About 40km south of the popular destinations of Lake Garda and Verona, the city somehow gets bypassed by most travelers. The key to the puzzle is the lakes, a remarkable artificial fortification created nearly 1,000 years ago that effectively closed Mantua from the world. And these encircling wetlands mean the size of Mantua has scarcely altered – even today it takes only 20 minutes to walk across town. The place has been untouched by urban development, and even the present population of around 48,000 is pretty much the same as centuries ago. Italian ecology movement Legambiente voted Mantua as Italy’s most livable city a few years ago, and I’m intrigued to find out what it is like to stay in a place where time seems to have stood still.