Festivaletteratura, The Mantua Literature Festival runs from 7-11 September 2016.
Mantua, known as Mantova in Italian, is a city impressively full of historic, artistic and architectural treasures – even by Italy’s standards. Three sides of the city are surrounded by water, namely the Lago Superiore, Lago di Mezzo and Lago Inferiore and a boat trip is a relaxing way of glimpsing the city’s former grandeur.
Up close and wandering through the centre of the city on foot, be prepared for imposing or captivating sights around almost every corner: the Duomo, Palazzo Ducale, numerous noteworthy churches as well as beguiling and striking urban spaces such as Piazza Erbe and Piazza Sordello.
Here are my two favourite places to grab a morning coffee, a lunchtime aperitivo or evening drinks. Consider it a taster of what lies in store for a visit to Mantua in 2017 when East Lombardy will be the European Region of Gastronomy.
An essential part of the city’s fabric, the founders were a family of immigrants whose name was spelt with one ‘t’. Nobody is sure whether the bar’s name was a spelling mistake by the sign maker or a way of appearing more Italian. What is certain is that the early evening drink of choice is the Caravatti. A secret recipe house vermouth served with seltzer and ice. There are three types: white, rosé and, by far the most popular, red.
The classic accompaniment is anchovies and butter on bread. But there’s a choice of other aperitivo nibbles to accompany an interesting choice of wines by the glass including a natural and biodynamic selection.
Marco Gialdi, Bar Venezia’s owner explains that it’s the oldest bar in Mantua and “has been here since about 1850.The site was once a pasticceria where the Torta Elvezia was created.” The Mantuan speciality – an almond cake with a creamy zabaglione filling – is no longer baked here, but it’s still served.
It’s very popular with the nearby workers and residents and if you’re thinking that it’s named after another Italian city, think again. “Before 1900 it was owned by people called Veneziani. In fact many locals still call it Bar del Veneziano.”