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Mantua is Italy's 2016 culture capital

Erstwhile home of the Gonzagas a UNESCO World Heritage Site

(ANSA) - Roma, October 27 - Mantua has been chosen as Italian culture capital in 2016, the culture ministry's jury announced Tuesday. The Lombard city was the erstwhile princely seat of the House of Gonzaga from the 14th to the 18th centuries, and its historic center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. "I didn't expect it," said Democratic Party (PD) Mayor Mattia Palazzi, who was elected just four months ago to lead the city of just under 50,000 inhabitants.
    "This is the recognition of an extraordinary, unique city - a small city with an international vocation and an exceptional cultural heritage".
    Mantua was shortlisted along with nine other candidates out of 24 aspiring culture capitals by the culture ministry in June.
    The selection comes with one million euros from the culture ministry to finance its winning project with no strings attached - meaning that the city can spend the money without incurring sanctions under an economic stability pact with the national government.
    The other candidates were Aquileia, Como, Ercolano, Parma, Pisa, Pistoia, Spoleto, Taranto and Terni. Mantua, which already competed for European culture capital 2019, won with a project to remake itself into a smart city with digital tourism to set off its jewels. Among these is the landmark Palazzo Te, a Mannerist pleasure palace built in 1524-34 for Federico II Gonzaga. It is the masterpiece of architect Giulio Romano, a pupil of Raphael, who over ten years directed a team of plasterers, carvers and fresco painters to decorate almost every single surface of the palace's many loggias and salons.
    These frescoes remain the most remarkable feature of the palace, with subjects ranging from Olympian banquets in the Sala di Psiche (Psyche's Hall) and stylised horses in the Sala dei Cavalli (the Hall of the Horses) to the most unusual of all - giants and grotesques wreaking havoc, fury and ruin around the walls of the Sala dei Giganti (the Hall of Giants).
    Mantua is also home to the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace), where the Gonzagas lived from 1328 to 1707. The palace has some 500 rooms and is most famous for Andrea Mantegna's frescoes in the Camera degli Sposi (Wedding Room).
    The other cities competed with a range of projects that went from street art to sustainability to the greening of historic urban centers to setting up international volunteer camps on archeology and the environment.


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