Private property, only visible from outside
Those walking along Via Trento today cannot fail to miss the imposing gates on whose pillars stand the busts of illustrious Mantuan figures and beyond which lies a visibly forgotten garden. This is the Cavriani Garden, belonging to the palazzo of the same name that stands on the opposite side of the road.
In the second part of the first half of the 16th century, the block was home to a residence featuring a great courtyard with a garden, belonging to Giovanni Ludovico Gonzaga of the de’ Nobili family, of the Schivenoglia line, who died in 1546. The property remained in the family until the second half of the 17th century, when the male line died out and the family heritage was passed down to Anna Maria Gonzaga, wife of Giacomo Spolverini, and from her to her heirs.
The property was later bought by the Cavriani family, who rebuilt the palazzo in 1756, based on designs by the architect Alfonso Torreggiani, and, between 1824 and 1826, created the new garden, sacrificing permanently the ancient Gonzaga residence. The new garden was designed by Giovan Battista Vergani and created with the help of many experts and craftsmen: the sculptors Stefano Gerola for the busts and the statue of Virgil and Giuseppe Fontana for the other headstone elements; Chiozzini and Silva for the wrought iron and the Mantuan painter Alessandro Ferraresi for the creation of the perspectives painted on the far walls. The focal point of the garden and the geometry of its pathways was the statue of Virgil, put in place in 1835, marking symbolically the completion of work that had required a total of almost twelve years. In September 1838, on the occasion of a visit to Mantua by Emperor Ferdinand I, the Marquis organised an extravagant temporary system to light up his garden by night, which aroused great admiration for its use of hundreds of candles contained in glass, balloons and lights raised on wooden structures, winches and spires. A second garden connected to the first by an underground passageway was designed around 1838 by the Venetian Giuseppe Jappelli for the land of the ancient Gonzaga garden that had belonged to the Palazzo di Schivenoja or dell’Abate.
(From L. Valli, Il giardino del Palazzo Gonzaga Spolverini, poi Giardino Cavriani, in I giardini dei Gonzaga 2018, pp. 324-330)