Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

The Palazzo Te, Mantua

From the TMO Mantua City Guide

Mantua’s Palazzo Te is one of the must-see sights in this beautiful city. A large sprawling palace, the summer residence of the Gonzaga family, the Palazzo Te is just a short walk from Mantua’s centro storico, and is filled with exquisite art, as well as temporary exhibitions. It’s worth taking a guided tour, or simply wandering around the amazing grounds.

The Palazzo Te (or Palazzo del Te as many English speakers refer to it – something very few Italians would do), was built between 1522 and 1534, by the Italian painter and architect Giulio Romano. It was built for Federico II Gonzaga, the Marquess of Mantua, as a summer residence just outside the cities walls on the site of the family’s stables, and one of the highlights of a tour to the Palazzo is seeing the magnificent murals in the Hall of Horses (Sala dei Cavalli).

Palazzo Te – Practical Information

Getting there: Palazzo Te is found on Viale Te, beside the Stadium Danilo Martelli where there is the possibility of parking (ex piazzale Montelungo). It’s also a short walk from the city centre (roughly 20 minutes, on foot, from Piazza Sordello). There are also buses from the train station.

Tickets and opening hours: Palazoo Te is open throughout the year. On Mondays it opens after lunch, while for the rest of the week (including Sundays) it opens at 9.00am. It closes at 18.30 during the winter, and 19.30 during the summer months. The ticket office is open up to an hour before closing time.

Tickets to enter Palazzo Te and its museum currently cost €12.00 per person, with a reduced rate of €8.00 available for group visitors and the over-65s. Children between the ages of 12 and 18 can avail of a special rate of €4.00 while children under 12 are admitted free of charge.

Highlights of a visit to Palazzo Te

Just strolling around Palazzo Te is a pleasure in itself, but here are some of the things to keep a particular eye out for:

The Hall of Horses

The Gonzaga family were famed for their stables, and so it’s little wonder that they gave a horse-theme to one of the most important rooms in the palace. The Sala dei Cavalli was used as a reception room and for important ceremonies and functions, and has huge equine frescos (of some of the Gonzaga’s actual favourite horses – some include the animal’s names). Also worth checking out in this room are the scenes depicting the labours of Hercules.

The Chamber of the Giants

The Chamber of the Giants, one of Palazzo Te’s most spectacular rooms, is decorated with frescoes depicting the fall of the giants recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Giulio Romano made the scenes all the more spectacular by concealing the cuts between the horizontal and vertical levels by smoothing the corners between walls, and those between the walls and the ceiling and creating a floor, which no longer exists, sadly,, made up of a mosaic of painted river pebbles, at the bottom of the walls (this part has been remade by eighteenth-century restorations). The overall effect is to catapult the visitor into the heart of this mythological scene.

The Secret Garden and appartments

Palazzo Te was designed at the outset as a venue to entertain, with many of the magnificently decorated halls pleasing the eye with tricks and visual effects. At the end of the long gardens hidden in a corner is a secret garden, added later on. The Grotto, with its opening built with real rocks, was commissioned by Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga at the beginning of the 1590s, and was completed in the early 1600s by his son Duke Ferdinando.