An itinerary for visiting Mantua, Italy
It’s time to put a visit to Mantua in Northern Italy on your list! Since 2007, the gorgeous old town of Mantua has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but you may actually remember it from the reference in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. (Glad to see you were paying attention in English class!).
Mantua, or Mantova if you want to feel Italian, sits in the Lombardy region with a population of around 50,000 people. The city is surrounded by artificial lakes, originally for defense purposes, but now they just make for a beautiful welcome as you drive in. While I’d prefer to recommend that you visit every place for several days and get a real understanding of how the locals live, sometimes these smaller cities are perfectly suited to an afternoon visit. So here is my list of things to do for one day in Mantua.
Make your way to Piazza Andrea Mantegna where you’ll find the Basilica di Sant’Andrea, a 15th century cathedral of Renaissance style. This is one of the few cathedrals in my life that have taken my breath away, and I’ve seen many! The work that went into the interior, especially the ceiling, is unbelievable. Unfortunately for me, they ask that you don’t take photos inside, so it’s something you’ll have to see for yourself to understand.
Around the corner you’ll wander into Piazza delle Erbe, one of Mantua’s main squares. Visit the Rotonda di San Lorenzo, the oldest church in Mantua. You’ll know it when you see it, it’s round!
From here, walk the two minutes to my absolute favourite square, Piazza Sordello. Not only is it impressive to look at, it’s bordered by the Palazzo Ducale and Mantua Cathedral.
Mantua Cathedral is another stunning Catholic cathedral worth a visit.
We were in Mantua on a Sunday, and unfortunately were too late to visit all the rooms in the Palazzo Ducale, so decided not to go in. That just means I’ll have to go back again to go inside! The moment anyone heard we were in Mantua they asked if we visited the Palazzo Ducale, so I don’t think it’s something you should be skipping.
Make sure you wander through the gardens of the Piazza Lega Lombarda on your way back to the center. We weren’t looking for them, but caught sight of the gardens as we walked past. They were lovely and quiet, despite being right in the centre of town. From here we got properly lost, even with Google Maps. You have to love the confusion of historic centers!
What to Eat in Mantua, Italy
What a day! You’re bound to be hungry at some point, so here’s what you need to eat in Mantua. For a snack, visit the Forneria delle Erbe and try the chiacchiere, a famous pastry treat that’s popular around Carnival time, and native to the area. If you’re looking for something more substantial you can grab aperitivo at the cute, kitschy bar Pierrot Mantova. If you’re sitting down for a full meal, the local dish is pumpkin ravioli, so make sure you give it a try.
Because we visited on a Sunday afternoon, some things were already full or simply closed. Two things things I didn’t get to see, but was told I couldn’t miss, were St. George’s Castle and Palazzo del Te. Add them to your list!
The historic centre of Mantua is tiny and walkable, so dedicate a good part of your day to visiting all these amazing sites, learning about the rich history of the area, and enjoying the wonderful food.
A Checklist for One Day in Mantua, Italy:
- Piazza Andrea Mantegna
- Basilica di Sant’Andrea
- Rotonda di San Lorenzo
- Piazza Sordello
- Mantua Cathedral
- Piazza Lega Lombarda
- Palazzo Ducale
- St. George’s Castle
- Palazzo del Te
- Try the Chiacchiere in Forneria delle Erbe
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If you’re looking for more things to do in Italy, check out these other posts.