Mantua is one of the most beautiful Italian Renaissance cities. Its town centre, Piazza Sordello, Piazza Broletto, Piazza Erbe and Piazza Mantegna is the metaphor for the style superimposition, that Mantua embodies. Mantua at the time of the free Medieval Commune, reflection of the merchants’ economical and political power. Mantua, the town of the Gonzaga Family (1328-1707).
The origins of Mantua belong to legend: the infernal Etruscan deity Mantusfounded the city. But also Ocnus, Manto’s son, could have done this. Dante“confirms” (Divine Comedy, Hell, XX, 52-93) that Manto, the daughter of the blind prophet Tiresias, fleeing from Thebes after his father’s death, arrived in this land “in the middle of the marsh” and founded the city.
Piazza Sordello, Piazza Broletto and Piazza Erbe are the real old heart of the town.
The imposing Piazza Sordello, dedicated to the Mantuan troubadour Sordello da Goito (1200-1269 ca.) (mentioned by Dante in the VI Canto of Purgatory) shows some of the oldest and interesting buildings of the town: Palazzo Ducale, the buildings of the Bonacolsi era, and the Cathedral (Duomo).
On the opposite site to the cathedral, after passing the arch of the Voltone di San Pietro, you reach Piazza Broletto, created around 1190, when the town expanded beyond its original nucleus, during the period of the free communes. There are here the symbols for the citizens’ power: the “Palazzo del Podestà” or “Palazzo del Broletto” (Podestà was the Medieval mayor) built in 1227, the “Palazzo del Massaro” (the residence of the administrator of the property of the Commune), the big arch of the “Arengario” built around 1300 to link the Palazzo del Podestà to the Palazzo del Massaro and the so called “Università dei mercanti”, a 15th century building that was the seat of the Mantuas Merchants Association (that the meaning of university).
Through the portico of the Palazzo del Podestà one reaches Piazza Erbe or the “Greens Square” closed by buildings of different periods. The rear of the Palazzo del Podestà, the “Palazzo della Ragione” (1250) or the Medieval Law Court with the Clock Tower (1472), the Romanesque church San Lorenzo (the Rotunda) that goes back to 1082 and the so called Merchant’s House built by the merchant Boniforte from Concorezzo (near Milan) in 1455.
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