Governolo, Mantua. Nature and history meet in these currents
My land and the Mincio river
Let’s go back in time with Patrizio
The Mincio is the river that from Lake Garda flows into Po River. It creates three Lakes around Mantua: Upper Lake, Middle Lake and Lower Lake. It is strange for me to talk of it in this way, almost aseptically, because I was born in a city beside the Mincio. I can say that I learnt to swim in the water of the Mincio, since the pool of Canottieri Mincio used that water. Moreover, in the Upper Lake I learnt to row and I used to go sailing with two friends of mine. By the way, the first time I took the helm of a Flying Junior I almost ended up in the Vasarone, that is a dangerous difference in height between the Upper Lake and the Middle Lake.
When I was a child you could drive a boat with an outboard motor from Cittadella (from the Bridge of San Giorgio, at the beginning of the Upper Lake) to Grazie. Here is the Sanctuary of the Beata Vergine delle Grazie, that was made famous by Bernardo Bertolucci in his movie Novecento, in particular, in the scene in which the landowners of Mantua decided to finance the first fascist gangs. It is also famous for the yearly fair of the Madonnari, which derives its name from the artists that draw sacred images on the ground.
My father could swim very well. I remember that he used to swim from Cittadella to Belfiore. He swam breaststroke and I followed him rowing a boat. By the way, the Mincio branches out into canals, which have been created to irrigate the fields. They were once full of frogs and you could swim here for miles. The stilt houses on the Lake constituted the Island of the Geese, a community of fishermen/eaters/storytellers, who used to spend their free time on the Lake. Later, the houses were demolished. Perhaps this decision was legally watertight but socio-culturally very questionable.
On the part of the Mincio river that widens into the Lakes, there are lotus flowers (a unique case actually, except Japan). Many people here used to fish the trigoli, the water- chestnuts, which were later sold in Corso Garibaldi, in Mantua.
From the Middle and the Lower Lake depart the moto vessels that reach Governolo, on the Po river. This is an amazing trip into an extraordinary nature. Not by chance it is the homeland of Virgil, the author of the Eclogues and the Georgics. Indeed he also dedicated an ode to mosquitos, since there are a lot of them here. From the Mincio river you can see the wonderful Palaces of the Gonzaga family. From Castel San Giorgio on, and precisely in Governolo, there are still the traces of the big waterworks they promoted in order to control the water stream.
The Mincio river together with the Po river and other tributaries, by accumulating detritus, created the Po Valley. Between Lake Garda and Mantua you can canoe in the Mincio river. Moreover, there is a beautiful cycle path beside it. I could write other 10 pages about it, about my (melancholy) memories, but for now this is enough…
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.