Have you ever heard about Mantua? It could be your next favorite Italian destination and I am here to help you discover it. This travel guide for one day in Mantua will cover everything that you need to know about this city and help you plan your trip to Mantua.
Mantua, also known as Mantova, is a city surrounded by 3 artificial lakes in Lombardy, Northern Italy. It is very easy to reach Mantua from big cities like Milan, Verona, and Bologna and that’s already a good reason to visit Mantua – a true Italian gem rich with history, art, and culture. And surprisingly great food for every foodie out there.
Keep on reading to discover more reasons to visit Mantua, best food tips, detailed one-day itinerary for Mantua, hotel suggestions, and more things to know before visiting Mantua. This complete Mantua travel guide will cover every doubt that you might have before visiting.
*Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Is Mantua worth visiting?
I could give you dozens of reasons to spend one day in Mantua, but let’s talk about the important things. It has been named the Italian capital of culture and the European capital of gastronomy. Mantua was governed by the Gonzaga Family for approximately 400 years, and this is a European record. The family was one of the most influential in the Italian peninsula and created one of the most important courts of the Renaissance. Most of the main attractions in Mantua can be related one way or another to this family.
Mantua is also a city for music lovers. The violinist Antonio Vivaldi wrote his most popular composition “The Four Seasons” during his Mantua travel. The famous composer Giuseppe Verdi staged Rigoletto in Mantua and it was one of his most famous masterpieces. You can still visit the House of Rigoletto in the center of Mantua. At the age of 14 young Mozart lead his first opera in the Teatro Bibiena. He also defined the theater as the most beautiful in the world due to its acoustic.
Then there are many historical palaces, important museums, and other fun things to do in Mantua. If you are still not convinced, continue reading and you will discover the best things to do and more reasons to visit Mantua.
Where to eat in Mantua?
Mantua food is a paradise for meat lovers, but you can find a lot of vegetarian options including pumpkin Ravioli, fried gnocchi, pumpkin gnocchi, mustard with apples, and the famous polenta. The first dishes include Agnolini in broth and stuffed with meat, the Pilot Risotto with sausage and butter, the risotto with frogs, and the one with shrimps. The second dishes include the famous braising, usually with donkey or beef, served with polenta, the frog frittata, the Northern pike in sauce, and the roasted helmeted guineafowl, the pike sauce of sweet and sour vegetable.
Locally produced cold cuts are real excellence of the city’s cuisine. For example, the famous culatello and salami are a reason to visit Mantua.
Then there are sweets like Torta Sbrisolona or the Elvezia cake. These are well known all across the country. The Anello del Monaco is also a specialty introduced by Swiss pastry chefs.
So where to eat in Mantua? For fine dining and romantic experience locals recommend: Il Cigno • Trattoria dei Martini, Ristorante Grifone Bianco, Il Rigoletto. For delicious home-cooked meals and affordable prices, locals recommend Osteria dell’Oca, Osteria delle Quattro Tette, and Osteria Piazza Sordello 26. You will find some of these places in the itinerary below, but feel free to alternate to match your own taste.
If you are passionate about food, I can recommend this street food tour and you can see all the details here.
One day in Mantua: your best itinerary for 24 hours in Mantua
Overview of your one day itinerary for Mantua: Bignè d’Oro, Teatro Sociale, Via Massari, Piazza Delle Erbe, Palazzo della Regione, the Basilica Della Rotonda, Basilica di Sant’Andrea, Palazzo del Podestà, Bar Pasticceria Caravati, Palazzo Ducale, Ristorante Grifone Bianco, Palazzo Te, Ponte di San Giorgio, restaurant Rigoletto.
Your one-day itinerary for Mantua starts with a treat at the Bignè d’Oro. If your hotel doesn’t offer breakfast, I highly recommend this famous pastry house in Mantua. The coffee and cappuccino are worth a mention as well.
From there you can walk to the Via Massari through the Teatro Sociale, where you can have a view of the picturesque canal. This is one of the best photo spots in Mantua, so don’t forget to capture it. Just a few steps away from the canal, walk to the Piazza Delle Erbe which is the heart and soul of the city. Every Mantua travel guide will mention this square as here you will find some of the main attractions in Mantua, shops, and some of the best restaurants in Mantua.
In the square stop to admire the clock tower of the Palazzo della Regione, the Basilica Della Rotonda, and the Basilica di Sant’Andrea. The Palazzo del Podestà is another jewel that dates back to the 13th century and was then renovated in the 15th.
Before going to the next stop take a break in the awarded Bar Pasticceria Caravati, You can never have too much coffee when you are in Italy. The bar welcomes its guests with their produced pastries in the mornings and prepares excellent aperitif in the evening. Here you will find some locally produced wines and a signature spirit if you want to come back later.
The famous Palazzo Ducale lies behind the Piazza delle Erbe. The visit takes around 2 hours, so you can use it as your next stop or have lunch before visiting.
As you already know, Piazza delle Erbe hosts some of the best restaurants in Mantua. So it’s perfect for your lunch. Mantua has been named the gastronomic Capital of Italy in the past and the Ristorante Grifone Bianco has kept this reputation for more than 50 years. The restaurant has tables directly on the square and this is one of your top choices of where to eat in Mantua. Don’t miss the most famous dishes of Mantua cuisine.
If you didn’t have time to visit Ducale Palace before lunch, now it’s time to discover it. Visiting Ducale Palace is one of the best things to do in Mantua and you can’t miss it.
This palace is a part of a group of buildings and it has been the official residence of the Gonzaga family starting from the 14th Century. The complex includes around 500 wonderful rooms, seven gardens, and eight courtyards. It occupies an area of 34,000 m2, which makes it the sixth largest palace in Europe. It also hosts one of the best collections of paintings in Italy.
The famous bridal chamber is probably the most beautiful room inside the palace together with its frescoed illusionistic paintings by Andrea Mantegna. It’s considered one of the masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.
The admission fee is 15 euros, however, there are multiple discounted tickets. For example, with the Mantua card. The palace is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9.15 am to 7.15 pm and the last entrance is at 6.20 pm. If you want to buy your tickets online, you can do it here.
Get ready for another surprise and head to Palazzo Te. It is one of the most extraordinary palaces in Italy and one of the top things to do in Mantua. One day in Mantua guide couldn’t be complete without visiting Palazzo Te.
Palazzo Te is a Renaissance villa located in the suburbs of Mantova and it was built by the Gonzaga family. it’s a fantastic example of architecture and it holds a lot of secrets to unlock.
The Giant hall is considered one of the main attractions of the city according to every Mantua travel guide and they didn’t lie about that. Every single detail of the paintings will surprise and overwhelm you. In a good way, of course.
The Horses hall is another room worth mentioning. Originally designed as a ballroom, it surprises the visitors with realistic paintings of horses and Greek columns. Chamber of the Giants was my personal highlight, but there are more rooms to discover. And let’s not forget about the gardens where you can admire the architecture of the palace itself.
The admission fee is 15 euros and it will also allow you to visit the palace and the temple of San Sebastiano. The palace is open from Tuesday to Sunday 9 am – 7 pm and on Mondays from 1 pm to 7 pm. Keep in mind that during the winter and autumn it closes at 6 pm.
One day in Mantua couldn’t be complete without a sunset view of the city from the Ponte di San Giorgio. Here you will see the old town reflecting in the water when the sun goes down. It’s one of the best free things to do in Mantua and the best place to end your day here.
PRO TIP! If you are a photographer, grab a zoom lens and a tripod to shoot an epic sunset photo of Mantua. If you are going in summer, please consider taking with you a mosquito repellent as the place is home to thousands of mosquitos.
A few steps away from this viewpoint you will find the restaurant Rigoletto. It’s there to spoil you with some traditional dishes that you can’t miss during your trip to Mantua. The Rigoletto is well known to offer old traditional dishes with a personal modern touch. The plating is also part of their extraordinary work and passion and it makes it very romantic. The beef cheek with grilled vegetables and cheese, and Brasato al vino are probably their most popular dishes.
Where to stay in Mantua?
I know that a lot of tourists make a day trip to Mantua, but I highly recommend spending a night here. And if you trust my judgment, you will need to find the best place where to stay in Mantua. The best area is certainly the old town as most of the gems of Mantua are concentrated there.
Our choice was Scaravelli Residenza and we couldn’t recommend it enough. The hotel overlooks Piazza delle Erbe and the suites have a fantastic view of the clock tower. Each room is delightfully decorated and has air conditioning, a coffee machine, and other essential amenities. The residence offers the possibility to self-check in late, with no additional cost after the reception closes. And if you are coming to Mantua by car, the hotel will help you to find parking.
Every day you will have the chance to taste a superb breakfast delivered directly to your room. The residence only uses local and fresh products, so you could have a fantastic breakfast with a view. I’m obsessed with beautiful views, so this was my highlight of this accommodation.
More things to know before visiting Mantua
There is a direct train from other big Italian cities like Milan, Verona or Bologna. From other places, you will need to combine trains or use the car. If you are traveling by car, you should certainly add Mantua to your road trip as it’s going to be on your way at some point anyway.
If you are planning to follow this itinerary, you will be able to walk most of the time as it is planned in a convenient way. Only Palazzo Te is located further away, so you can use public transport or a taxi to get there. If you choose to walk, it will take you less than 30 minutes from the old town to Palazzo Te.
When it comes to weather, Italy has similar temperatures all around the Northern part. Winters can feel cold and summers can get hot, so spring and fall is a perfect times to visit Mantua. But summer in Mantua can be enjoyable as well.
For those who love shopping, there is Mantova Outlet Village and it is one of the most visited outlets in the North of Italy. A few kilometers away you can find picturesque towns like Valeggio Sul Mincio or Sabbioneta if you are planning to explore further.
Resources for your trip to Mantua
- Mid-range hotel in Mantua: Scaravelli Residenza
- Street Dood Tour: book it here
- Ducale Palace entrance tickets: buy here
- 2-Hour Guided Walking Tour: book here
- 3-Hour Mantua Segway PT Authorized Tour: book here
I believe I have convinced you to visit Mantua and this guide will help you make the most of your one day in Mantua. You will cover all the essential attractions, taste some local food and have fun as you enjoy the best things to do in Mantua.
If you are planning to travel more around Italy, make sure you read my other travel guides here.
I would love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback or additional tips, leave a comment below. Also, check out my Instagram for regular travel videos and travel inspiration. Or explore other destinations on this travel blog.