A series of posts that doesn’t fool around. It just goes straight to the point!
Manto what? Yes, that was my exact reaction when Martina, one of my classmates told me about Mantova, a city whose existence was unknown to me up to that point. Curiosity always strikes me when it comes to potential places to visit and in the same night I decided to research it. Looked interesting, a typical Italian town full of piazzas, terracotta coloured buildings and plenty of churches of course.
I decided that it would be a perfect day trip for the next Saturday and three other classmates, including Martina, joined me in exploring this little well-kept secret. 90 minutes and 11.50€ later we reached Mantova’s train station. I’d read a couple of travel blogs on what to do there and bookmarked a list of places to visit on Google Maps. And this is what came out of it:
The view over the canal
On our way to the centre we passed by a little and charming canal, just next to Piazza San Francesco, and not even 5 minutes later we reached our first “place to see”: Piazza Matilde Canossa. Next to it there’s a pastry shop/restaurant, Casa del Pane, which will make you droll just by looking its window shop.
Piazza after Piazza
From there, we moved on to visit Piazza delle Erbe, the most famous in Mantova where you’ll find tons of restaurants, important churches and shops. Straight on, there’s Piazza Sordello where the tables set with red and white towels made this place as Italian as it gets. There are two very famous palaces in Mantova: Palazzo Ducale (located in this piazza) and Palazzo Te (20 minutes from the centre). As we didn’t want to spend too much money we elected Palazzo Te as the one to visit and said “see you next time” to Ducale.
A bit of nature
One of the most pleasant things about Mantova is that it’s situated just next to a big, wide river that will make you feel like you are in the countryside instead of a city. Swans swim freely and some people even fish there.
All the hungry ladies!
Back to town we decided to have lunch and we were specifically looking for a place whose menu included “Tortelinni di Zuca”, Pumpkin Tortelinni, the most famous speciality in the city. We managed to find Antica Osteria Leoncino Rosso and try it. It’s weirdly sweet and I had to mix a LOT of parmigiano to make it less strange on my taste buds. I’m happy I tried it, but it’s definitely not on my top Italian dishes.
BAM, BAM, BAM
After lunch we were ready for a holy afternoon. We started by visiting the Duomo di San Pietro di Mantova which seemed closed but it’s not. Maybe that’s the reason why it was so quiet and empty. The gilded ceiling and pillars as well as the random splashes of colour coming from the stained glass make it worth visiting.
And now, the Basilica di Sant’Andrea! As it happened in Parma, I wouldn’t expect much of their Basilica looking at its exterior. But inside it’s a magnificent piece of art. Every single inch is covered with paintings or frescoes and you’ll need some time to take it all in.
Finally, it was time to see the crown jewel of Mantova: Palazzo Te. It’s far from being your typical palace with Disney-like architecture and gold on gold, but instead it’s a great art collection, as art is part of the palace itself. Most rooms have paintings on the ceilings and walls, but nothing can be compared to the Fall of the Giants which will make you feel like you are literally inside a painting.
Once back to the centre we treated ourselves to some Mantova pastries, mostly made of almond. If you want to try them, Pasticceria La Tur Dal Sucar is a good place to do it.
And there it is. What seemed just like a nice little town ended up being a place full of surprises. Italy doesn’t seize to amaze me!
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