- Learn of Mantua’s Renaissance heyday under the influential Gonzaga Dynasty whilst visiting the Camera degli Sposi, the beautiful painted chamber inside Mantua’s Ducal Palace
- Hear a Stradivarius violin recital in Cremona’s medieval Palazzo Comunale and discover the Renaissance jewel of Sabbioneta town
- Create traditional dishes in a cookery class, visit the local market, lunch at Michelin-starred restaurant Aquila Nigra and dine privately at the sumptuous Venetian Villa Sigurtà
London / Verona / Mantua
Depart London Gatwick on a British Airways morning flight to Verona Airport.
Lunch under own arrangements at London Gatwick Airport. On arrival transfer by coach to Mantua. Check into the simple and comfortable four-star hotel Casa Poli where four nights are spent. The hotel is within walking distance of the chief sights at the heart of Mantua. Introductory lecture by Sir Roy Strong and evening drinks.
Walk to dinner in a nearby contemporary restaurant.
Today explore Mantua on foot; first study Alberti’s church of Sant’Andrea and see the Rotonda di San Lorenzo. Continue to the Palazzo Ducale, which reveals a city within a city, with older palaces, churches and chapels, courtyards and gardens. The splendour of an earlier age is evoked by the frescoes of Pisanello, first Court Painter to the Gonzaga; the apartments of Isabella d’Este and the Camera degli Sposi, Mantegna’s masterful group portrait, in which members of the family are brought to life.
Lunch at a nearby restaurant. This afternoon visit the delightful Teatro Scientifico by Bibiena, where the young Mozart performed.
Leave by coach to dine privately at the fine Palladian-inspired Villa Sigurtà near Valeggio sul Mincio, where we will be hosted by a member of the Sigurtà family.
This morning drive to Cremona, the world capital of violin making, to admire the craftsmanship of the Cathedral and the Baptistery. Continue to the recently opened Violin Museum and attend a violin recital. Lunch at restaurant Il Violino. Return to Mantua and, in a 14th century palazzo adorned with frescos, take part in a cooking lesson in traditional Mantuan cuisine.
Spend the afternoon learning how to make Tortelli di zucca from local chef Elisabetta Arcari. Dinner at the cooking school.
Leave the hotel on foot to visit the lively local farmer’s market. Continue to the boldly-designed Palazzo Té, conceived by Giulio Romano as a summer palace for the Gonzagas and inspired by the design of a rural Roman villa. Visit Alberti’s San Sebastiano which, inspired by ancient Rome, became an important Renaissance prototype. Time permitting visit Mantegna’s House, before driving to Villa Pasquali to visit Bibiena’s Church.
Lunch at a restaurant in Colorno. This afternoon explore the exquisite small-scale city of Sabbioneta, built by Vespasiano Gonzaga as an ideal fortified town, with a theatre by Scamozzi. Return to Mantua for the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Farewell dinner at Ristorante Aquila Nigra (subject to confirmation).
Mantua / Verona / London
This morning leave Mantua by coach for Verona Airport for a British Airways flight to London Gatwick arriving early afternoon.