Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mantua & Marmirolo

Day 2: Mantova round tour 
An entire day dedicated to the discovery of this wonderful city and its sourroundings dominated by the family of Gonzaga. In the late afternoon a local guide will lead you through the most known highlights of the town. 

A dream day. Not a cloud in the sky. Deep blue skies and very pleasant. Carol's alarm goes off as usual at 7 and we are at breakfast at 8 and on our touring bikes by 9. We ride in a single file behind Martina  and stop for water breaks, a coffee and bathroom break, and a lunch break. We ride 32 km today around the lakes, along a canal, through fields of corn and past hog farms. We have a Charley and Corners to keep all of the 34 of us on the right bike path. We have Coffee in Marmirolo and arrive as church service is ending. The barge stays docked in Mantua and at 4 pm Martina takes us into the old town of Mantua to meet a guide who walks us through the Rotunda from Roman times (turned into a church  in 1050).

We enter the beautiful church and the choir is practicing and a high school band is marching down the street playing Y.M.C.A. for a special town festival. I really like this small city and believe it has as much beauty as we've seen anywhere with the Ducal Palace. ......

Odors today of sweet smelling shrubbery, foul smelling fish, and pig manure. Arrive at the barge about 6 and wait on the top deck for dinner. Have fun talking with the Australians.
Eat across from Mandy and Dennis from Lake Barcroft, Va who have fun asking Carol about Alaska.

The ideal way to approach Mantua – Mantova in Italian – is down the River Mincio from Lake Garda. Failing that, stand on the bridge near Porta San Giorgio from where the city's sultry Arabian Nights' skyline of domes and towers seems to hover above the water. It's ridiculously romantic.
Wrapped in water, where the Mincio broadens into three lakes, Mantua is an overlooked Renaissance gem; a mini-Florence, rich with art, intrigue and infidelities. Where Florence had the Medicis, Mantua had the Gonzagas. Shrewd businessmen who married well, the dynasty ruled the city for more than 300 years, from the 14th century, commissioning the finest Renaissance craftsmen they could afford.
Take the Basilica di Sant'Andrea. Dismissing the original medieval church as too lowly to house its great treasure – holy relics of Christ's blood – Lodovico ll Gonzaga hired the Florentine architect Alberti to design one of the highlights of the early Renaissance. With its lofty barrel-vaulted nave and triumphal-arch façade, the church crowds tiny Piazza Mantegna. To glimpse its glorious dome, I had to stand in the adjacent Piazza Erbe.
The city's heart – a series of interlinked cobbled piazzas, lined with arcades – seems too small for the Gonzaga flamboyance. Ha! Wait until you see their main residence, the Palazzo Ducale. A mini-city of 500-odd rooms and a dozen courtyards, it contained some 3,000 works of art at its height, before overspending and a Habsburg invasion curtailed the Gonzaga's power. Today, its extravagantly decorated rooms are largely empty; highlights include Andrea Mantegna's glorious frescoes, a roof-level rose garden and 16th-century Flemish tapestries from Raphael cartoons (copies of those in the Vatican).
Wilting from such excess, I almost dismissed the nearby Duomo. A mistake. Behind its frothy façade lies an elegant interior by the Raphael student Giulio Romano, another rising star spotted by the 
Equally well-hidden, behind a neoclassical façade, is the Teatro Bibiena, a jewel-box of velvet armchairs and tiers of boxes each with frescoes. It's like stepping into a toy theatre.
The next morning, I took a bus to the sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie, whose interior is lined with bizarre votives: wax or wooden figures in threadbare clothes, footballs, crash helmets, plus a crocodile suspended from the ceiling.
Back in Mantua, I discovered more eye-popping artistry at Palazzo Te. Painted by Giulio Romano for Federico Gonzaga's mistress, the frescoes are fleshy and fulsome: in the Camera di Amore e Psiche, seduction oozes from every wall, while in the Camera dei Giganti, it's all colossal lightning bolts, boulders and columns.
To cool my whirling senses, I took a walk along the lakeside paths. The countryside here is so flat, the waters stretched to the horizon. I passed courting couples, handsome men walking handsome dogs, a jogger oozing an intoxicating aftershave. Phew! This is a city on sensory overdrive.
The first concert at the Teatro Bibiena was given by a 13-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In the Middle Ages the territory of Marmirolo was owned by the Canossa family, and since 1055 it became part of Mantua.
Then it became ownership of the Gonzaga family who already owned lands and palaces there. In the village of Ronchi, in the summer of 1328, a conspiracy against the Bonacolsi family was organized to hand Mantua to the Gonzagas. In 1435 Gianfrancesco Gonzaga had a big palace built which was renovated and enlarged many times, with the precious contributions of Mantegna, Leombruno and Giulio Romano. It soon fell into disgrace, so that it was destroyed in the late 18th century.

The small palace of Bosco Fontana - built according to the will of Vincenzo I Gonzaga in the late 16th century - witnessed the splendor of that time. Bosco, today State Nature Reserve, is one of the last parts of the plain forest which once covered the whole Po Valley. In the square of the village, near the liberty-moor-style city hall, there is the Tower from the 15th century that belonged to the walls of the old castle: it is situated in the square of the village, where the original one collapsed in the 18th century.
The SS. Filippo and Giacomo church, a work by the architect Soratini, dates back to 1748, and it houses precious paintings by the artist from Verona Frà Semplice.

In the surroundings there are many natural views created by the river Mincio. The northernmost part is the municipality of Pozzolo, included in the Park's territory, on the left bank of the river Mincio, a picturesque village whose history is written on the water between the river Mincio and the Scaricatore canal. The parish church dedicated to the nativity of Mary dates back to 1768: among the furnitures there are paintings from the 16th century and a group of marble statues representing the Madonna with the Infant Jesus from the 14th century. 

Province: Mantova
Official Website
The castle of Marmirolo
Pozzolo, S. Isidoro Oratorio

Map data ©2014 Google
10 km 

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