When Francesco II Gonzaga died in 1519, his son, Federico II, became Marquis of Mantua, and decided to transform a swampy area south of the city into a place for leisure and festive receptions.
The architect Giulio Romano, a pupil of Raphael, was commissioned to design the palace. By alternating the architectural elements with the natural ones that the area offered, sublimely decorating rooms and facades, the architect put all his imagination and skill in the construction of Palazzo Te. The palace was completed in 1534, 10 years after the beginning of the works.
In July 1630, during the War of the Mantuan Succession, the palace was sacked over three days by an Imperial army of 36,000 mercenaries. Palazzo Te was looted and remained empty for a long time.
Palazzo Te has a square plan, with a large courtyard in the center, which once hosted a labyrinth. The courtyard has four entrances on all four sides, and the complex is symmetrical along the longitudinal axis.
The external facades have two levels, joined by giant Doric pilasters. The whole external surface is covered with ashlar, including the frames of the windows and doors. The first level has rectangular windows framed by protruding ashlars, while the second level has a smoother and more regular rustication, with square windows without frame.
The main entrance is a loggia, the so-called Loggia Grande, composed on the outside of three large arches. This facade of the palace was extensively remodeled at the end of the 18th century, when the triangular pediment was also added.
Inside the palace, in addition to the frescoes, the walls were enriched with curtains and applications of golden and silver leaves, the doors were made of inlaid wood, and the fireplaces from noble marble.
The most impressive room in the palace is the Hall of the Giants (Sala dei Giganti). The fresco of the Fall of the Giants was painted between 1532 and 1535, covering the room from the walls to the ceiling with the representation of the battle between the Giants and the Gods.
The Hall of the Horses (Sala dei Cavalli), decorated with the life-size portraits of the six favorite stallions of the Gonzagas, was the hall used for banquets.
The Hall of Cupid and Psyche (Sala di Amore e Psiche), the duke’s dining room, is entirely frescoed with the mythological story of Psyche.
Other beautiful frescoed rooms are the Hall of the Eagles (Sala delle Aquile), the Hall of the Winds (Sala dei Venti), the Hall of Ovid and the Metamorphoses (Sala di Ovidio e delle Metamorfosi), the Hall of the Sun and the Moon (Sala del Sole e della Luna), the Hall of the Emperors (Sala degli Imperatori) and the Hall of the Caesars (Sala dei Cesari).
HOW TO GET THERE
Palazzo Te is located about 1.5 kilometers away from the Mantua railway station. The closest bus stop is in Piazzale Vittorio Veneto, about 200 meters away, on the bus Line 8.