Mantua or Mantova in Italian…I’ve wanted to come here ever since I read Romeo and Juliet years ago. It was the city where Romeo was exiled. It’s a city with a very long and successful history where the Gonzaga family ruled for hundreds of years. If you are interested in Renaissance art or architecture, than this city is a true gem. There are two major palaces and several minor ones that are quite spectacular to view. Pictures don’t really do it justice.
This room, called the Hall of the Giants was completed between 1532 and 1535. The artist, Guilio Romano, concealed the divisions between the walls and the ceiling by rounding all of the corners. The figures are huge and the illustrations based on the story of the fall of the giants from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. There are lots of facts about the room and artist but what words can’t convey are the feeling of wonder experienced when you step into the room and are surrounded by giant beings in the throes of destruction reined on them by the gods on Mt. Olympus.
The Renaissance depicted man in his natural form. They studied the musculature and bone structure and concentrated on conveying the inner soul through the body, the face and the eyes. When you enter this room you are surrounded by the emotions of the giants and their victors.
The scene is colorful and filled with action as the opposing forces battle for supremacy. Remember, these scenes were drawn 600 years ago and they are still vibrant and colorful. On this trip I have come to realize that Italians loved color…the more color the better. When they employed artists to decorate their homes they wanted stories from their past to be on display. These were people who were well-versed in the mythology and history of civilizations that preceded them.
Imagine being in a room about 15 feet square where every surface on the walls and ceiling is covered with these amazing images. You can spend a lot of time in such a room and not see it all.
The Palazzo del Te had room after room where the surfaces held statues and art work that was breathtaking. The above is actually a loggia leading from one part of the palazzo to another.
This loggia overlooked the inner garden with pools of water and a bridge to take you into the garden itself.
Another small painting set into one of the walls telling the story of a fight with some lions.
The Palazzo del Te was the summer residence of the Gonzaga family. The Palazzo Ducal was their winter residence and about a 20 minute walk away.
In the Palazzo Ducale is a very famous inner garden called a “Hanging Garden”. It was completed in about 1579 and is built on multiple levels. In the winter there is one portion of the garden that is used as a lemon house.
You will find a room depicting the stars and the zodiac which covers the ceiling. My husband thought the stars were pretty accurately placed. The second picture is from a room devoted to rivers where frescoes line the walls and ceiling with depictions of river scenes and men and women engaged in various tasks concerning rivers. The last picture is a bedroom used by the Duchess of Gonzaga. Quite beautiful.
There are two rooms filled with tapestries that were commissioned specifically for these rooms. You can see from the picture how tightly the tapestries are woven.
The picture above gives you an idea of the dimensions of the room and the tapestries. They are huge and run basically floor to ceiling. Of course, the ceilings and the floors are also decorated . I think the tapestries date from the 1700’s.
These dukes probably needed the peaceful quality of a sculptured garden to offset the opulence and riotous color within their walls.
After two days of touring these wonderful spaces we were happy to settle in the evening for a sumptuous meal at a local restaurant.
We had first plates of a pasta with sea food including urchins, welks, mussels and clams. I had never tasted urchin or welk before. You can really taste the sea in this food. Risotto made with pumpkin and a special cheese was also on the menu. For a second plate we had veal cutlets with lemon and fresh salad. You can see from the plates used for serving these dishes that the Italian love of color is alive and well. We were too full for dessert and ate only salad the next day. This wonderful meal with water, bread, and wine ran about $35 each. It was delicious. We ate outside on a beautiful night. Italians expect you to spend several hours over your food and pace the courses accordingly.
Mantua is a lovely walking town easily covered on foot to see the wonderful museums and spaces within the historic area. It is situated between three lakes that have walking paths around them. We loved our time here and would go back in a heartbeat. Put this one on your bucket list for Italy.