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The paper analyses the urban transformation of Mantua during the fifteenth century, a particularly significant period for the passage from the medieval signoria to the Renaissance principality under Gonzaga rule. If we consider the overall image of a city to be the result of a long-term interaction between urban spaces and power, we must analyse the convergences and divergences between the prince's monumental enterprises and the daily and collective answer of urban élites. The evolution of family structures and the residential choices that result from their development during the Quattrocento demonstrate that the transformation of Mantua's urban spaces and their social uses was perceptible but slow: urban development was not the result of a single and authoritative enterprise imposed by the princes and abstractly conceived, but, rather, a collective transformation of the city.