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Surrounded on three sides by lakes formed by the River Mincio, the city of Mantua seems to rise from water and it is often wrapped in liquid fog, during the winter. Mantua is home to countless works of art, including Palazzo Ducale, splendid residence of the Gonzaga family, the largest in Europe after the Vatican, Palazzo Té, their pleasure palace, and St. Andrew’s Basilica, designed by Leon Battista Alberti, one of the founding fathers of Humanism. Since it is just 20.5 miles away from Guastalla and it shares with it a common past of Duchy of the House of Gonzaga, Mantua is a favourite destination of local as well as national and international tourism for both cultural and culinary tours, or to go shopping in the elegant boutiques of the city center. The city is beautiful, with its medieval and Renaissance masterpieces and it is worth the risk of driving in the fog, while crossing the River Po, or being suddenly shrouded in it, once you get there!
One of the reasons why I often go to Mantua is to buy its delicious mostarda, a syrupy condiment made of candied fruit and mustard. In the old city center there are several specialist shops, which sell almost exclusively homemade mostarda of all kinds and flavours, ranging from apricot to pears, plums, watermelon, oranges, mandarins, figs, lemons and, of course, the best-known one, quince mostarda, sold in cans and in bulk, in a blaze of colours and a delight of scents. I purchase some homemade quince mostarda for our Sunday lunch, when the whole family gets together. Mantuan mostarda, with its spicy flavour, is certainly a delicacy that everyone likes, as it goes equally well with boiled and roast meat and cheese. After leaving the shop, I call in at a confectioner’s, to buy a typical dessert, called anello di Monaco - Munich ring - a sort of stuffed sponge cake, light and fluffy, which is only made in Mantua, to be served before coffee ...