10 Best Things To Do In Mantua, Italy's Time Capsule

things to do in Mantua
| 4 min read

Matua, a city little changed since the 15th century. As you cross the long bridge you are awarded a skyline of ancient domes, turrets, and towers. It can be called Italy’s time capsule as it takes us back to the middle ages. It is easy to bypass this little city in your travel as it is cut off by the rest of the world by artificial lakes that were built centuries ago. Let’s explore Mantua - where time stands still.

1. Palazzo Ducale

Mappa di Roma
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user FranzK used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Palazzo Ducale di Mantova or, in simple words, the Ducale Palace is a group of buildings primarily built in the 14th century and then expanded. It was built as a royal residence for the noble family Gonzaga. As a symbol of the Gonzaga family’s power, this exceptional palace has over 950 rooms, gardens, courts, cellars, built side by side over the years. The palace contains several ancient buildings such as Palazzo del Capitano, also known as the Captain’s Palace, built in the late 13th century by Guido Buonacolsi whose family ruled over Manuta from 1271 to 1328.

Palazzo Ducale

Website: Palazzo Ducale

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2. Palazzo Te

Ceiling of the Room of the giants in Palazzo Te, Mantua
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Giulio Romano used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Palazzo Te was commissioned by Fredrico II Gonzaga and created in a renaissance style by Giulio Romano. It is considered as Romano’s masterpiece. It was built as a getaway house for Fredrico and his mistress Isabella Boschetti. It is a square villa built around a cloistered courtyard and enclosed by semi-circular outer buildings.

Palazzo Del Te

Website: Palazzo del Te

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3. Basilica di Sant'Andrea

Sant'Andrea, interno cupola (Mantova)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Allie_Caulfield used under CC BY 2.0

In the fifteenth century, this beautiful church was swarmed with pilgrims to revere the most famous relic in the city, Preziosissimo Sangue di Cristo or in common tongue ‘Most Precious Blood of Christ’; collected at the crucifixion. The church of Sant’Andrea was commissioned to accommodate the crowds by Ludovico III Gonzaga in 1472 but it wasn’t completed till 328 years later.

This beautiful church houses several murals, primarily painted by artist Andrea Mantegna. One of the chapels houses the tomb of Mantegna with a bronze figure by Gianmarco Cavalli. As you roam through the Basilica you get a sense of peace and wonder at the beauty of it.

Basilica di Sant'Andrea

Website: Basilica di Sant'Andrea (in Italian)

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4. Rotonda di San Lorenzo

Constructed in the late 11th century, this amazing building is the most ancient church in Mantua. The church is said to be built on the site of a temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Venus. It was commissioned by Matilda of Tuscany, the ‘Great Countess’ of the Canossa family. Inspired by the Holy Sepulchre church this building was dedicated to St. Lawrence.

Rotonda di San Lorenzo

Website: Rotonda di San Lorenzo

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5. Teatro Bibiena

Teatro Bibiena di Mantova also known as the Teatro Scientifico is a Theater designed by Antonio Galli Bibiena in the eighteenth century. It was commissioned by the Empress Maria Teresa of Austria for the Royal Virgilian Academy of Science and Arts. It was designed in late Baroque style by Bibena, who also did the monochrome murals in the interior. The theater was intended for both scientific conventions and theatre productions. Teatro Bibiena was officially opened on 3rd of December in 1769 and a few weeks later on January 16th, 1770, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who was almost fourteen, played a concert there with tremendous success.

Teatro Bibiena

Website: Teatro Bibiena (in Italian)

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6. Osteria delle Erbe

Posted by Bonini Fiori on Sunday, 18 December 2016

In the heart of Mantua, under the facades of Palazzo della Ragione, a little restaurant called Osteria Delle Erbe is located. It is the place to experience the hustle bustle of the city and to taste the authentic cuisine of Mantua. Osteria delle Erbe has an extensive menu and food is prepared with the freshest of ingredients. The service is friendly and if you can’t decide what to order, the waiters will have a few good suggestions for you. You can sit outside and enjoy the wonderful weather with a glass of delicious red wine!

Osteria delle Erbe

Website: Osteria delle Erbe (in Italian)

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7. Bar Caravatti

Posted by Bar Caravatti on Thursday, 17 December 2015

Baccalà al naturale con radicchio veronese e asparagina

Posted by Bar Caravatti on Monday, 13 March 2017

This wonderful coffee shop was opened in 1865 and still retains the atmosphere of the 19th century. Located near the Osteria della Erbe, Bar Carvatti brings vintage flavors and modern blends under the same roof. It is the best place to enjoy coffee, have a little snack with their signature aperitif. The recipe of ‘Caravatti’ aperitif is heavily guarded secret since the last century! You can enjoy a splendid view of the Clock Towar, the Rotanda of Sant’Lorenzo and Palazzo della Ragione. The best place to enjoy an enchanting evening.

Bar Caravatti

Website: Bar Caravatti (in Italian)

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8. Salumeria

Posted by perlamadre design on Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Posted by perlamadre design on Wednesday, 22 May 2013

As you open the door to this little shop, you feel like you’ve won a treasure hunt. This cozy place is filled with wine, oils, vinegar, preserved fruits, cheeses, charcuterie and much much more! This legendary shop is owned by Giovanni. He is a cheery and delightful person who offers his guests generous samples. This is the perfect place to pick up some antipasti for that picnic you’ve been planning and don’t forget to try their variety of mustards!

Salumeria Giovanni Bacchi

Website: Salumeria Giovanni Bacchi (in Italian)

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9. Le Pupitre 18

Posted by Le Pupitre on Monday, 4 January 2016

Le Pupitre..shabby chic

Posted by Le Pupitre on Wednesday, 28 December 2016

If you are like me, then you’ll agree that a trip is not complete without some kickass cocktails. Le Pupitre 18 is located in the heart of the city, just walking distance from all the famous sites and is owned by the municipal corporation. It is the perfect place for a happy hour, just relax and enjoy the cocktails with the finest antipasti and bread. The outside tables are best for a little sunshine and people watching. A place without which the experience won’t be complete!

Le Pupitre 18

Facebook: Le Pupitre 18

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10. Torre della Gabbia

In English, The Tower of the Cage, was basically a torture chamber for the sentenced prisoners. It hosts the actual cage from 1576. This establishment is the tallest tower in Matua, owned by the Acerbi family. In 1281 it came into the possession of Pinamonte Bonacolsi who tried to gain even more power and influence over the city by creating a defense system centered on the Tower of the Cage and the Tower of the Zuccaro. The tower is closed to tourists as it is privately owned but you can admire it from the Cavour corner.

Torre della Gabbia

Website: Torre della Gabbia (in Italian)

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La Bella Addormentata

Manuta has so much history that you feel like you’re walking straight through courts held at the palace and the exquisite banquets hosted by the Gonzaga family. Mantua is not just a city, it’s history incarnated. Every street you cross, every corner you turn, you find yourself face to face with ancient buildings and rich history.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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Kasturi is an avid reader and traveler. Based in India, she works as a freelance travel writer. On days she's not writing, she goes hiking with her dogs. She likes to travel to places where she can...Read more

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