While Mantova is not in top 10 most visited places in Italy I think it is worthy to spend there at least one afternoon. I would call it a typical Italian mid-size town. It has charming architecture and atmosphere of a friendly place.
You should take a lazy walk around three main squares in the city center: Piazza dell’Erbe, Piazza del Broletto and Piazza Sordello. This city is a perfect place for all history, literature and art lovers. The famous Roman poet Virgil was born here, when Romeo was banished and spend some time in Mantova, and above all a plot of Rigoletto– famous opera by Verdi- is set in the castle (Castello San Giorgio). The town is surrounded by three artificial lakes and as a result it is often immersed in fog. In the summer the humidity is high so it might seam to be really hot.
Mantova reminds me one warm day spent on hanging around with no plan and purpose. I remember it was deliriously warm and I felt exhausted. Therefore, instead of visiting famous spots I preferred parks and cafes. If you’re in Mantova you can’t miss one place: a hidden garden behind Palazzo Ducale.
Well, it’s not really hidden because it is open and there is free entrance but it’s not so popular so you can easily overlook it. The garden is nothing special, really, and if you went to Italy in mid summer you know it is very difficult to keep it green. The exciting part is that you cross old medieval gate and from the square heated by the relentless sun you enter the shadowed grass and it seams like heaven. The garden is embraced by the old high buildings, it has a lovely green grass and very high old trees. In the middle of this garden you will find a fountain. OK, maybe a fountain is not a good word for what you will find there but the most important part is that it gives you fresh, cool water. That warm day this was a paradise-like.
Most pleasant part of the Italian summer day is evening as it brings cool air and allows you to breath normally. Gradually, when the sun goes down the heat is easier to deal with. Eating a delicious dinner in a small trattoria in the city center and continuing walk in the night is a wonderful conclusion of long warm day. Go to see the castle when it’s dark. It is beautifully illuminated. Standing in front of this massive building will grab your imagination and suddenly you’ll find yourself in medieval town side by side with Rigoletto, his daughter Gilda, Duke of Mantova and their complicated and tragic love story.
And you’ll be seduced by the famous aria La donna e mobile. Qual piuma al vento… (Woman is flighty. Like a feather in the wind…).
Take your mp3 player with you and listen to the Rigoletto just in front of the castle in the night. Truly unforgettable!
Mantova is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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