gothic and oriental motifs . It is somewhat reminiscent of the facades of Venetian houses.
Under the portico, supported by red marble columns, the objects that the merchant sold are sculpted : spoons, knives, plates and scales. On the architraves you will notice the year of construction and the name of the owner engraved : ” HANBONIFORT DA CONCHOREZO AFAT FAR THIS OPERA DELANO 1455 – IOHANESBONIFORT DE CONCORESIO HOC OPUS FIERI FECIT SUB ANNO DOMINI 1455“. Surely curious and original, unfortunately the building cannot be visited inside because it is private .
It is located in Piazza delle Erbe 26, in the historic center. It can be reached on foot from the Duomo in just 4 minutes (400 meters). Freedom reference
A building in contrast : jarring with the surrounding buildings and above all with Sant ‘Andrea, the architect of the Gonzagas remodeled the windows facing the basilica, but the owner forced himself not to make any other changes. Since its construction, this building has always belonged to textile traders.
7 – Piazza delle Erbe
As with many Venetian and Lombard cities, also in Mantua we find Piazza delle Erbe, an open space where the fruit and vegetable market once took place . Today, under the arcades that flank it, there are traditional shops, bar tables and those of restaurants that characterize the commercial and tourist heart of Mantua.
Although smaller in size than Piazza Sordello, equally remarkable buildings overlook Piazza delle Erbe : the Rotonda di San Lorenzo, the Merchant’s House, the Astronomical Clock Tower and, next to it, the Palazzo della Ragione. The square ends with the Palazzo del Podestà, also called “Palazzo del Broletto”.
Piazza delle Erbe is located in the historic center, just 400 m, 5 min walk, from Piazza Sordello via Via Broletto and Via Roma –
Dinner overlooking the square : to taste typical local dishes in a location with a superlative view, we recommend the ancient Trattoria Cento Rampini.
8 – Clock Tower
Adjacent to the Palazzo della Ragione , the Clock Tower was built in the second half of the fifteenth century by the mathematician and astrologer Bartolomeo Manfredi , at the service of the Gonzaga family, and who designed the huge clock that still stands on the facade of the tower today .
It is an astronomical clock : it not only marks the hours, but also indicates the zodiac signs, the planetary hours, the days of the Moon and the position of the stars. The complex mechanism can be observed by visiting the Museum of Time , inside the tower. From its top you can also enjoy a beautiful view of Mantua and its lakes.
- How to get: in piazza delle Erbe, in the historic center, 5 min walk from Piazza Sordello via Via Broletto and Via Roma. Reference bus stops Palazzo Ducale and Cavallotti –
- Timetables: Tue-Fri 10: 00-13: 00 and 15: 00-18: 00, Sat-Sun and holidays 10: 00-18: 00, closed Mon
- Ticket cost: full € 3.00, reduced € 1.50
9 – Rotunda of San Lorenzo
In a corner of Piazza delle Erbe, the Rotonda di San Lorenzo is the oldest church in the city , built in the 11th century during the Canossa domination . It is a notable example of Romanesque art . Used as a warehouse and then a courtyard, it was rededicated in 1926 and restored to its former glory by demolishing the houses that obstructed its view.
The interior has a single nave, with the central part preceded by an ambulatory with eight columns. The church was completely frescoed but the vicissitudes it has gone through over the centuries have left only the remains of frescoes, including a ” San Lorenzo on the grill “.
Inspired by the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem : the church was built at the behest of Matilda di Canossa who, according to tradition, wanted it to be built in the form of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and to dissolve a vow made by Father Bonifacio and not realized due to his sudden death.
- How to get: in piazza delle Erbe, next to the Clock Tower and the Merchant’s House. Reference bus stops Palazzo Ducale and Cavallotti –
- Timetables: in summer 10: 00-13: 00 and 14: 30-18: 30, in winter 10: 00-13: 00 and 14: 00-18: 00. Sat-Sun and holidays always 10: 00-19: 00
- Ticket cost: free offer
10 – Loggia delle Pescherie
The Loggia delle Pescherie, also known as the Loggia di Giulio Romano, is a historic building, located on the sides of the bridge over the Rio, the waterway that crosses Mantua, once dedicated to the fish trade and connected to the Beccherie , the public slaughterhouse built in the same years always based on a design by Giulio Romano .
In the past, the fishmongers were connected to the old public slaughterhouse; the slaughterhouse was then demolished to make room for a pedestrian passage which still retains the splendid columns of the old building. A truly picturesque glimpse of Mantua , very beautiful to photograph.
The loggia is located in via pescherai. Reachable on foot in 10 minutes from Palazzo Ducale (900 meters). Reference bus stops Calvi and V. Emanuele 1 –
Visit the farmers’ market on Saturdays : if you visit Mantua on Saturdays, you should know that the characteristic and colorful Lungorio Peasant Market is held here near the Loggia, right in front of the Al Rio Gardens, another characteristic corner not to be missed.
11 – Casa del Mantegna
The house of Mantegna , painter of the Gonzaga court , was built by the artist in 1476 on land donated to him by Ludovico Gonzaga , probably as a reward for the hard work done to create the magnificent frescoes in the Camera degli Sposi . The palace, designed on a perfect geometric design, is spread over two floors and was conceived on a square plan, in the center of which stands a majestic circular courtyard .
Today the house, which can be visited for free and is a fundamental reference point of Paduan art. Temporary exhibitions are often hosted inside.
- How to get: in via Acerbi, 47. Reachable on foot in 5 minutes from Palazzo Te. Reference bus stops Risorgimento 3 and Casa del Mantegna –
- Timetables: can be visited during the opening hours of exhibitions and events. For the updated schedule, consult the
- Ticket cost: variable based on the cost of the exhibitions set up. Consult the official website
12 – Palazzo Te
Masterpiece created by Giulio Romano , Raphael’s best pupil , commissioned by Francesco II Gonzaga , who wanted to build a small manor house and stables to enjoy the tranquility of the island . The name derives in fact from one of the islands that once were on the Mantua channel, the island of Tejeto , abbreviated to ” Te “.
The rooms are sublime frescoed : to mention the Sala Di Amore e Psiche and the Sala dei Cavalli , with frescoes from the Gonzaga stables. The artistic climax is reached in the Chamber of the Giants, a pictorial cycle which, for its technical skill and innovative capacity, has been unmatched for a long time. The fresco recalls the moment when Jupiter punishes the giants for their attempt to replace the Gods. Giulio Romano manages to catapult the observer into the center of the battle, thanks to a perspective technique obtained by painting the entire wall, from floor to ceiling. The Civic Museum of Mantua is housed inside the palace .
The Beauty of the Hall of the Giants : the Hall of the Giants is so magnificent that this is how Vasari spoke of it in this way: ” Do not think anyone would ever see a work of brush more horrible and frightening, nor more natural than this. that room, he can’t help but fear that everything won’t ruin him “
- How to get: in viale Te 13. It can be easily reached from the historic center in 20 minutes on foot along Via Principe Amedeo or by bus line 35 from the Mincio stop to the Mantova stop
- Timetables: solar time Mon 13: 00-18: 30, Tue-Sun 9: 00-18: 30. Summer time Mon 13: 00-19: 30, Tue-Sun 9: 00-19: 30
- Ticket cost: full € 12.00, reduced € 9.00
13 – Sabbioneta
Known as ” the ideal city “, Sabbioneta is certainly among the most beautiful villages in Italy and, together with Mantua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008. It was built from scratch in the second half of the sixteenth century on the model of the ancient cities of the classical world. , by the will of Vespasiano Gonzaga . Today it preserves its urban structure almost intact, with the mighty defensive curtain wall and monumental gates.
The flagship is the small theater , also known as the Olympic Theater , built at the end of the 16th century based on a project by the Vicentine architect Vincenzo Scamozzi. Not to be missed are the enchanting Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo Giardino and the Teatro all’Antica. We recommend the very interesting guided tour which includes all the main monuments of the town; in addition to those just mentioned, also the Gallery of the Ancients, the Incoronata Church, the Duchy Museum, the Oratory of San Rocco and the Synagogue.
It is 33 km from Mantua. By car, take the SS420 towards Casalmaggiore; by APAM bus transport line 17, fare class 7 (average cost € 5.30) –
Buy the Single Ticket : if you want to visit different monuments in the locality, we recommend that you buy the New Integrated Single Ticket, which includes admission to all the monuments and museums of the city (full € 15.00, reduced € 10.00, students € 6.00). Alternatively, the entrance to the single monument costs € 5,00
What to see in Mantua in one day
The one-day itinerary includes the main stops in Mantua, which is perfectly suited to be visited in one day. Palazzo del Te will take you a long time (3 h), but it is absolutely worth it. We therefore recommend going early in the morning. Then enjoy the day walking around the center, between Piazza delle Erbe, Piazza Sordello and the Duomo, before dedicating most of the afternoon to the Doge’s Palace and San Giorgio Castle.
If you are in Mantua for the first time, to optimize time and have a first approach to the city, we recommend that you book a
Distance traveled : 2.4 km / 30 min
- 9:00 – Palazzo Te and Camera dei Giganti (€ 12.00)
- 12:00 – Loggia delle Pescherie
- 12:30 – Piazza delle Erbe, Basilica of Sant’Andrea (free) and Clock Tower (free outside / inside € 3.00)
- 15:30 – Piazza Sordello and Duomo
- 17:00 – Doge’s Palace and San Giorgio Castle (single ticket € 12.00)
- 20:00 – Piazza Sordello and the historic center
Other attractions to visit
On the way to Palazzo Te, you reach the pretty Piazzetta Matilde di Canossa where the Oratory of the Madonna del Terremoto is located , a tiny baroque-style church built in 1754 (free). The façade of the Palazzo di Canossa is very beautiful (it cannot be visited because it is a private residence). In the square, pay attention to the ancient liberty-style iron aedicule , dating back to the end of the 1800s, restored and made precious again by the FAI. Also worth a visit is the delightful Bibiena Theater , very small and with a bell-shaped plant, famous for hosting a fourteen-year-old Mozart in concert (€ 2.00).
A walk in the public gardens is recommended, where there is also thetombstone of Agnese Visconti , wife of Francesco Gonzaga and beheaded by himself at the age of 23 in Piazza Giardino.
For fans , we recommend a visit to the National Archaeological Museum in Piazza Castello, where Neolithic, Etruscan, Celtic, Roman and Renaissance materials from the Mantua area are exhibited (€ 13.00). Finally, it is not part of the classic tourist itineraries, but the Church of San Sebastiano is also worth a stop .
8 things to do in Mantua
- River cruise : take a cruise with the Mincio boatmen who offer fascinating river itineraries. Highly recommended during the blooming period of lotus flowers
- Taste the local specialties : taste the delicious pumpkin tortelli and the “alla pilot” risotto. End the meal with the very sweet sbrisolona
- Panorama from the Parco dell’Arte : take the classic photo of the splendid skyline that is clearly distinguishable as soon as you enter the city from the Parco dell’Arte, thanks to its panoramic points near the Ponte di San Giorgio
- Breakfast at Caffè Borsa : located in the historic center, this place is a real Mantua institution! To taste the Cuore di Velluto cake, served in single portions and ideal for breakfast
- Gardens of Piazza Virgiliana and Monumento di Virgilio : enjoy a nice walk in the public gardens of the city, where there are also the Virgil’s Monument and the square dedicated to him. Furthermore, the Thun Winter Village is held here in December
- Selfie with Rigoletto : take a photo with the Rigoletto statue in the courtyard of the Casa del Buffone
- Typical dinner in Piazza Sordello : at the end of the day of visits, stop for dinner at the Hosteria Leon D’Oro, where you can taste excellent dishes of the Mantuan tradition
- Walk along the Lungolago di Mezzo : enjoy a nice walk along the lakefront, perhaps at sunset, to admire the setting sun and the colors reflecting on the water
Plan your stay in Mantua: tips, flights and hotels
Mantua is in an excellent position, it can be easily reached from Verona (50km) but also from Bologna (110 km). The closest airport is Verona ( compare flights ), otherwise you can get there easy by car or train.
Sleeping in the center can be quite expensive , hotels are often housed in stately buildings. Just outside Mantua or in the outskirts of the city you can find good solutions ( compare the accommodations on booking ), otherwise opt for apartments, hostels or small b & bs.
The historic center is small and can be visited on foot . As for the nightlife, Mantua is a rather quiet city and as a rule,to spend an evening of nightlife you have to move to the province .
If you are traveling with the little ones , they will love the Mincio Park and all the green areas of the city, ideal for running them after all the visits of the historic buildings.