Mantova, Lombardia, Italy
I have decided to drive the MIL and the kids to Mantova because I suspected that she was quite sick of staying at home sun-tanning between my garden and the pool at the golf club. I also felt bad that Hub kept cancelling all the trips that we had promised to bring her on because of work. Plus we've never been to Mantova, it's only an hour away by car and is reputed to be a lovely city. The poet Virgil was a citizen, we drove past his hometown on the way there.
Cultural centre in a palace
My greatest fear any time when I visit an unknown city is the parking. I parked in an open paid parking at Porta Cerese just outside the old city and I paid for 3 hours of parking upfront. Then we visited Mantova on foot. But I still managed to collect a 38-euro parking ticket because we were lost coming back a few hours later and I missed the parking warden by just 10 minutes...They really suck with their fines here in Italy.
Fishing at one of the artificial lakes
Otherwise it's a lovely city and we walked in a park along one of their 3 artificial lakes. The kids were fascinated by one of the young men fishing on its shores. We did a spot of shopping buying bling jewellery on sale for Baby Girl and the MIL (I usually do not wear fakes :-)) and we stopped for gelato in an excellent gelateria just opposite the 12th century San Lorenzo church - the oldest in Mantova.
Duomo (white building at the end)
The city has fascinating Baroque architecture in many of its palazzi and we enjoyed peeping into private courtyards and just walking around soaking up the medieval and Renaissance atmosphere of the old city. You see the name Gonzaga popping up almost everywhere and apparently that was the family that used to run the city.
Courtyard of some private palazzi
This palazzo has a 16th century tondo depicting a Madonna with Child
Everywhere they were selling this Torta Sbrisolona which is a huge crumbly cake/cookie that is a specialty of Mantova. It's made of corn meal, flour and almonds and looked so dry I wasn't even a little bit tempted to try it.
Piazza Erbe with Torre dell'Orologio and Rotonda di San Lorenzo
We took bus n°7 from the corso della Liberta back to our parking as we were lost and were a bit too far out to walk back. You can buy your ticket on a machine for 1.10 euros each - or pay an extra 2.20 euros if you do so onboard. The bus brought us past the hospital, many grand villas, Palazzo Te and the stadium - a nice way to finish the visit of the city. Though if I return without the kids, I would love to visit the interior of some of the palazzi and museums.
Ice cream at Venchi, piazza Erbe
For lunch we ate at a new Roadhouse Grill that has just opened up at the entrance of the "Modena Sud" highway. The food as usual was so-so, but the kids liked their buffalo wings from time to time. It took me 7km off my itinerary, but what wouldn't I do to please my kids, right?