History of Mantova


See guide for highlights and historic monuments

The origins of Mantua (Mantova) date back to 1000 BC when it was founded by the Etruscans. It was later occupied by the Gauls and Romans and it is here in Pietole Mantovano that Virgil, one of the greatest Latin poets, was born.

We have little information about the Early Middle Ages: in 603 A.D. Mantua was attacked by Agilulf, and in the 8th century, under the reign of Charles the Great, it became an earldom.

One of the most famous and powerful feudal families of Mantua was the Canossa, who ruled from 977 to 1115 - the most distinguished representative of the dynasty of the Canossa was Matilda (1046-1115).

After the defeat of the Countess Matilda of Canossa at the battle of Rivalta in the 12th century Mantua became a municipality. In the following centuries Mantua continued to extend its territorial boundaries, but the city was always troubled by struggles among the great noble families, until the 13th century when the city transformed itself under the government of Pinamonte Bonacolsi.

Later the Bonacolsi were themselves ousted by the Gonzaga, a distinguished dynasty that ruled Mantua until the early 18th century. It was under the Gonzogas that the town became an important cultural and artistic centre during the Renaissance period.

After the fall of the Gonzaga in 1708 Mantua became a domain of the Habsburg dynasty, who administered it until the advent of Napoleon, who, in 1797, absorbed it in the so-called Cisalpina Italy.

With the end of the Napoleonic Empire, Mantua returned to the Austrians and after the struggles of the Risorgimento (Independence movement), in 1866 it became part of the Kingdom of Italy.