Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Mantua, Italy
The provincial capital Mantua, former residence of the Gonzaga family, lies south of Lake Garda in the Po plain on the lower course of the Mincino, which here forms a marshy lake divided into three parts: Lago Superiore, Lago di Mezzo and Lago Inferiore.
History and art
Originally founded by the Etruscans, the town was noted in antiquity only as the home of the poet Virgil (70-19 B.C.). It rose to some importance in the 12th and 13th centuries under the Hohenstaufen Emperors. From 1328 the town was ruled by the Guelf house of Gonzaga, who acquired the title of marquis in 1433 and of duke in 1530 and made Mantua one of the most refined and cultivated of princely capitals, a great center of art and learning. Marquis Lodovico (1444-78) summoned the Florentine architect Leon Battista Alberti to Mantua, and in 1463 enrolled Andrea Mantegna, leader of the Padua school of painters, in his service; the beautiful and accomplished Isabella d'Este (1490-1539), wife of Giovanni Francesco II, carried on a lively correspondence with the great men of the day; and Raphael's outstanding pupil, Giulio Romano (1492-1546), came to Mantua in 1524 and was active as an architect and painter. After the Gonzaga line died out (1707) the town passed to Austria, as one corner of the defensive "quadrilateral" of Peschiera-Verona-Legnago-Mantua and held it until 1866 (except for a brief interlude during the Napoleonic period. The Austrian patriot Andreas Hofer was shot in Mantua in 1810 on Napoleon's orders (memorial tablet, outside the town, to the north).