Mantua is in north Italy and sits surrounded by three defensive lakes. It is compact, taking only around 20 minutes to cross the city.
DanFlyingSolo featured the town on its list of Europe’s most underrated cities. The site said it was “one of Italy’s finest city breaks” that “wears its historical importance with understated pride”.
The website noted that the city “ticks all those essential Italian boxes: culture, cuisine, architecture and history”.
It has also been named Italy’s Capital of Culture, the European Capital of Gastronomy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
UNESCO says that the town is “important for the value of its architecture” and for its “prominent role in the dissemination of Renaissance culture” by the ruling Gonzaga family.
Mantua is known by Italians as La Bella Addormentata, meaning the Sleeping Beauty, due to it remaining untouched by time.
Among the sites to visit is the 14th Century Palazzo Ducale – it is the sixth-largest palace in Europe and has a castle, a basilica, eight courtyards, galleries, seven gardens and more than 500 rooms.
There is also an 11th-century church Rotonda di San Lorenzo, inspired by Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre church, and the 16th Century Palazzo Te. Mantua is also known fo its significant role in the history of opera.
But the city is also known for its food with a local delicacy being stracotto d’asino, a rich stew made with donkey meat.
There are few crowds in the city, few souvenir shops, no hundreds of museums and churches to tick off a list.
Mantua has many places to stay including hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels and holiday lets. Tourists can get to the city by flying directly from London or into nearby Verona and driving the 30 miles by car to reach it.
Also among DanFlyingSolo’s list of underrated European cities were Tbilisi in Georgia, Cordoba in Spain, Gdansk in Poland and Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina.