It was Christmas time when I arrived in Mantua. I planned my travel two months in advance. According to Greek mythology, the city of Mantua was named after the oracle Manto, daughter of Tiresias, who was a person with unusual powers of foresight. One day, Manto vanished from Thebes (an ancient Greek city in Boeotia destroyed by Alexander the Great in 336 BC) and after a long travel without any clear destination, she settled in a low-lying wet land with grassy vegetation, which now hosts the city of Mantua. With her tears, Manto created a lake which gave prophetic abilities to those who drank from it.
Today, Mantua is surrounded by three lakes, which make it resemble a small island, just like Venice. If you enter the town in the evening, you will find Mantua the most beautiful city you have ever seen. The “gate” of the town is a castle called Palazzo Ducale, which has guarded Mantua for centuries and stretches over an area of 35.000 meters with 500 rooms and many gardens. One of the sides of the castle is inhabited today by the ancestor of the Gonzaga’ dynasty. Also, until you reach the “gate” you have to pass the San Giorgio’ bridge which crosses the Mincio Lake where the beautiful lotus flowers has been growing naturally for centuries.
Mantua is a town with an amazing mix of art and history; a small, well-shaped city, which I discovered by walking through squares, lanes and arcades, picturing all and saving memories for the future. If you are passionate about the ancient times, you will love it. You will savor the “aroma” which comes along with Saint Andrea Church, where you’ll find a relic from Jesus’ blood, or you’ll be astonished by Bibiena Theatre, a true jewel, inaugurated by W. Amadeus Mozart in 1796. Also, you may wish to see the rest of the Byzantine frescos by visiting San Lorenzo, the oldest church in Mantua (1082), or you may dare to admire the mix of architectural styles melted in the Duomo. Being honest, Mantua is a place that you must “touch, smell, feel”, at least one time in this life. In 2008 Mantua became a UNESCO World Heritage Site based on its Renaissance planning and architecture.
Now, we leave the Renaissance period and go back to the ancient times, where we’ll meet the ancient poet, Virgil. In this period of the year, Mantua hosts events in the honor of Virgil, the poet who wrote the well-known “Aeneid” and celebrates 150 years from the Unification of Italy. The exhibition at Palazzo Te shows us valuable pieces of his work. There are many events in Mantua during which the whole city resonates in the memory of Virgil. As Virgil says “All our sweetest hours fly fastest”, so let’s have a look to find out more info about the program on www.cittadimantova.it
To follow Virgil’s quotation, I’ll be short and I will not tell you too much, as you may want to see in detail the splendid monuments located in Mantua. I just wanted you to follow in my footsteps with your imagination, to walk with me on the streets of the old city where the culture, civilization, art and joy create a brilliant feeling of romanticism and immortality.
Written on October 27th 2011 – Via Bonomi