A Too Quick Day Trip To Mantova (Mantua)

Palazzo Ducale on day trip to Mantova.jpg

From Verona You Can Day Trip To Mantova

During our 10 days in Verona, we planned a mix of local sites, day trips and some just relaxing local wandering. Our B&B hostess suggested that we might want to do a day trip to Mantova. While eating breakfast we did some iPad surfing to see what there was to see (after figuring out that it was also often referred to as Mantua). The number one draw is the Palazzo Ducale but there were online opinions suggesting that Palazzo Te may be a better option.

Waiting to make sure the rain was past, we took the 12:30pm train. We figured we had about 6 hrs before the sites closed which would even allow for a lunch stop (or dinner if we took the later train back). It was a quick 45 minute train ride to yet another dilapidated train station in this Veneto region. Exiting the station we found no markings to suggest it might be a train station so we fixed the image in our brains for finding on the return trip. We had electronic crutches for navigation but a quick look at the town map in the train station gave us a simple route to follow. As we got closer to main attractions, there were actual tourist maps with attraction information, so it then became much easier.
Many of the smaller roads and sidewalks were covered with large river rock, not well grouted or filled. This made walking these roads twice as tough and tiring. We would find a return trip thru more major roads.

Mantova /Mantua cobblestones on day trip to Mantova.jpg

I had to feed the Travelling Stomach (aka David) before he got too grouchy, although his shredded raw horse meat did not do anything for my appetite (good thing I stuck with pumpkin ravioli).

Lunch on day trip to Mantova.jpg

The great authentic chocolate orange gelato we picked up as we walked washed away the lunch flavours. In an interesting chat with the gelateria owner, we learned first about his visit to Canada and then  about watching for fake gelato stores. Apparently these second grade shops are using the covered aluminum containers for gelato to suggest that their product is authentic. We might have to go back to sampling to make sure we were getting quality!

As in many of the cities in Italy, many of the sites were covered with scaffolding and under repair. We wandered about the Piazza Erbe, with much to see on all sides.

Mantova /Mantua tower on day trip to Mantova.jpg
Mantova /Mantua facades on day trip to Mantova.jpg

Palazzo Ducale and the Castle

Even the Palazzo Ducale would only be open until the end of Sept and would then also close for reparations. At 6.50€ each, the € per km on our feet ended up being a great value. David would call uncle early, although it may have been from the walking or from the overload of the imagery.

The signs at the entrance seemed to suggest that no cameras were allowed so David put his DSLR and lenses into a locker. We ultimately found that while in one room no pics were allowed, everywhere else we went you could take pics with no flash – so don’t hesitate to take your cameras. We tried to enter the Palzzo Ducale only to be told that we must visit the castle first so we tromped back outside and further along the cobblestone walk.

Entering through the castle yard, we could see the inner courtyard.

Palazzo Ducale Castle on day trip to Mantova.jpg

At the castle entrance, we got a check mark on our ticket and walked up the spiral ramp to the display area.

Palazzo Ducale Castle on day trip to Mantova.jpg

There was really only one major room to see, covered almost completely with frescos (and guarded to make sure nobody took pictures). The only pictures we could get were in the entrance or the minor rooms.

Palazzo Ducale Castle frescos on day trip to Mantova.jpg
Palazzo Ducale Castle ceilings on day trip to Mantova.jpg

Making our way back to the Pallazo, we were now admitted and began to follow the numbered route. Each major stops had both an audio guide number and a QR code with information about that stop. We had decided not to take the audio guides as an online review noted that most of the talk was about the history rather than the artifacts in the room. Had we taken the guides I am sure we would have abandoned them halfway through when we couldn’t bear to go so slow and hear any more.

The frescos were quite amazing but we did wonder how many of them were genuine and old versus recreated. In some rooms they appeared to be quite complete, where in other rooms only small sections had been discovered. Many of the frescos provided strong almost 3-D images.

Palazzo Ducale frescos on day trip to Mantova.jpg
Palazzo Ducale frescos on day trip to Mantova.jpg

In one room you could see a line drawing which depicted what the fresco underneath should reveal. We assumed this would guide the restoration work.

Palazzo Ducale frescos on day trip to Mantova.jpg

Many of the rooms had great terrazzo floors.

Palazzo Ducale terrazzo floor on day trip to Mantova.jpg

Some of the rooms had large art displays. We wondered about the age, authenticity and value of the paintings when kept with no light or humidity protection (windows were wide open on this muggy day).

Palazzo Ducale art on day trip to Mantova.jpg
Palazzo Ducale art on day trip to Mantova.jpg

Ceilings were ornate, some fully painted and others more ornamental designs including some that looked like carved wood. Doorways and windows were equally adorned.

Palazzo Ducale ceilings on day trip to Mantova.jpg
Palazzo Ducale ceilings on day trip to Mantova.jpg
Palazzo Ducale ceilings on day trip to Mantova.jpg
Palazzo Ducale ceilings on day trip to Mantova.jpg

As with many Palazzos and art galleries and churches, after awhile it became too much and the second half got less attention to the detail. We were disappointed that a major section (the Mantegna frescos and the Camera degli Sposi probably) was closed ( 8 or so exhibits skipped). We dragged our butt out slowly and there was no thought of trying to take in yet the second stop (Pallazzo Te). That would have to wait for another trip.

We slowly made our way back to the train station to catch an earlier train back to Verona than we had originally planned. A short stop for water caused us to miss the current train by 2 minutes so we plopped down and waited the 50 minutes until the next train showed up. It was an equally fast train ride back and we easily found our bus stop for a quick trip to our local area for dinner.

It was worth the day trip into Mantova but plan to go for the whole day (with a rest in the middle) if you want to tackle more than just Palazzo Ducale. If you have to choose only one stop, most people told us we should have done Palazzo Te – so consider that in your planning. Wear good shoes – the cobblestone roads and the big palazzos demand it!

Have you done a day trip to Mantova?  Did you visit the Palazzo Ducale or Palazzo Te?  Did we really miss the prize?

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