Italian Lakes: 14 Crocodile demons & relics

August 6, 2011

With the holiday coming to an end we returned to where Huw and I started the day we landed, namely Mantua. The palace of the Gonzaga family overlooks the lakes formed by the River Mincio. The city is associated with the composer Monteverdi and the create of opera as an art form. Of course the Duke of Mantua is the anti-hero of one the greatest of Verdi’s operas namely Riggolleto and one of the most cynical of all arias La donna è mobile, which is best not listened to in translation! There is a cheesy tourist element on entering Mantua with Rigolleto’s house signposted, but the real attraction here are the art museums of the two palaces.

DSC_5613.jpg The four squares that make up the town are also a delight, reflecting the fact that Mantua has one of the most perfect Renaissance silhouettes in Italy. The interior of the Basillica is awe inspiring, but my all time favorite, from many visits here is the Rotonda di San Lorenzo. Built in the 11th century to replicate the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem it is an intimate delight, both internally and externally. As in Venice I spent my time in churches while shopping took place, more successfully I gather than in Venice but I had little concern other than to know it was over.

It was a hot day so I could not persuade people to visit to Palazzo Te as well as the Palazzo Ducale, but we did call in at the church of Santa Maria dell Grazie in Curatone on the way back. It has a stuffed crocodile in the room – it appeared one day during mass and the resourceful parishioners mobbed it to death. It also has some of the most bizarre of decorative features. The lead picture on this post shows various methods of execution in excruciating detail.

I should add, that this trip only had three participants. Daughter’s ability to find friends everyone in the world had conjured up another Sussex anthropology student serving as an au pair just to the north of us. So we picked her up on the way back from Venice and didn’t see the pair of them again until this evening, although we did hear then at around 0430!

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