Published On: Mon, Jun 24th, 2013

Top Holiday Tips: Mantua

Marina Spironetti picks a selection of the best activities and events to get involved with during a stay in Mantua…

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MANTUA JAZZ FESTIVAL

Indulge in listening to world-class musicians in the historical setting of Mantua. This year the festival ran in April, but it can vary over the springtime months so check www.mantovajazz.it for the exact details for 2014. Lots of events sprawl across the city, making it an especially vibrant time to visit.

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CYCLING

One of the best ways to explore the number of beautiful villages in the surrounding area is to hire a bike and make use of the network of cycle paths that stretch as far as Lake Garda, over 43km to the north. Of course such distances are not for the faint-hearted and shorter rides can be enjoyed around Mantua’s lakes or along its river banks.

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THE LITERARY FESTIVAL

Every year, at the beginning of September, writers and readers gather in Mantua for the prestigious Festivaletteratura. Published authors from all over the world come to take part in readings, book signings and author discussions. See www.festivaletteratura.it for information and tickets.

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WATERSPORTS ON THE LAKE

Mantua is surrounded by three lakes making it a haven for watersport enthusiasts. There are many places to rent canoes and kayaks if you want to get active, or if you prefer to relax while you explore the lakes you can hop on one of the serene boat cruises that run all year round.

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WHAT TO SEE & DO

La Ducale Cafe

Via Pietro Fortunato Calvi 25

+39 0376 150 4122

www.laducalecafe.com

A lovely Liberty-style café, which should not be missed. Over the years, they have specialised in a range of flavoured coffees. Their delicious caffé al pepe (pepper coffee) is definitely the best espresso I have had in years. Alternatively, try the one with cardamom or the caffé al peperoncino, flavoured with chilli peppers.

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Saturday Morning Farmers’ Market

Lungorio IV Novembre

If you are a foodie, plan your Saturday morning around this weekly market. It sells everything from organic fruit to fresh-hunted game, aged Parmesan and local wine, including local Lambrusco – pleasantly low in alcohol but fruity and frizzante. Open from 8am to 1pm.

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Unesco Bus Line Mantua-Sabbioneta

+39 0376 230 339

www.mantovasabbioneta-unesco.it

A brand-new bus service which links Mantua to the nearby world-famous UNESCO site of Sabbioneta (journey time around 45 minutes) is up and running. On board there is also a guide to help you plan your visit. Booking ahead is advised. Running at weekends and public holidays until 30 June and then again from 7 September to 27 October.

Single ticket €5, return €8.

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Mantua Cathedral

Via Fratelli Cairoli
Soak up the grandiose architecture of the city’s cathedral, with its Gothic façade and Baroque-style interior.

Entrance is free.

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Bike Tour to Sabbioneta

If you visit in spring or autumn, make the most of the Ciclovia Unesco, a 47km-long bike track linking Mantua to Sabbioneta. Along the way you will come across several small towns such as Buscoldo with its late-Baroque church and Commessaggio with its imposing Torrazzo. The tourist board organises group excursions for a minimum of four participants.

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Palazzo Ducale

www.mantovaducale.beniculturali.it

One of the most impressive pieces of architecture in the city, the Palazzo Ducale was once the largest palace in Europe. In its heyday it was home to a staggering population of over a thousand people. Now it serves as a museum with a total of 37 rooms open to visitors. Entrance to the Camera degli Sposi is limited to 1,500 people a day for conservation reasons, so you may have to book ahead to avoid disappointment when you visit.

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WHERE TO STAY

HOTEL BROLETTO

Via Accademia 1

+39 0376 326 784

www.hotelbroletto.it

A stone’s throw from Piazza Sordello, this small hotel provides the perfect location for your stay in Mantua. The renovated rooms are decorated in a simple modern style and have free wifi. Half-board is also available.
Double room from €72

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PALAZZO CASTIGLIONI

Piazza Sordello 12

+39 0376 367 032

www.palazzocastiglionimantova.com

If you don’t want to settle for anything less than the best, Palazzo Castiglioni is the answer. Originally the home of the Bonacolsi family, the first rulers of the city, this 14th-century palazzo later became the residence of the descendant of Baldesar Castilgione, one of the iconic authors of the Italian Renaissance. One double room and four luxurious suites – each individually furnished. Internet connection and mini-bar included in the price. For a real treat, book the super deluxe Torre suite, on top of a 14th-century tower: four poster bed and frescoes, plus a terrace with city views.
Double room from €120/Suites €220

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VILLA DEI TIGLI

Via Cantarana 20, Rodigo

+39 0376 650 691

www.hotelvilladeitigli.it

Just 15km away from the city, this is the perfect choice to treat yourself: a stylish Liberty villa surrounded by a beautiful park. The recently renewed spa offers anything you need for a truly pampering experience.
Double room from €89

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HOTEL ITALIA

Piazza Cavallotti 8

+39 0376 322 609

www.hotelitaliamantova.com

Conveniently located halfway between Palazzo Ducale and Palazzo Te, this family-run hotel is great to explore the historic sites of Mantua. Some rooms are on the smallish side but the friendliness of the staff and the better-than-standard breakfast will make up for it.
Double room from €85

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AL DUCA

Via della Stamperia 18, Sabbioneta

+39 037 552 474

www.albergoalduca.com

Basically the only choice for those wishing to overnight in Sabbioneta. Still, this family-run hotel offers clean, comfortable rooms, friendly service and abundant breakfast. There is also a restaurant where you can sample the tasty local cuisine.
Double room from €60

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WHERE TO EAT

OSTERIA DA PIETRO

Via Chiassi 19, Castiglione delle Stiviere

+39 0376 673 718

www.osteriadapietro.it

This Michelin-starred restaurant in the town of Castiglione delle Stiviere, a few kilometres away from Mantua, is perfect for those who seek a unique foodie experience. The setting is spot on for a romantic dinner, under the vaults of an enchanting 15th-century palazzo. Fabiana and Pietro will help you discover the flavours of the cucina mantovana, from the mouth-watering malfatti pasta to snails and delicious fresh water fish such as luccio (pike).
Price range 26-50

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DAL PESCATORE

Località Runate 15, Canneto sull’Oglio

+39 0376 723 001

www.dalpescatore.com

This three-starred Michelin restaurant means true culinary excellence and it’s one of Italy’s best. This exquisite restaurant is hidden in the natural reserve of the Oglio Sud park, and it is easy to reach if you fly into Verona. The cuisine is overseen by Nadia and Giovanni Santini, and features both classic and avant-garde dishes.
Price range more than 50

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AQUILA NIGRA

Vicolo Bonacolsi 4

+39 0376 327 180

www.aquilanigra.it

Housed in a 13th-century palazzo, it serves elegantly prepared regional dishes. Wide choice of seafood and meat, with the menu changing seasonally but the traditional recipes of the local cuisine staying ever present. Excellent selection of wines.
Price range more than 50

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MASSERIA

Piazza Broletto 8

+39 0376 365 303

www.ristorantemasseria.it

Dine surrounded by ancient frescoes inside the Palazzo del Podestà, one of Mantua’s most beautiful palaces. Try traditional dishes such as the famous tortelli di zucca, the Mantua-style risotto alla pilota with the typical salamella sausage and the delicious Sbrisolona cake.
Price range 26-50

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TRATTORIA QUATTROTETTE

Vicolo Nazione 4

+39 0376 329 478

The most bizarre thing about this place is its name, which literally translates into ‘four tits’. Away from the tourist areas, this is a favourite with locals and you can easily understand why: simple, tasty food in an informal atmosphere, all for a good price.
Price range up to €25

 

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