Mantova and Sabbioneta are located in the Po Valley, in northern Italy, and represent the two main urbanistic forms of the Renaissance: the transformation of an existing city and the newly founded city, based on the concept of an ideal city. Together, they constitute two significant stages of the territorial planning and of the urban interventions undertaken by the Gonzagas in their domains, between the first half of the 14th century and the early years of the 18th century.
In both cities the Gonzagas intended to realize the ideals of the Renaissance city, looking for the perfect urban form that testified to the greatness of the family and calling for their construction some of the greatest Italian artists: Leon Battista Alberti, Luca Fancelli, Andrea Mantegna and Giulio Romano in Mantua, Vicenzo Scamozzi and Bernardino Campi in Sabbioneta.
Mantua is an extraordinary example of the transformation of the existing city, of Etruscan-Roman origin and modified during the Middle Ages, which intervened by the Gonzagas between the 15th and the 16th century with hydrogeological engineering works and refined urban and architectural interventions. It has always been a city linked to water and to the period in which it was free medieval town dates from the complex and powerful hydraulic planning by Alberto Pitentino (1187) which fragmented the course of the Mincio into four lakes: Superiore, di Mezzo, Inferiore, Paiolo, the latter dried up starting from the 18th century.
Sabbioneta was built as a new city in the second half of the 16th century, supplanting a small medieval village and, under the orders of a single person, in a very short time it was transformed into an avant-garde and refined cultural and architectural center.
Its walls with a star-shaped plan, the chess-board plan of the streets and the role of public spaces and monuments help to make it one of the best examples of an ideal city built in Europe. At Sabbioneta there is one of the jewels of the history of theater in Europe: the Teatro all'Antica built by Vincenzo Scamozzi, the first theatrical building realized in Italy with an original factory and not as an adaptation of rooms or interiors of pre-existing buildings.
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