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Mantua: sightseeing tour at Palazzo Te

Triumph of the ephemeral and the appearance!

Italia Slow Tour in Mantua, at the great Palazzo Te.

In the 16th-century the noble man Federico Gonzaga asked Giulio Romano to build him a slightly crazy building.

Palazzo Te is a building of sweet deceptions that plays tricks on the eyes and makes it appear much bigger… The ephemeral and the appearance, both most modern concepts. Faux columns, broken pediments supporting nothing, symbolic rustications… It’s all a deception… Totally Gonzaga family style!

Mantua is a great place to spend a cultural weekend.

Watch the full web serie Mantua Slow Tour

Visit Palazzo Te official website

Main pic courtesy of Flickr User Vale (@littlecrazybutterfly)

Video full text: Palazzo Te

We are standing in front of Palazzo Te, an absolute gem.
The credit for this building goes to two 16th-century contemporaries, friends and
practical jokers by the name of Giulio Romano and Federico II Gonzaga.
Federico Gonzaga asked Giulio Romano to build him a slightly crazy building.
Just a stone’s throw from the city, on an island in the middle of the swamplands.
It is a building of sweet deceptions that plays tricks on the eyes and makes it appear much bigger.
The ephemeral and the appearance, both most modern concepts.
Why is it considered the architecture of madmen?
Because it’s one step beyond classical quality, which until then had been untouchable.
Faux columns, broken pediments supporting nothing, symbolic rustications.
It’s all a deception.
The building’s official entrance is the Loggia of the Muses.
The trademark is that of the Gonzagas.
The Gonzagas won-over the nobility with intrigue and fights.
The Hall of Horses is the building’s largest room.
This is where they came to listen to music or even dance.
It is a type of homage to their horses, weapons of war in battle.
The Gonzagas were great horse breeders and even created new breeds.
Giulio Romano invented make-believe! Everything seems so very real, but in actual fact none of it is.
A faux bronze with the labours of Hercules, with painted architectures.
This is where the skill of Trompe l’oeil or trickery on the eye first began.
The marbles appear real as do the horses.
The Hall of Love and Psyche celebrates another passion.
It is here that we discover the reason behind the construction of Palazzo Te.
Federico II Gonzaga had this place built for the honesto ocio, i.e. “honest leisure after many labours”.
People come here to eat, take a stroll and have a rest.
The Hall of Giants is the first work of set design in the world.
The year is 1530, before the arrival of theatre.
The acoustic quality is extraordinary; there are no corners or edges.
The ceiling is a rounded vault and this makes sound travel diagonally.
They invented Dolby surround and when someone says something everything reverberates.
As spectators enter they feel enveloped in this falling-down effect
and it’s as though everything is collapsing on top of them.
This is followed by the smile of those upon whom it dawns that all of this collapsing is unreal.
So they also invented 3D.
Jove assailed by the giants represents Emperor Charles V threatened by the nobility and the Pope.
The Gonzagas made their careers out of flattering Charles V in this way.
Betrayals and intrigue, the modernity of the 16th century.
Palazzo Te’s secret garden was, according to historical rumour, gossip and innuendo, an even more private place.
Federico II even left his lover behind to come here alone.
You see, here’s Bacchus! I reckon he came here to get drunk with his male friends!


Visit Mantua: helpful hints

Italian name: Mantova


There is no airport in Mantua but you can come easily from Milan or Bologna.

Milan: from Malpensa Airport reach Milan Central Station by train or by bus (the Malpensa Express train leaves every 30 minutes, it takes 50 minutes and costs 13€. The Malpensa shuttle bus leaves every 20 minutes, it takes 60/70 minutes and costs 10€). At Milan Central Station, look for the train to Mantua, it costs 11,5€ and it takes 1,5 hours.

Bologna: from Bologna Airport reach Bologna Central Station by bus (rides every 15 minutes). It takes 30 minutes and costs 6,5€. From the Central Station you can choose between the train and the bus: with Trenitalia company there is a combination of two trains, taking 1,5 hours at all for 8,95€. With Flixbus service you pay 4,99€ and it takes 1,25 hours.


You can visit Mantua on walk, or you can choose between bus or bike. APAM manages the local bus service. The single ticket costs 1,4€ and it lasts 75 minutes. Otherwise you can choose the bike and pay 0,69€ for a 20 minutes ride.

What to do

Mantua is a wonderful art city surrounded by lakes. It is in Lombardy region, Northern Italy. The city is famous for many stunning architectural treasures, such as Palazzo Ducale made by the Gonzaga family, or Palazzo Te. Nearby don’t miss the Olympic Theatre of Sabbioneta, the first designed just for entertainment in 1500.

Every year in September takes place here one of the most important Book Fair in Italy, Festivaletteratura.

For more tips, watch Italia Slow Tour web serie about Mantua.

Italia Slow Tour

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