Tag Archives: italian tourism

The Founding of Mantova

Sant'Andrea

Sant'Andrea, Mantova

The myth of the founding of Mantova is part of the rich tapestry of Graeco-Roman mythology. It begins with the story of the prophetess Manto, daughter of the Theban seer Tiresias. Greek sources tell that Manto, escaping from Thebes, arrived, after many wanderings, in the territory of today’s city, which was then a swamp. In this place she created a lake with her tears; according to legend these waters had the magical property of conferring prophetic powers to anyone who drank of them. Eventually Manto met and married the river god Tybris (Tiber), king of the Tuscans, and their offspring Ocno eventually founded a city on the shores of the Mincio river, naming it Mantova in honor of his mother.

This version of the founding myth is reported in Virgil’s Aeneid. A competing version tells that the city of Mantova gets its name from Manth, the Etruscan god of the dead in the Thyrrenian pantheon. Virgil’s version of the myth is also found in the Divine Comedy, in Canto XX of the Inferno, in which Dante himself and his Mantuan guide, Virgil, encounter the seers. Pointing out one of these souls Virgil describes the Mantuan countryside, the Lake of Garda, and the course of the Mincio, which flows into the Po at Governolo, and then asserts, with reference to the legend of Manto:

“Fer la citta’ sovra quell’ossa morte;
e per colei che ‘l loco prima elesse,
Mantua l’appellar senz’altra sorte”


“The city was built over those dead bones;
and for she who first chose the place,
Mantua it was named with no other choice”

Palazzuolo and Bertinoro

PALAZZUOLO
An enchanting borgo in the green heart of Italy, where Romagna becomes Tuscany, Palazzuolo sul Senio is a place in which to rediscover a life in contact with nature, a oasis in the midst of gently sloping mountains, far from traffic pollution and from the frenetic rhythms of city life. At Palazzuolo one can visit valleys large and small, uninhabited casolari, ruins of ancient castles and historic hamlets bathed in an atmosphere that whispers of a glorious past.

ACTIVITIES
The beautiful landscape abounds with hiking and horse trails. A leisurely walk through the borgo is an ideal way to spend a couple of hours and soak in the air of the “little Switzerland of the Appenine”. Summer evenings are animated with charming markets, musical events, culinary exhibitions and important cultural activities. In 1991 Palazzuolo won the designation of “Villaggio Ideale d’Italia”, awarded by the magazine Airone and by the CEE.

BERTINORO
Another captivating hamlet in the hills of Romagna is Bertinoro, the “land of Ruby and Gold”. A little town with an illustrious history dating back to the 4th century, it boasts a fortress in which famous guests resided for various amounts of time, including Dante, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, Cardinal Albornoz, and others. The name itself comes from the Italian verb “bere” (to drink) and the noun “oro” (gold), and it means “drinking from a golden goblet”. The Fortress still offers hospitality in 21 rooms, as does also an ancient seminary not far from the town center.

ACTIVITIES
Bertinoro is in the midst of olive oil and wine country, so a stop at some tasting establishment hidden away in the countryside is a must. Once in the village itself, a terraced restaurant offers breathtaking views of the rolling hills with manicured rows of vines and fruit trees. Across the narrow street another restaurant provides top notch typical Romagnole fare. A low-cost alternative is the neighbouring fresh pasta shop, where you can not only buy various kinds of pasta to take home, but ask them to cook you a plate right then and there and serve it to you with their excellent Bolognese ragu’.

Little Known Italy – BOLOGNA

Le Torri di Bologna

Le Due Torri

Bologna is without a doubt one of the most underrated cities in Italy. The capital of Emilia-Romagna, it is a city of about 1/3 million people, with ancient roots in pre-Roman Etruscan culture, a rich artistic heritage, a well-preserved historical center, and a coherent integration of the best that Italy has to offer in art, cuisine, architecture, and lifestyle. With a long tradition as a university city, probably the first in Europe, it is enlivened by the cultural and social contributions of young people who come from all over the world to study there. It is famous for its towers, its portici, and its centro storico, among the best-kept in Italy following a careful policy of preservation and restauration. Bologna has long enjoyed one of the most efficient and dedicated city administrations in all of Italy, and this is reflected in the efficiency of its services, the care with which the physical environment is maintained, and the smooth functioning of its civic institutions.

The relative obscurity of the city (compared to Florence and Venice, say), is perhaps due to the lack of an overarching artistic or architectural masterpiece to serve as a magnet for the attention of tourists and art aficionados, such as the David in Florence or the Sistine Chapel in Rome. And in fact the artistic importance of Bologna is due primarily to an homogeneous aggregation of first-class architectural and artistic masterpieces out of which it would be difficult to single out a distinct work for special recognition.

Little-known Italy – RAVENNA

Coat of Arms of the City of Ravenna

Coat of Arms of Ravenna

A few miles south of Venice, in Emilia Romagna, the enterprising traveler will find the city of Ravenna. This city is easily bypassed, it is not on most tourist itineraries nor does it generally host internationally advertised events such La Biennale di Venezia or La Fiera di Milano. It is nevertheless a city of capital importance both artistically and historically. And it offers a glimpse of that urbanely unhurried Italian lifestyle that most people seek when they visit the country.

The beginnings of Ravenna are uncertain, though scholarly opinion inclines towards an Etruscan origin. The city was never conquered by the Romans, rather, it was accepted into the Republic as a federated town. Ravenna was an important outpost during the period of ascendancy of the Western Empire, becoming its capital in its twilight, just before the Empire’s fall to the German foederati chieftain, Odoacer. It was then the capital of the first Kingdom of Italy, and continued in this role after Theodoric slew Odoacer and took over his kingdom. Retaken eventually by the Byzantines, Ravenna became the seat of Byzantine power in Italy (the Exarchate of Ravenna), until the Byzantines’ final expulsion by the Longobards. Ravenna’s distinguished history continued under the popes, until its unification with the newly-minted Kingdom of Italy in 1861.