Five things to see in Brescia

BRESCIA: THE “LIONESS OF ITALY”

With its thousand corners to discover, Brescia is a small and often underestimated jewel.

In this article I will tell you about five things to see in Brescia, my city. Hope you will enjoy it.

To fully understand the beauties of the city, you have to also know its history. I will therefore give you some information to better understand what I will recommend in the next lines.

Brescia has very ancient origins. The first settlement dates back to 1200 BC, but the most important period for the city was the Roman one. Under the city many ruins have been found during various excavations. What remains of the capitolium today allows you to get an idea of ​​the power that the great empire had.

It then becomes one of the most important cities in Northern Italy. For example, it was a duchy under Lombard rule. In 1400 it then passed under the control of the Republic of Venice but was also disputed with Milan for decades. A small legend tells that the Milan dwellers in 1438 besieged the city and were driven out by the apparition of the patron saints Faustino and Giovita.

Like so many other places to visit near Lake Garda, Brescia is really rich in history. Discover all the steps that helped making the city the one you see today.

The rule of the Serenissima allowed it to develop agricultural and craft activities, including the one for which it became famous: the production of weapons.

The Republic of Venice was then replaced by Napoleon’s French troops, who invaded the city at the end of the 18th century. Brescia then became part of the Cisalpine Republic, which later became the Italian Republic and the Kingdom of Italy. Then, after the fall of Napoleon, the city passes under the rule of the Habsburgs.

During the Risorgimento period, Brescia rebelled against Austrian domination and showed great courage in the so-called “10 days”. To enhance the tenacity shown by the city, Carducci gives it the nickname “Lioness of Italy“.

From this moment on, the city underwent various changes, especially in the 1930s when areas in the fascist style were modernized. But the real industrial development begins after the Second World War and Brescia becomes one of the most important industrial cities. Also, did you know that the province of Brescia is the largest in Lombardy, including 205 municipalities? And it is the second, after Milan, for the number of inhabitants.

The five things to see in Brescia

Now that you know its history, all you have to do is find out what are the best places to visit!

1. THE CASTLE
2. THE SQUARES
3. THE UNESCO SITE
4. TEATRO GRANDE
5. MILLE MIGLIA MUSEUM
EVENTS

Five things to see in Brescia
Credits: Allan Parsons 

1. IL CASTELLO

Brescia Castle stands on the Colle del Cidneo, where the first settlement of the city was born in the Bronze Age. The building is one of the largest castles in Italy and is perfectly preserved.

During your visit to Brescia, the castle is certainly one of the first stops to do to get to know some of the history of the city. The building, in fact, passed from the domination of the Serenissima to the French and finally to the Austrians and was the scene of the Ten Days of Brescia.

You can reach it on foot or by car and, just before the entrance, you can stop in the square where there are two bars.

Do you want to know a curiosity about this bridge that leads to the entrance arch? The moat you see below the bridge up until the 1980s housed a zoo and, in particular, was a typical lion’s den. If you talk to someone from Brescia, you will realize how many people have childhood memories related to this particular element.

Many Brescians consider this place to visit near Lake Garda as the symbol of the city. But it is not just a fortress to visit: there are also many things to do inside, find out which ones!

Passing over the moat you will find yourself inside the castle walls. Then continue to the left and shortly after you will come to a large square with benches and trees to shelter from the sun. This square hosts the first example of a railway monument in Italy. Called the “Number 1“, it is a locomotive that once traveled the Brescia-Edolo route.

The square is very popular thanks to the magnificent view along its entire perimeter.

For weapons lovers, a little further on is the Luigi Marzoli Arms Museum. The museum contains one of the largest European collections of Austrian arms and armor.

Another gem of this place that I have included in the five things to see in Brescia is the Cidnea Astronomical Observatory. It is the first public astronomical observatory in Italy, located on the San Marco Bastion. If you are passionate about astronomy you cannot miss it! It consists of a 3 meters diameter dome and an outdoor terrace. Slightly under the structure, then, you will also find a room used for observing the sun.

Among the sun and the planets, it is easy to be enchanted, but the Castle still has a lot to offer! Continue your walk to one of the oldest urban vineyards in this must-see place near Lake Garda.

The beauties of the castle never end. On its slopes you can admire the Pusteria vineyard, one of the oldest urban vineyards in Europe. Inside there are centuries-old vines and their wine in the 1900s won the gold medal at the Northern Italy Wine Competition.

Still today they produce wine and grappa as well as jellies and jams made with the fruits of native trees.

In 2007, the Slow Food association awarded it the title of Historic Heritage of Environmental Agri-food Culture.

In addition to these places of interest, the castle offers many panoramic points from which to enjoy a 360 ° view of the city. In particular, I recommend that you go to the towers towards sunset, to have a more suggestive and romantic atmosphere. I assure you that you will be breathless in front of all the lights you will see on the horizon, which create a suspended and magical space.

If you want to fully enjoy this top list of the five things to see in Brescia, I recommend that you participate in one of the itineraries organized by the Brescia Speleological Association. In this way you will have the unique opportunity to see the most hidden points and learn the secrets of the castle, told by a local guide.


Five things to see in Brescia
Credits: John Asare

2. THE SQUARES

The historic city center is also steeped in history. To visit it well, I suggest you take a small tour of the squares.

If I were you I would start from Piazza Vittoria, located in the center of Brescia and accessible by any means. In fact, there is a metro stop nearby if you arrive in the city using public transport. While if you arrive by car, there is a paid parking lot nearby.

The L-shaped square was inaugurated in 1932, after the new fascist urban plan by Marcello Piacentini. Today the main buildings of Piazza Vittoria are the Torrione INA, the first Italian skyscraper and the Palazzo delle Poste.

Then continue your visit to Piazza Loggia which was built in the 15th century and owes its name to the Palazzo Loggia. Today the building is the venue of the municipal administration and is built in the Renaissance – Venetian style. You can visit it for free so why not take a look?

In the square you can also find the Clock Tower with the old astronomical clock that indicates the hours, the phases of the moon and even the zodiac signs. There is also the monument of Bella Italia dedicated to the fallen of the Ten Days of Brescia.

Continue your tour to discover the best views of this place to visit near Lake Garda. We still have one last square to visit and then it’s time for an aperitif!

The last square you will visit is Piazza Paolo VI, also called Piazza Duomo. Here you will find what makes Brescia a unique city in Italy: two cathedrals within the same square.

These are side by side but have two completely different architectural styles as they were built in different eras. They are called “Old Cathedral“, also called Rotonda, and “New Cathedral” and next to them is the Torre del Pegol.

Among the five things to see in Brescia, the squares are the ones that suit everyone a little. While strolling and visiting the historic center you can stop in the small shops, trattorias and bars that you find along the road. And don’t forget to have an Aperitif!

Pirlo, the Brescia aperitif, is “the coolest aperitif ever“. This denomination is not my invention: the New York Times called it that way. It is a simple variation of the Spritz. The recipe includes ⅓ of still wine, ⅓ of Campari and ⅓ of sparkling water and a slice of orange as a garnish.

If you really don’t want to miss anything in the city, take the Brescia Underground, an organized tour to discover the whole city.


Five things to see in Brescia
Credits:  Wolfgang Moroder

3. THE UNESCO SITE

On 25 June 2011, UNESCO awarded Brescia and included it in the list of seven monumental complexes that highlight the importance of the Lombard populations.

The two places to visit are the San Salvatore – Santa Giulia Complex and the archaeological area of ​​the Capitolium. For their beauty they absolutely deserve to be seen!

It starts from the Monastery of Santa Giulia which was founded in 753. Over the years, it has always been a point of reference for the education of Lombard and Carolingian noble girls.

The church of San Salvatore is also part of the monastery. It is an excellent representation of early medieval religious architecture. Divided into three naves, on the columns and capitals of the whole church you will notice decorations of different styles: Lombard, Byzantine and classical.

You can also visit the crypt where once there were the relics of Santa Giulia.

The church changed over the years: the main addition was the Nuns’ Choir from which they attended the celebrations.

In my opinion, the most fascinating part is the church of Santa Maria in Solario where you can admire the magnificent Cross of Desiderius. This is located in the upper hall of the church and under a starry blue dome.

Cross of Desiderius
Credits: Luca Zocca

This whole complex is part of the Museum of Santa Giulia. Come and visit it to see live objects, sculptures and weapons that participated in the history of this place to visit near Lake Garda.

The second place that is part of the UNESCO site is the Capitoline Temple. It was built under the leadership of Vespasiano in 73 but was then destroyed by a fire and rebuilt only in 1823.

In those years they rediscovered many sculptures and bronze figures including the Winged Victory, which today is one of the symbols of the city.

The temple is located in Piazza del Foro which in Roman times was the main square, where the Cardo and the Decumano crossed. Together with the temple you will also notice the remains of the Roman Theater, the Church of San Zeno al Foro and the lower level of the old city.

As you can see, the temple is of two different colors and materials. The white part is the original marble while the amber one is terracotta and has been recently inserted. This diversity of material makes it fascinating and unique in the world.

As you stroll inside there will be many light and shadows effects based on the time of day.


Five things to see in Brescia
Credits:  Wolfgang Moroder

4. TEATRO GRANDE

If you are passionate about theater and cinema, among the five things to see in Brescia you cannot absolutely miss the Teatro Grande!

It was built in the same place where the first public theater in Brescia opened in 1664. The area was granted by the Republic of Venice to the Accademia degli Erranti. It was used only by the nobility and inside there were rooms used for recreation and others for study.

The theater is one of the most important in Italy, to the point where in 1912 it was recognized as a national monument. Of extraordinary architectural beauty, come and visit it by participating in their Grand Tour! A guided tour during which you can admire the boxes, the Great Hall, the Ridotto, the stage and the backstage.

This place to visit near Lake Garda is not as famous as other Italian cities but has many unique sites too. Continue reading the article to find out my next tips!

The Great Hall is probably the most evocative room.

The Ridotto, on the other hand, is certainly the room that will attract your attention the most. Also called “Foyer”, it is a room that was once used for the vices of gambling and smoking. Today, on the other hand, it is the room where shows are awaited or stopped during breaks. The decorations and architecture of this room are something unique!

To make the most of this place, I strongly recommend that you also attend one of the events they offer during the year. From concerts, to dance, to opera, up to the Opera Festival which is one of the main fairs in the city of Brescia.


MILLE MIGLIA MUSEUM

5. MILLE MIGLIA MUSEUM

Probably many people know the city of Brescia thanks to the Mille Miglia. Called by Enzo Ferrari “the most beautiful race in the world“, the race has been held every year since 1927 with start and finish in Brescia.

In 2004, to celebrate this important race, they opened the Mille Miglia Museum in S. Eufemia, a little outside the city center.

Entering the museum, you will find yourself immersed in a bygone era thanks to the setting with attention to the smallest details and the vintage cars on display.

The visit to the museum is perfect for fans of the Mille Miglia but also for those who want to see something different. At the entrance you will be provided with a tablet that will follow you through the various sections showing you videos and explaining what you have in front of your eyes.

What if you’ve already been there? Well, since the cars are being replaced to make sure they are also able to participate in the demonstrations, you may find completely different models!

Here is my list of the five things to see in Brescia. But I couldn’t finish the article without adding the main events of this magnificent place to visit near Lake Garda. Here are the main ones.


Brescia events
Credits: Miti

EVENTS

Connecting directly to the last point, the first event I want to recommend is the Mille Miglia race.

It is a 3-day race with start and finish in the city of Brescia on normal roads open to traffic. Only cars built between 1927 and 1957 can participate, so if they also pass through your city, you will surely notice them!

The race attracts tourists and participants from all over the world. Starting from old Formula One champions, up to world-famous actors and sportsmen. Some of the car brands that you will see passing are, for example, Ferrari, Mercedes, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Bugatti.

And if you don’t care too much about the race, you will find other distractions! During the three days, in fact, the city comes alive. The shops, restaurants, private homes and a little bit all display an infinity of flags and celebratory objects outside, creating a beautiful party atmosphere.

This must-see place near Lake Garda still has a lot to offer! Read on to discover the other events I recommend you attend during your holiday in Brescia.

The second event not to be missed is the Fair of Saints Faustino and Giovita on February 15th. Every year thousands of people come to Brescia to participate in this party.

In the historic center you will see exhibition stalls from all over Italy and from some countries of the world where you can find a bit of everything. Don’t miss this opportunity to get around the city and taste some typical products along the way!

As already mentioned, the Opera Festival is also held in Brescia. A unique event in the world during which you can listen to famous melodies from the most evocative places in the city. You will find exhibitions in city cloisters and courtyards, churches, parks and cultural venues.

Choose the event you like the most and immerse yourself in that magical atmosphere!

The last event I recommend is the Outdoor Cinema – Summer Eden. In recent years, during the summer, the city takes you back to the 60s while watching movies under the stars.

The location can change, but it is always in extraordinary places like the Castle and the Santa Giulia Museum. For this, you will not see the film from inside your car but sitting on comfortable deck chairs and perhaps drinking a Pirlo or a refreshing drink.

And here is my article on the five things to see in Brescia. I hope I have been useful to you and have given you some ideas for when you come to this magnificent place to visit near Lake Garda. Brescia, its history and its cars are waiting for you!

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