Mantova: is it worth a detour ?

I was planning to spend three consecutive nights in Verona for the 2019 Opera Festival watching three operas. Flying on an inter-continental flight from Singapore and landing in Milan a day before, I was hesitating if I should make a slight detour and stay a night in Mantova or Parma before I head to Verona, both of which I have never been before. I chose Mantova. Here are some of the sights I visited that I quite liked.

Palazzo Te

I first visited Palazzo Te which is a mannerist villa designed by Giulio Romano, a Renaissance architect, and painter for Frederic II Gonzaga – the ruler of Mantova until 1519. The walk around the building was by itself quite pleasant; I felt like I was in the villa in the Italian countryside, but I was a mere 15 minutes walk from the historical center of Mantova.

Chamber of the Giants

Chamber of the Giants

What was the most impressive in Palazzo was the many frescos in the different rooms in Palazzo Te. I was pretty awed with the murals in two places: the Chamber of Giants and the Hall of Horses.

Casa del Mantegna

Casa del Mantegna

The next stop was a quick walk towards town to the Mantegna’s House or Casa del Mantegna. The building consists of a higher external cube structure with a lower internal circular enclosure that both open to the sky. The sky view from the courtyard was quite geometrically stunning; the differences in height between the cubic and circular structure created a square sky view ringed with a circular frame. I tried to shoot a video using my new gimbal twirling around the courtyard, and I got a few Italians there with their kids looking at me strangle. They probably thought to themselves I was a crazy Asian tourist.

Ducal Palace

Early the next morning, I went to the Ducal Palace, which is Italy’s largest architectural museum complex, great if one loves to walk, I suppose. What wowed me here is the most is the Camera degli Sposi at the Castle of St. George right next to the Palace. Beautiful Renaissance frescos on walls and ceiling painted by Andrea Mantegna, the same guy that designed the house I mentioned earlier), covered the room.

Bibiena Theatre

Bibiena Theatre

Perhaps my favorite sight-seeing stop in this Mantova stopover was the Bibiena Theatre. Designed by Antonio Galli Bibiena, it is a tiny theater in late Baroque style that sits only 363 persons, and it still functions as a theater. Mantova is a rather small town. Mozart had a successful performance here when he was 13, and his father wrote about the theatre: “In all my life, I have never seen anything more beautiful of its kind.” I wished I can have a piano recital here when I am 83 in 35 years. Or maybe when I am 93 as I may not be ready at 83!

Date visited – 2019/09/04_05

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