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Above the main door of the Palazzo Aldegatti in Mantua, there is a natural size cat’s head that has watched over the building’s comings and goings since 1540.
The cat’s head is a joke on the family’s surname, in Italian gatti means “cats,” and the portal decoration is an unofficial family crest. The story behind the cat claims that the head comes alive during the night, trying to escape from its stone jail and it sometimes meowing to try to draw attention to its condition. Its facial expression—something between an expression of annoyance and a crazed look—could be the origin of the legend.