"Fascinating 'ordinary' place...." Top 5 Page for this destination Brescia by leics
Brescia Travel Guide: 146 reviews and 457 photos
My apologies for the fact that, judging from my photos, I seem to have spent my day in Brescia continually lop-sided!
I'd decided to visit Brescia (a straightforward direct train journey of around an hour from Bergamo) because of its Roman remains. I hadn't realised quite what a pleasant place to wander it would be, nor how much of historical and architectural interest it contains. I needed much more time than I had allowed myself, so will definitely be making a return visit in future.
Brescia station is a good walk (15+mins) away from its historical centre, through not-very-interesting areas, so the first thing was to get a bus ticket (no problem whatsoever, I just popped into the nearest tabacchi) and then catch a bus into the centre (also no problem) My Rough Guide directions were...very unusually for them...wrong about the final destination of the bus I should catch but the timetable displayed on the bus stop soon sorted out the problem.
I'd expected to whizz round the Duomo Vecchio, see the Roman temples and theatre and then spend the rest of my time exploring the Museum of Santa Giulia (which includes the excavated sites of 3 Roman houses). I simply had no idea of how much more Brescia had to offer, spent much longer exploring the Piazza dell Loggia than I'd expected, was lucky enough to gain entry to an excavation underneath a palazzo (with a most pleasant English-speaking guide all to myself), found so many points and places of interests...and so I ended up rushing through Santa Giulia much more quickly than I had intended.
Even on my way to Piazza della Loggia (dating from 1433) I couldn't help spending some time gazing at some excellent examples of Fascist architecture in Piazza della Vittoria as well as popping into the ancient church of Santa Agata.
Then Piazza della Loggia took up more time than I'd thought...not just the Loggia itself, but the fascinating Monte di Pieta on the Piazza's southern side. Built in the 1400s, its frontage incorporates numerous chunks of Roman inscribed masonry. Of course, I had to seek out and read or photograph each chunk!
And then, on my way to explore the Duomo Vecchio, I came across the 16th-century Chiesa e Convento San Giuseppe, its door open and its cloisters decorated with lovely frescoes.......I could not ignore the 'invitation'!
The Duomo Vecchio itself is a rare example of a round church so ancient (1100s) that its floor level is well below existing ground level...and, inside, there are the exposed excavations of Roman mosaics (the site was a bath house complex) during Roman times) and a crypt held up by random Roman columns and chunks of masonry....
On the way to the Roman temples and theatre, slightly outside the existing heart of the city, I passed the Palazoo Martinengo. There was a sign outside saying 'excavations open to the public...free'. So of course I had to go inside. A magnificent English-speaking volunteer guide and a fascinating glimpse into what lies beneath existing Brescia meant I used another 40 minutes or so.....but it was time so very well spent!
Onwards to, eventually, the temples and the theatre. Preserving ancient remains costs a fortune and Italy has so many of them. There is scaffolding, there are weeds, there is clearly no money to do anything other than the basic preservation (although excavation is ongoing on the sites). But the grandeur of these structures created in what was a not-really-so-very-important Roman settlement give a good insight into the sheer power and magnificence of the Roman Empire.
And then, finally, to the museum of Santa Giulia. This was really the main purpose of my visit...I wanted to see the Roman houses inside...but I had no idea how extensive the museum is, nor how much it contains.
I simply did not have time to do it justice, whipping myself through the displays at a far faster pace than is my usual way. The fact that I was trying to outpace an exceptionally noisy and large group of Italian teenagers didn't help (the museum has a one-way system). It would have been better to wait and let them get well ahead, but I just didn't have time to do so.
The Roman excavations inside the museum are superb and the museum itself contains so many, many artefacts and sculptures from all eras. It encompasses the wonderful Medieval structures of the original monastery (founded in 753). I did not do it justice, and for that reason alone I must go back to Brescia.
But I had a train to catch, so I walked back to the bus stop and caught the bus to the station. All was going well until the bus stopped unexpectedly and 4 inspectors got on, accompanied by a policeman with a baton. No problem for me, I thought...I had a ticket and I'd validated it. And there was no problem with the ticket (the inspector was very smiley and courteous) but there was a big problem with getting off the bus.
I missed my stop (the inspectors were blocking the view). And the busdriver didn't want to open any doors at the next stop because of the inspectors (cue Leics saying 'Uscita, uscita per favore!!!' in panicked pseudo-Italian!) and I ended up having to walk much, much further back to the station than I'd expected. It's just as well I've got a good sense of direction...and that Brescia railway station is a very distinctive piece of architecture!
It's a brilliant place, Brescia (even if your bus does get boarded by numerous inspectors). So much to explore and enjoy, even if you are not interested in history. It is a really pleasant town with lots of shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and a totally non-touristy feel. An ordinary place with ordinary people living ordinary lives, I think, and those are always the places I like best. :-)
- Pros:Lots of history and architecture, excellent museum, non-touristy
- Cons:None I came across
- In a nutshell:Brilliant museum, excellent history and architecture...and not too many visitors
Tower houses (tall, square structures up to 7 or 8 storeys high, sometimes more) were all the rage in northern Italy... more travel advice
You'll have to keep your eyes open for the narrow 'street' which leads to Brixia's theatre. Walk a little further east... more travel advice
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