A fortress city

The construction of the fortifications of Sabbioneta, ordered by Vespasiano Gonzaga, began during the second half of the 16th century. The intent of the future duke was to provide the capital of his fief with a modern defensive system, consisting of bastions and embankments able to withstand the artillery attacks.

An extended wall in the shape of an irregular hexagon was therefore designed, about six to seven metres high compared to the ground level, composed of an external brick lining supported by buttresses and by a mass of earth behind it and backfill, sloping down towards the inside and surrounded on the outside by a large moat. Six pentagonal bastions (San Nicola, San Giovanni, San Giorgio, Sant'Elmo, San Francesco, Santa Marta) are planned at the corners, connected by straight lines. The walls also include the pre-existing castle of medieval origin and its moat, along the perimeter of the circuit in the stretch between the bastions of San Francesco and Santa Maria.  The layout of the fortifications is finally completed with the opening of two doors in the shape of triumphal arches, to the south-east Porta Imperiale and north-west Porta Vittoria) of the walls.

In addition to the walls, the defensive system was progressively improved even after the death of Vespasian through a series of complementary works, with ravelins, lunettes and a road sheltered by embankments, which together form a second star-shaped wall outside the hexagon of the walls.

Present structure

Present structure of the Sabbioneta Walls



  1. Porta Vittoria
  2. Porta Imperiale
  3. Resti del castello
  4. Baluardo San Nicola
  5. Baluardo Santa Maria
  6. Baluardo San Francesco
  7. Baluardo Sant’Elmo
  8. Baluardo San Giorgio
  9. Baluardo San Giovanni
  10. Fossato
  11. Percorso al piede delle mura
  12. Fortificazioni demolite

Monumental buildings

  1. Chiesa dell’Incoronata
  2. Palazzo Ducale
  3. Teatro all’Antica
  4. Chiesa dell’Assunta
  5. Chiesa di San Rocco
  6. Sinagoga
  7. Palazzo Giardino
  8. Galleria degli Antichi
  9. Palazzo Forti
  10. Chiesa della Madonna del Carmine

After the eighteenth century the walls lost their military function and were gradually abandoned, undergoing changes of use, alterations and partial demolition. Nonetheless, the fortifications built by Vespasiano survive today almost in their entirety and constitute a cornerstone of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mantua and Sabbioneta., added in 2008.

Thanks to their excellent conservation, the walls of Sabbioneta also offer an extraordinary testimony to the military architecture of the late Renaissance, whose principles are expressed in the treatises of the time. By comparison and because of their geographical proximity, the fortifications of Sabbioneta are closely related not only to the defensive works realized in the nearby Gonzaga fiefdoms, but more generally to the other walled cities of the Po Valley.