The fortified city
You can find Sabbioneta the ideal city of the Renaissance on the banks of the River Po, in the province of Mantua. The construction of this fortified city was the result of a dream of Vespasiano Gonzaga (1531-1591). Vespasiano was a prince of the Holy Roman Empire, and he supervised its construction for 35 years, from 1556 until his death, which occurred in Sabbioneta, in 1591, employing hundreds of artists and artisans.
Commander, Duke and general, Vespasian was considered the most excellent artillery expert of his times, and for this reason, he built his city with strong walls and in the shape of a star. He was one of the most skilled general and friend of the King of Spain, Philip II. Since 2008, Sabbioneta has been included among the UNESCO sites; therefore, a place declared “of exceptional universal value” and World Heritage Site.
Today Sabbioneta is a small village, with just 4,000 inhabitants. But for a short period, it was the capital of a small Duchy, with its own laws and the right to mint coins.
There are many attractions within the walls of this gem of a city. A visitor could walk around in half an hour. We find there the Garden Palace; the Gallery of the Ancients; the Ducal Palace and a small theater that was the first Court theatre and not public.
We can find four famous equestrian statues in full scale, among which we can recognize one representing Vespasiano Gonzaga in person. Sabbioneta is undoubtedly the result of a design by Vespasian, who wanted to build his private Rome. He called to his Court Mario Nizolio, a famous scholar, to teach classical languages to the students.
Vespasian was also a ruthless man of arms, which came handy on the battlefield but not in a civilized society. One day, in 1580, on entering the dining room of his palace, he killed his only male son, still a child, with a kick in the back, just because he had not shown him enough respect. Later, two of his wives (together with their lovers) were killed by him.
Killings aside this masterpiece that he dreamed and then realized is still there in all his beauty. Sabbioneta, the Athens of the Gonzaga dynasty.
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