2. Mantova City Center and Ducal Palace: 3-Hour Guided Tour
Surrounded by 3 small lakes, Mantova rises almost magically from the waters. The relationship between Mantua and water is a very close one: the Mincio River, the lakes and the medieval canal known as Rio are all entwined in Mantovan traditions.
On a 3-hour walking tour in the city center you’ll discover how water and earth are unexpectedly interwoven. See stunning buildings, squares and churches. Learn about the importance of the Gongaza family in fine art and how they transformed their home into what is today the largest museum in Italy.
The Ducal Palace was built between the 14th and the 17th centuries as the family’s royal residence in the capital of their duchy. The buildings are connected by corridors and galleries and feature inner courts and gardens. The complex includes about a thousand rooms and occupies an area of 34,000 square meters. Although most famous for Mantegna's frescos in the Camera degli Sposi (Wedding Room), there are many other very significant architectural and painted elements.
Visit Rigoletto's House, see the exterior of the Saint George Castle and visit Piazza Castello, Piazza Santa Barbara and Piazza lega Lombarda. At Piazza Sordello you’ll have views of the Ducal Palace façade, the Cathedral, Vicolo Bonacolsi, Piazza Broletto with the medieval Palazzo del Podesta and Palazzo del Massaro and Arengario.
Piazza delle Erbe is surrounded by the Palazzo della Ragione, the Clock Tower and the Saint Lorenzo Church. See the façade of the Merchant's House, Piazza Mantegna with the Basilica of Sant'Andrea built by Leon Battista Alberti and Piazza Leon Battista Alberti with the former cloister of the Sant'Andrea Monastery.
No entrance tickets are needed on this city center tour, unless you’d like to visit the beautiful Bibiena Theatre where Mozart played when he was 13 years old (entrance €2).
Churches close at noon and re-open at 15.00. During services entrance to visit churches is not permitted. For the Ducal Palace the entrance fee is €13. The Castle and Ducal Palace limit entrance to groups not larger than 25 people. For larger groups additional guides are needed and bookings are required in advance.
On the first Sunday of every month, entrance to the Ducal Palace is free of charge, but cannot be booked in advance. As only 1,500 people per day can enter the room painted by Mantegna, on these special Sundays it may be impossible to enter that particular room.