Mantua's 400-year heyday began in the 14th century when the city passed to the fast-living, art-loving Gonzaga dynasty, one of Italy's great Renaissance families. It rapidly became an important buffer state between the expansionist ambitions of Milan and Venice, and attracted leading lights such as writer Petrarch, Renaissance teacher Feltre and artists Mantegna, Rubens and Romano. Even now, and despite a worrying wobble after the earthquake of 2012, the city preserves its illustrious and antique history in its fabulous art and architecture. The golden days of 'La Gloriosa' ceased when Austria took control in 1708 and ruled (aside from the Napoleonic interlude in the late 1700s) until 1866, when Mantua joined Italy.