The Palazzo Ducale di Mantova ('Ducal Palace') is a group of buildings in Mantua, built between the 14th and the 17th century mainly by the noble family of Gonzaga as their royal residence in the capital of their Duchy. The buildings are connected by corridors and galleries and are enriched by inner courts and wide gardens. The complex includes some 500 rooms and occupies an area of c. 34,000 m². Although most famous for Mantegna's frescos in the Camera degli Sposi (Wedding Room), they have many other very significant architectural and painted elements.

The Gonzaga family lived in the palace from 1328 to 1707, when the dynasty died out. The oldest structures, those located on Piazza Sordello square, were built between the 13th century and the 14th century by the Bonacorsi family, who dominated Mantua before being ruled out by the Gonzagas in 1328.

In the late 14th century, an imposing fortress, the Castle of Saint George, was built near the city’s lakefront. The castle was designed by military architect Bartolino da Novara as a defensive structure aimed at protecting the heart of the town, and subsequently converted into the main residence of the Gonzaga family.

In 1556, Guglielmo Gonzaga took the decision to merge those buildings into a single, grandiose architectural complex. Therefore, a number of late Renaissance-style courtyards, gardens, passages, porticoes, and new wings were built in the second half of the 16th century after designs by some of the most renowned architects and artists of the time, including Giulio Romano, Giovan Battista Bertani, and Antonio Maria Viani.

Subsequently, the buildings saw a sharp decline, which was halted in the 20th century with a continuing process of restoration and the designation of the area as museum. In 1998, a hidden room was discovered by Palace scholars. The room is thought to have been used for performances of Monteverdi's music in the late 16th century.

 

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Founded: 14th century
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Italy

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User Reviews

Andrey Novoselov (16 months ago)
An architectural masterpiece designed as a setting for the life of a cultured Renaissance court. Dominating the walled town of Urbino in the Marche region of Italy, Palazzo Ducale (“Ducal Palace”) was created to satisfy the social and cultural ambitions of Federico da Montefeltro (1422–1482), a minor aristocrat who had won fame and fortune as a mercenary general. Duke Federico aspired to make his court a renowned center of humanist learning and civilized manners. Courtly life. From 1465, Federico employed architect Luciano Laurana to rebuild and extend the existing castle at Urbino. Laurana created two slender towers, with a loggia (covered area) between them, providing fine views over the surrounding hills. Inside the building, a monumental stairway led from an arcaded courtyard to the upper stories. Federico’s devotion to Classical learning was evident in a magnificent library, an exquisite personal study (the studiolo), and a “temple of the muses” dedicated to the deities of ancient Rome. Succeeding Laurana after 1472, engineer Francesco di Giorgio Martini installed an innovative plumbing system that showed regular baths were a part of the Duke’s ideal of civilized living. The wit and elegance of the courtly life at Urbino were later celebrated by Baldassare Castiglione in his Book of the Courtier (1528). The palace now houses an outstanding collection of Renaissance art.
Francesco M (2 years ago)
The palace is Fantastic. I went on a Tuesday so it was very quiet and peaceful. A must see. I appreciate the attention to COVID-19 safety measures.
EMEL M (2 years ago)
The beautiful Palazzo Ducale is easily accessible as it is the heart of the city of Mantova. From the outside you can perceive it’s size, but once you’re visiting it on the inside you get to understand what a labyrinth it actually is. Is has a incredible amount of rooms, which almost all of them have been restored to their best state. Their ceilings are known to be one by one a masterpiece in themselves. It’s a real treat to the eye, a visit to this palace. This visit will take you some time though, as it is so large inside. Good to know is that tickets are free for architecture students, as long as you prove it.
John K (2 years ago)
Interesting, and large. There are some great works of art and many mediocre ones as they were just filling walk space in the giant castle. The descriptions were better than the average Italian museum, where they tend to be overly academic and long-winded.
Municipal Solutions (2 years ago)
Yes, the impact of COVID-19 is well understood, however taking full payment for entrance when significant portions are closed (and not telling people at the time of payment) is really poor form and highly unprofessional. Some of the attendees were wonderful, a couple were quite rude. The palace was pretty...we just didn't get to see what we paid for.
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Construction on the present building was begun in the 17th century by the architect Domenico Fontana. Intended to house the King Philip III of Spain on a visit never fulfilled to this part of his kingdom, instead it initially housed the Viceroy Fernando Ruiz de Castro, count of Lemos. By 1616, the facade had been completed, and by 1620, the interior was frescoed by Battistello Caracciolo, Giovanni Balducci, and Belisario Corenzio. The decoration of the Royal Chapel of Assumption was not completed until 1644 by Antonio Picchiatti.

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In 1922, it was decided to transfer here the contents of the National Library. The transfer of library collections was made by 1925.

The library suffered from bombing during World War II and the subsequent military occupation of the building caused serious damage. Today, the palace and adjacent grounds house the famous Teatro San Carlo, the smaller Teatrino di Corte (recently restored), the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III, a museum, and offices, including those of the regional tourist board.