Grand Cafe Fashion, C. Porta Ticinese, near V. Vetere. A barrestaurantdance club with a stunningly beautiful crowd and velour leopard-print couches. €7.80 cover includes 1 drink. Open Su and Tu-Sa 6pm-4am.
Exploit, V. Piopette 3, to the right just before S. Lorenzo Maggiore. A trendy bar and restaurant with cheap beer from €3. Join the crowd of locals around the colonnade. No cover. Open daily noon-3pm and 6pm-3am.
Le Biciclette, V. Conca dei Naviglio 10. A bid dangling above the entrance harkens back to the chic but smartly priced bar’s predecessor, a bike shop. Beer €4.50. Mixed drinks €5.50. Scrumptious Happy Hour buffet, 6:30-9:30pm. Open daily 7pm-2am. Blueshouse, V.S. Uguzzone 26. MM1: Villa S. Giovanni. Take V. Vipacco; turn right on V. A. Soffredini and left on V.S. Uguzzone. Good jazz, blues, rock, and tribute bands on a spacious floor. Schedule online. Open Su and W-Sa 9pm-2:30am.
Lelephante, V. Melzo 22. MM2: Porta Venezia; walk up C. Buenos Aires and turn right on V. Melzo. Vaguely 60s gay club with lava lamps. Open Su and Tu-Sa 6:30pm-2am.
Mantua (pop. 100,000) owes its literary fame to its celebrated son, the poet Virgil. Its grand palazzi and graceful churches come thanks to the Gonzaga family who, after ascending to power in 1328, imported well-known artists to change Mantua’s small-town image. Once the largest palace in Europe, the opulent UPalazzo Ducale towers over Piazza Sordello, sheltering the Gothic Magna Domus and Palazzo del Cap- itano. Inside, check out a breathtaking array of frescoes, gardens, and facades. Outside the palazzo, signs point to the Casteilo di San Giorgio (1390-1406), a formidable fortress before its absorption into the palazzo complex. (Palazzo open Su and Tu-Sa 8:45am-6:30pm. €6.50, students €3.25. Children and seniors free.) In the far south of the city, down V.P. Amedeo, through P. Veneto, and down Largo Parri, lies the Palazzo di Te, built by Giulio Romano in 1534 as a suburban retreat for Federico II Gonzaga. It is widely considered the finest building in the Mannerist style. (Open M l-6pm, Tu-Su 9am-6pm. €8, students €2.50.) Just south of P. Sordello is the 11th-century Romanesque Piazza delle Erbe; opposite the piazza is Leon Alberti’s Chiesa di Sant’Andrea, Mantua’s greatest contribution to the Italian Renaissance and one of the first monumental Classical constructions since Imperial Rome. (Piazza open daily 10am-12:30pm and 2:30-4:30pm, Chiesa open daily 8am-noon and 3-6:30pm. Both free.)
Trains go from P. Don E. Leoni to Milan (2hr. 9 per day, €8) and Verona (40min. 17 per day, €2.30). From the train station, head left on V. Solferino, through P.S. Francesco d’Assisi to V. Fratelli Bandiera, and right on V. Verdi to reach the tourist office, P. Mantegna 6, next to Chiesa Sant’Andrea. f 0376 32 82 53; www.aptmantova.it. Open M-Sa 8:30am-12:30pm and 3-6pm, Su 9:30- 12:30pm.) Charming Hotel ABC , P. Don E. Leoni 25, is opposite the station. ( 0376 32 33 47; fax 0376 32 23 29. Breakfast included. Singles €44-66; doubles €66-99; triples €77-110.) Antica Osteria ai Ranari , V. Trieste 11, down V. Pom- ponazzo near Porta Catena, specializes in regional dishes. (0376 32 84 31. Primi €5-7. Secondi €5-9. Closed for 3 weeks July-Aug. Open Su and Tu-Sa noon-2pm and 7-ll:30pm.) Postal Code: 46100.