Why Mantova should be added to your travel list
Discover Mantova: one day is all you’ll need to fall in love with the food, the people and the amazing architecture.
A hidden gem in Lombardy, Italy, known for its beauty, rich food scene, and history. Despite being a compact city with only 48,000 inhabitants, Mantova's achingly picturesque historic center has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008. It was also named the Capital of Culture in Italy in 2016 and the European Capital of Gastronomy in 2017. One day is enough to fall in love with the city's food, people, architecture, and its sheer Italian-ness.
Where to eat, our picks:
Trattoria Cento Rampini
Don't leave Mantova without indulging in the city's most famous dish: tortelli di zucca. Pumpkins and squashes are a staple of the Emilia-Romagna region, and Mantova's recipe combines pumpkin, mustard, and amaretto to create a sweet and tangy flavor that's unique to the city. For the best tortelli in town, head to Trattoria Cento Rampini, situated in the lively Piazza delle Erbe. Don't forget to pair your meal with a glass of local Trebbiano white wine.
Bodo and I enjoyed an amazing lunch here. Tiratappi is a cozy and chique family-run restaurant located in the heart of the city. The menu features a range of traditional Mantuan dishes, all made from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. From savory pasta dishes to succulent meat and fish, I especially enjoyed my 'souffle di zucca e ricotta' which I had as a starter.
Antica Osteria Leoncino Rosso
Later that night we had dinner at the local's favorite Osteria. It's easy to understand why Antica Osteria Leoncino Rosso is one of Mantova's most highly recommended restaurants. Visting this traditional osteria is like timetraveling and it is the perfect place to experience the city's rich cuisine. Begin with a plate of affettati misti to sample Mantova's famous salamis. Then, savor the freshly caught luccio in salsa, a freshwater fish served in a delectable caper and vegetable sauce and definitely do not forget to order one of their homemade desserts.
Antica Osteria Ai Ranari
A find from the slow food app, but one we unfortunately could not visit as it was fully booked. Probably a good sign! Since the Slow Food app has never let me down so far, I dare to publish it here. Seems like a cosy, traditional Italian restaurant with a good local cuisine. I will definitely try to get a table here.
What else to do?
Visit Palazzo Te
One of our favorite places in Mantova was the majestic Palazzo Te. This Renaissance palace boasts impressive frescoes, ornate rooms, and beautifully landscaped gardens that left us in awe. We spent hours exploring its many halls, admiring the art and architecture that surrounded us.
Visiting old bookstores
Heading back towards the city center from the river, you’ll follow either Via Roma or Corso Umberto I. If small independent boutiques and traditional botteghe are what you’re looking for, then these parallel cobblestone roads should be your next port of call. Elegant stone portici cover the neat rows of shops, interspersed with quaint cafés and bars. Perfect for that inevitable caffeine craving. Bookworms should certainly pay a visit to Libraccio, a beloved Italian chain of used bookstores that can be found on Via Giuseppe Verdi.
Make Sure to Indulge in Gelato at Gelateria Loggetta
No visit to Italy is complete without a taste of the nation's beloved gelato, and Gelateria Loggetta in Mantova is a must-visit spot to satisfy your sweet tooth. Run by husband-and-wife team Cesare and Agnese, this ice cream parlor has been delighting locals and visitors alike since its establishment in 2013. Loggetta is renowned throughout Italy for its delectable, artisanal gelato, which is handmade on-site using seasonal ingredients to ensure maximum freshness and flavor. With 24 flavors on offer, including the award-winning fior di latte and inventive options such as panna cotta with caramelized figs, you won't be disappointed.
A stroll around the rive and a sunset cocktail at Papa cafe
Mantova’s distinctive river, which wraps around the ancient walls of the city, is a true gem. Originally expanded in the 12th century to protect the city, the Mincio River now forms three artificial lakes, known as the upper, middle, and lower lakes, before flowing into the River Po to the south. Today, the river is bordered by beautifully maintained gardens, each with a gravel path that runs alongside the water. For runners, this is a must-visit spot, especially for an evening jog along one of the most scenic routes in the area.
To begin your stroll, head to Giardini Marani and follow the river below St. George’s Bridge until you reach Giardini Fraccalini. There’s no better way to celebrate a beautiful sunset than with a cocktail at Papa’s Café, which opens each summer on the riverbanks. With views of the glistening Lago di Mezzo or the elegant Palazzo Ducale towers, the scenery will leave you in awe, as will the delicious cocktail.
Where to sleep?
Who doesn't dream of living in an Art Gallery, especially a 500-year-old Palazzo? Of course there is only one place to sleep and that is our beautiful Palazzo Beccaguti Cavriani. Palazzo Beccaguti Cavriani was built at the end of the 15th century by Alessio Beccaguti, a very successful military commander and civil engineer. At that time, Mantua was ruled by Francesco II Gonzaga, a time when Italy was as prosperous in the arts as it was politically divided.
At the beginning of the 2000s Palazzo Beccaguti Cavriani was completely renovated by the current owners, Architect Massimo Ghisi and his wife Vanna Bernardelli. They have transformed this ancient palazzo into a home, architecture studio Disegno, and art gallery. They personally took care of the renovation and design, down to the very last detail. The quality is truly outstanding. The aim of the design of the Palazzo is to live in direct contact with the artworks and with as little furniture as possible. Staying here is a profoundly unique experience! Once or twice a year they open their private art collection to the public, making the Palazzo an inspiring and constantly changing meeting place for artists and art lovers.