Although the garden is a fragile organism and its duration naturally short, the passing of centuries in Mantua has not completely erased the gardens of the many Gonzaga residences from the time of the Signoria [TN: Rule/Dominion] (1328-1708): a trace of this heritage persists and those who wish to, can still contemplate some secular spaces that, though with a very different setting and the names of more recent owners, preserve the memory of the existence of Gonzaga gardens. Follow this ancient green plot to discover its history, it also offers a way of discovering less common routes, noble buildings and characters that have been a significant part of the city.
Crossing the city from east to west, from the gardens of Palazzo Ducale to the beautiful romantic garden of the house museum of the Counts d’Arco (formerly Palazzo dei Gonzaga at San Giovanni delle Carrette), crossing piazza Sordello, on the right, at no. 12, one encounters the joyous green of Palazzo Bonacolsi -Castiglioni between high walls, it is uncertain who commissioned it, but it is a secular Gonzaga property. From the medieval vicolo Bonacolsi, along via Cavour - via Tassoni, you reach via Trento, which marks the interesting district of San Leonardo. At no. 21, the only example of a monumental private garden overlooking the public road, there is the Cavriani garden, an enlarged copy in 19th century style of the Palazzo Gonzaga Spolverini garden, that celebrates the glories of Mantuan culture. The garden faces the magnificent Cavriani residence, while next to it the current headquarters of Monsignor Arrigo Mazzali Geriatric Institutions unexpectedly retains within it, a quiet verdant area dating back to the garden of Casa Gonzaga (formerly Palazzo Schivenoia then dell’Abate).
The route continues along via Concezione and piazza S. Giovanni up to Palazzo d'Arco - piazza Carlo d'Arco 4.
If we move from the south to the northwest, from the gardens of Palazzo Te to Piazza d’Arco, on the edge of the old town we come across a small shady public area next to the sixteenth-century Palazzo San Sebastiano – on the viale della Repubblica side - built as a private residence for Marquis Francesco II Gonzaga. Contemporary gardeners have landscaped here an elaborate design of geometric flowerbeds in the centre of which fruit trees grow, a clear throwback to the Renaissance gardens in which the complex was placed. Similar tendencies are found in the public area - via Ivanoe Bonomi 3 - that shields one side of the seventeenth church of Sant'Orsola, part of the convent wanted by Margherita Gonzaga, Duchess of Ferrara, as a widow's residence. When we reach Sant'Orsola, by walking along Via Giovanni Acerbi, we come across the garden of the House of Andrea Mantegna - via G. Acerbi no. 47 - once linked to those of Palazzo San Sebastiano. The informal lush greenery of the planted lawn is suggestive of the memory of the open spaces typical of the areas around the city walls as they appear in the Urbis Mantuae Descriptio of 1628.
From here, along via Carlo Poma, on which the House of Giulio Romano and the prestigious seventeenth-century residence of the Guerrieri Gonzaga stand, which is now Palazzo di Giustizia, built by Anton Maria Viani, you come to via Giovanni Chiassi where, at no. 54, there is still a garden that was part of the Palazzo dei Gonzaga of Vescovato. Taking Via Viani, next to the church of San Maurizio, having crossed the garden of Palazzo Valentini, shaded by exotic plants, and corso Vittorio Emanuele II, you will be in front of the facade of Sant'Orsola, also by Viani. The twentieth-century twist of Via Bonomi leads to the medieval via Solferino and, by turning right towards the corso del Rio, from via Scarsellini you arrive at the d’Arco's Garden - Piazza C. d'Arco 4.