Palazzo Ducale – Mantua, Lombardy, Italy

A Celebration of Renaissance Splendor

Mantua is a city locked in its past, richly endowed with art and historical memories of the 400 years when it flourished under the patronage of the powerful Gonzaga family, who were to Mantua what the Medicis were to Florence.

Their 500-room, fifteen-courtyard Palazzo Ducale, built between the 13th and 18th centuries, is so sumptuously decorated that an afternoon’s visit can induce a magnificent stupor. Vast gilded halls and huge galleries are filled with vibrant canvases by Renaissance masters, most notably Andrea Mantegna, whose fan­ciful Camera delgi Sposi (Bridal Chamber, 1472—1474) is the fortress-cum-palazzo’s highlight.

A watershed in Renaissance imagination, it is Mantegna’s masterpiece and his only remaining fresco cycle, an important part of the unrivaled legacy of art left by the Gonzaga dynasty.

After stumbling out of the splendor of the Palazzo Ducale, how to match the experience? You can eat like the dukes of Mantua beneath the frescoed ceilings of Trattoria II Cigno, where recipes from the personal cookbook of the Gonzagas’ court chef hold diners enthralled centuries later.

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