The Ducal Palace complex and St George’s Castle are a series of magnificent buildings. It’s huge and undoubtedly costly and complex for the government to run. Unfortunately this is all too obvious. The first oddity is the ticket office, which mysteriously is not at the museum entrance but out to the right in another entrance. You get your ticket and go off to yet another entrance down the road then after the first part of your visit you go back to the original entrance. The audioguides are not to be recommended as there is little of real interest that you can’t read in the rooms and, most importantly, the information doesn’t correspond to reality because often the paintings have been moved around or changed completely. Also, quite rare nowadays internationally, there is no reduction for over 60s. Three tickets and two audioguides cost 51 euro. On a positive note guide dogs were admitted and the custodians were kind. The saddest evidence of cuts to spending on culture lies in the fact that many rooms were closed, including some of the highlights such as the Apartments of Isabella d’Este. A further signal of government abandonment is all too obvious in the euphemistically named Food Court which turned out to be a group of vending machines. There is no cafè and a very untempting bookshop. When one thinks of the wonderful museum shops around the world it’s hard to understand why it doesn’t make sense to have one in Mantua, selling quality items. Surely it would help plump the coffers. A foreign friend asked why, if staff cost too much, doesn’t the Museum use volonteers. Why indeed?
I would suggest shortening the visit and focusing on the real points of interest and trying to bring them to life, in line with contemporary international museology. It would be so worth it. As it is it’s like a splendid but dusty heirloom nobody knows quite what to do with.
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