Sabbioneta, Italy

Sabbioneta is a town and comune in the province of Mantua. Sabbioneta was founded by Vespasiano I Gonzaga in the late 16th century along the ancient Roman Via Vitelliana, on a sandy bank of the Po; he was its first duke, using it as a personal fortress and residence.

In 2008, Sabbioneta was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List as a recognition of its perfect example of practical application of Renaissance urban planning theories.


The Ducal Palace (now the Town Hall) was the first significant building to be built by Vespasiano Gonzaga in his ideal city. The ground floor has a beautiful portico covered with marble. The noble floor is enhanced by the so-called golden rooms, with the vault of gilded and painted wood.

The Teatro all'antica ('Theater in the style of the ancients') was the first free-standing, purpose-built theater in the modern world. It was constructed in 1588 and 1590 by the celebrated Vicentine architect Vincenzo Scamozzi. The Teatro all'antica is the second-oldest surviving indoor theater in the world and is one of only three Renaissance theaters still in existence.

Galleria degli Antichi and Palazzo del Giardino are adjacent, contemporaneous, Renaissance-style buildings. Prior to 1797, the buildings were connected to the Rocca or Castle of Sabbioneta (razed by Napoleon's forces during the Siege of Mantua), and the gallery once housed the Gonzaga collection of antique Roman statuary and hunting trophies. While the architectural design of the gallery is striking, the richness of the interior decoration of the palazzo is also dazzling.

Chiesa della Beata Vergine Incoronata church was erected in 1586-1588 at the site were a prior church dedicated to San Niccolò was located. It was commissioned by Vespasiano Gonzaga. The church has an octagonal layout, similar to the Bramantesque church of Santa Maria Incoronata in Lodi. The church has eight surrounding chapels, one with Vespasiano's funereal monument, were decorated mainly in the 18th century. The frescoes in the church were painted with quadratura in 1768 by a team led by Antonio Galli Bibiena.

Sabbioneta is also known for its historic Jewish Ghetto and Synagogue, and in particular for its Hebrew printing-press. In 1551 Tobias Foa set up the press; he had, however, published certain 'anti-Christian books' and his career was 'forcibly ended'. His work and possibly his type were taken up by a Christian printer, Vicenzo Conte.



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