A Slow Day in Mantova

Today is my final complete day in Italy. When tomorrow morning comes, I will hurrying off to the airport on my way home. Has this trip been only one week? It alternately feels to have gone by incredibly quickly, and to have been quite a long vacation.

Having spent the bulk of yesterday in the car, today is our day to spend meeting Mantova. This city, which you may know of as Mantua, has been featured in more than one Shakespearean play, including Romeo and Juliet, as well as the opera Rigoletto. It was ruled by the Gonzaga dynasty from the 14th to 17th centuries, so that family obviously left their mark here.

We stepped out into the morning haze, walking down the timeless cobblestone roads toward the center of town. We crossed a brackish smelling river, and continued forward. 

Finally we reached the Rotonda di San Lorenzo, one of the many churches in town. That’s it on the left. As one would expect of a rotonda, it’s round.

There was a large protest in front of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea, and in my distraction I didn’t take a photo. Apparently they were protesting against an incinerator. To make up for it, here’s a random medieval building across the street. The windows are gorgeous. There are remarkable buildings like this everywhere. The old city, in fact, is a Unesco Heritage Site.

Further down the square, we found the Duomo of Mantova, and right across the street we visited the Ducal Palace.

There was some confuion about the tickets, and when you visit smaller cities like this, there isn’t as much English spoken. Still we managed and soon found ourselves climbing into the palazzo and strolling through the gilded rooms, beneath the towering ceilings, and looking out on the lovely gardens below.

One of the rooms had numerous bizarre grotesque cornices, which were fascinating for both of us.

These, I assume, are geese, as I believe the goose is one of the emblems of Mantova.


The admission to the Ducal Palace was divided into two entrances. After our first entrance, we stopped across the street for a lunch. It was a random choice for lunch, but we did well. I had copa, Mantovan salami, and Grana Padano, as well as a local rice cooked with pork sausage. Notably, although both Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano are produced locally, the latter is clearly the greater source of local pride.

In the afternoon we dove into the more famed part of the palace, known for its artwork.

Visiting palaces of this sort is a nice way to spend the day, but outside the royal windows we could see one of the three lakes that surround Mantova, and this more strongly called to me. 

So we walked along the lakeshore, through the park of science, where they have educational toys for the children. Numerous men sat fishing on at the edge of the still water.

And a mother and daughter paused to to feed these swans.

Miles of walking under our belt, we returned to our hotel museum and prepared for dinner. The proprietress who checked us in had strongly recommened the Trattoria dell’Oca, so we had stopped in last night to make reservations.

This reminded us of the overwhelming restaurant in Puglia. We started with an antipasto platter that consisted of salami, copa, pancetta, cottechino sausage, polenta, and rendered lard. Everything was exceptional and quickly left us filled up.

I followed this with only a primo, the local risotto with sausage. It was creamy and flavorful and a perfect ending to our trip. Once again, we were relieved to not have ordered a second course.

Pausing at the end for a digestif, we then walked back in the still Mantovan night, discussing our travels and what a wonderful city and country this is. We disappeared, then, into our basement lodging where we packed and prepared for our journeys tomorrow.


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