The Mazzanti Houses
On the northern side of Piazza delle Erbe, the square in the center of the old city, is characterized by the presence of Case Mazzanti, a large building composed of a series of houses built mainly around 1300s, whose facades where renovated around the middle of the 1500s. In the 13th century the complex belonged to the Scala family, who were not the lords of Verona yet, but nevertheless a very influential family in the economic and political life of the city. On the ground floor facing the square, just in front of the herbs market, there were various shops, while on the upper floors there were instead the residential areas. The entrance was at the back, accessible through a narrow passage that leads to Piazza dei Signori. Right here, Mastino della Scala, founder of the seigniory that ruled Verona for more than a century, fell into an ambush and was murdered for revenge while returning home. A plaque on Volto Barbaro, this is the name of the alleyway, still remembers the dramatic event of 1277. When the Scaligeri moved to their new imposing palace in Piazza dei Signori, which became the center of their lordship, the building in Piazza delle Erbe was sold to the Mazzanti, a family of wealthy merchants.
Verona Urbs Picta
In the 16th century, the Mazzanti family commissioned the painter
Alberto Cavalli the fresco decoration of the
facade of thei house on Piazza delle Erbe. Cavalli was
a pupil of Giulio Romano, that in those years
was the official artist for the Gonzaga family in Mantua, and
worked with him on the pictorial decoration of Palazzo Te.
In the fresco for the Mazzanti, many of the stylistic
characteristics that Giulio Romano had derived from Michelangelo
and brought into northern Italy can be found in the volumes of the
bodies, in the use of color, in the layout of the composition
typical of Mannerism. The frescoes depict mythological
and allegorical scenes and are still in excellent
condition, even considering that they have been exposed to the
wind and rain for five centuries.
In 16th century Verona was called by visitors urbs picta, painted city in Latin, so many were the city buildings embellished with facades frescoed with bright colors. It was in fact a way to show off a prestigious residence without spending a fortune. It costed much less to have a facade frescoed with painting that reproduced colored marbles, sculptures and friezes, rather then having them made out of solid stone. Looking at the Mazzanti Houses and the remains of the frescoed surfaces on many other buildings in Piazza delle Erbe, one can imagine the wonder that caught those who entered the square in the sixteenth century.
The illustration of the Mazzanti Houses, with the other buildings and monuments overlooking Piazza delle Erbe, are included in almost all the tourist itineraries proposed by the tourist guides of Verona. Do not hesitate to contact the Verona Tourist Guides Association to visit the city and learn more about its history, art and culture: