Video: Mantua, Italy

Our cruise has a dramatic approach to Mantua, home of the poet Virgil, artists Mantegna and Donatello and a captivating lakeside setting. Mantua displays extraordinary neo-classical and baroque architecture, portrayed in the 14thC Ducal Palace housing some 15 gardens and courtyards, a museum, basilica and theatre. The intricate frescoes, Gallery of Mirrors and exquisite Rivers Room and 12,000 paintings and sculptures all create a Grand Finale to our Italian Renaissance adventure under the new rulers.

The imposing capital of Lombardy, Mantua (or Mantova) is a beautiful, historic city surrounded on three sides by artificial lakes created during the 12th century. Mantua’s historic power and influence under the wealthy Gonzaga family made it one of the main artistic, cultural and musical hubs of Northern Italy. Mantua’s most famous ancient citizen is the poet Publius Vergilius Maro, Virgil, who was born near the city in 70 BC. revolt backed by the House of Gonzaga led to the election of Luigi Gonzaga as the Captain General of Mantua. The Gonzagas built new walls with five gates and renovated the architecture of the city in the 14th century. During the Renaissance, the Gonzaga family raised the level of culture and refinement. In 1627, the Gonzaga line came to an end, and the town slowly declined under the new rulers.

Palazzo Ducale, the home of the Gonzaga family from the late 13th to early 17th centuries, is a huge complex of buildings, courtyards, a museum, basilica, theatre and 15 gardens. There are over 500 rooms and some 12,000 paintings and sculptures. The most famous room is the Camera degli Sposi with frescoes from 1474 painted by Mantegna.

The Duomo, the Cathedral of San Pietro, was first erected on the site of a Palaeo-Christian structure that was destroyed by a fire in 894. The church was rebuilt in 1395-1401 with the addition of side chapels and a magnificent Gothic façade. After another fire in the 16th century, the interior was remade. In 1756-1761 the façade was replaced by the Baroque one in Carrara’s marble.

The Basilica di Sant’Andrea was begun in 1462 on a site occupied by a Benedictine monastery and finished 328 years later. The Benedictine bell tower from 1414 still remains. The church holds the tomb of the painter Andrea Mantegna and a much-disputed relic said to hold the blood of Christ.

The 11th century Rotonda of San Lorenzo, the most ancient church in the city, is believed to be on the site of a Roman temple to Venus. Deconsecrated, it was used for dwellings, shops and stores. Later it was restored and the external additions removed.

In 2008 Mantua became a UNESCO World Heritage Site based on its Renaissance planning and architecture.

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