Sunday, February 08, 2009

Discovering Italy

Today we are going to visit Sabbioneta. It is located in Northern Italy on the plains between the Po and Oglio Rivers. In 2008, Sabbioneta was added as a UNESCO World Heritage site (along with Mantova).

Regione: Lombardia
Provincia: Mantova
City: Sabbioneta

Known as “The Ideal City,” Sabbioneta was the brain-child of one man, Vespasiano Gonzaga Colonna, who was from a branch of the famous Gonzaga family, Dukes of Mantova. This city was designed based on the theories of ideal city planning and built in the second half of the 16th Century. The design of the city represents the functional vision of the Renaissance period, which relied heavily on the use of proportions derived from observing Roman ruins. The rediscovery of ancient books, the theory of the Greek “Golden Ratio” and Neoplatonism also helped shape the Renaissance city planning. The outline of the city is shaped by fortifications in an irregular hexagon form with 6 bastions at the corners, much of which is well preserved.

In this city, Vincenzo Scamozzi was hired to construct the Teatro all’antica. Scamozzi was a student of Andrea Palladio, and one of the most important architects of his time. The Teatro all’antica is very important in the history of theater, as it was the first indoor theater built specifically that purpose and served as a model for the European theaters that followed. Sabbioneta also hosted an important Jewish community and Hebrew printing press, which you can still visit today. Other places of interest include the Palazzo del Giardino, Galleria della Antichi, Palazzo Ducale, various churches, the remaining bastions, Porta Vittoria – the most ancient entrance of the town - and the Sinagoga, (the synagogue).

Food. You can’t visit a city without experiencing the food. (plus it’s the best part of any trip!) Let’s start with my favorite part of the meal – dessert. Torta sbrisolona, literally “crumb cake” is a local specialty made with almonds. Traditionally dipped in wine, but coffee or hot chocolate work too. YUM. Pasta - Tortelli mantovani di Zucca. Tortelli are kind of like large ravioli, in this dish filled with a pumpkin/amaretti filling. (I haven’t tried it but next time I will and report back!) Wine – Lambrusco sabbionetano is a red wine using only local grapes grown in the area’s sandy soil.

It is a lovely city with a lot of interesting things to see. For me, part of the intrigue is the fact it was built just to embody the Renaissance thoughts of the time. If you are in the area, take the time to stop by. Sabbioneta will not disappoint you!

More later...


J,Doe said...

Are you in Italy now? Living or vacationing?
I hope you had a good time in Northern Italy.

Tracie B. said...

how cool! interesting history...thx.

are you back yet?

Do Bianchi said...

This is such a fantastic post! I believe that Soncino was the printer, no?

Lambrusco e tortelli di zucca! che invidia! sono preso dalla gola!

can't wait to hear more... people give so much attention to the Italian Renaissance in Tuscany and Latium, neglecting the Renaissance in the Veneto and Lombardy.

Great post...

Texas Espresso said...

J. Doe - no, we're still in Dallas. Italy is still an option but right now with the economy as it is, we'll probably stay here for awhile. would like to make some $$ on our house. How is that pretty little bambina doing?

Tracie - Thanks! planning to visit Italy in the next few months. yay!

Do Bianchi - thanks! I agree, I think that many other regions have so much to offer and are absolutely overlooked by Americans in particular. as far as the printer is concerned I am not sure but I think it was Tobias Foa. gonna have to look that up... or better yet, revisit! HA