Brescia Things to Do Tips by leics Top 5 Page for this destination
Brescia Things to Do: 70 reviews and 210 photos
What can I say about this huge complex?
It's just been made a UNESCO World Heritage site, for its magnificent convent and the two churches with...San Salvatore and Santa Giulia.
It contains the civic museum as well as those two churches, stuffed with fascinating local artefacts from prehistoric times right through to the late Medieval period.
It contains the excavated remains of two Roman houses (large ones) with their beautiful floor mosaics and even some of their wall-paintings still in place.
It contains the superbly-frescoed(1400s) 'Nuns' Choir' of San Salvatore and the serene space of the much older, square, 12th-century Santa Maria in Solario.
It has a space for modern exhibitions and an excellent cafe with an outside terrace and lovely views.
You follow a designated route, which can be annoying if there is a loud party around you...hopefully you will find the time to slow your pace and 'lose' them (I couldn't).
There is simply so much to see here. I spent 2 hours, and should have allowed myself at least 3. The artefacts are almost all labelled in English as well as Italian and there is so much to find out.
From Etruscan helmets through Roman milestones and truly superb bronzes, from Roman glass and gravestones through tools and jewellery, from Medieval swords to wooden carvings to the most intricate stonework....
The Museo Civico is a jewel in the crown of the ancient convent complex. Absolutely unmissable (and do allow plenty of time for your visit).
Entrance (2011) is 8 euro.
1st October – 31st May
Tuesday – Sunday 9.30 – 17.30
1st June – 30th September
Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 – 18.00
Closed on non-holiday Mondays
Address: Via dei Musei
Directions: Keep an eye open for the museum entrance on the left (as you walk from the Forum), through a fairly small doorway. The convent walls are high and pretty much blank (tiny windows, high up). See photo.
You'll have to keep your eyes open for the narrow 'street' which leads to Brixia's theatre. Walk a little further east from the Forum, along Via dei Musei, and you'll find Vicolo Fontanone leading off Via Giovanni Piamarta on your right. Follow it and, all of a sudden, the vast 1st century amphitheatre is in front of you.
Yes, it's weedy. Yes, much of it is only partially-excavated, or is a confusing mix of rubble and standing architecture....but you wouldn't be in very good condition after 2000 years!
And yes, it is very difficult to photograph so my offerings do not do it justice.
So allow your mind to wander. Imagine the theatre filled with thousands of citizens of Brixia, from the poorest to the most wealthy...it could hold 15000!...roaring their approval of the latest play, or the most popular gladiator, or the poetry readings. Imagine the smell of incense and perfumes, of street-foods (and their sellers!). Imagine the excitement of visiting.....of simply seeing and being seen, of doing business, of casting coy glances at a sweetheart, of meeting best friends and getting drunk afterwards, perhaps of casting longing eyes over the most expensive of Brixia's 'ladies of the night'...Roman theatres provided all those opportunities and more!
Address: Vicolo Fontanone
Via dei Musei leads from the Broletto on Piazza Paolo toward the Roman centre of Brixia (Brecia's name at that time). It tuns along the same route as the Roman decumanus maximus, the main east-west street of any Roman town (the Romans built to a grid pattern).
Folliwing it will eventually bring you to the heart of Brixia; the Forum, where all business was conducted. Now it lies buried under much more modern buildings and cobblestones, with only a very tiny area excavated to one side (see photo). My photo of the forum area may give you an impression of just how deeply much of Roman Brescia underneath its modern surface.
But the magnificent temples at one end of the Forum, being raised up, still stand.
Brixia's forum was remarkably narrow for the time but the elongated view it gives of what remains of those temples makes it very clear indeed what a hugely impressive sight this city centre must have been 2000 years ago.
The Tempio Capitolino was built around 73AD and is now partially reconstructed with red brick. It is easy to see which is reconstruction and which is original, as it should be...archaeological reconstruction is not about tricking people.
Behind the main temple lie three smaller ones, dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. When I visited the site was undergoing further preservation (hence the scaffolding in the photos) and further excavation, so access to the smaller temples was impossible.
Even if the preservation and excavation work is still going on when you visit you really must see this area of Brescia, if only to give you an idea of the power of the Roman Empire at a time when most northern Europe buildings were made from organic materials such as wood.
Address: Piazza del Foro
Directions: To the east of Piazza della Loggia/Piazza Paolo. Follow the Via dei Musei.
The monumental Post Office
When I emerged from the arcades eading from Piazza Paolo Vl this piazza was a bit of a shock.
I had not expected such a very 'modern' setting. But it's is impressive in its own way, although its regimented style is not to my personal taste.
Designed by the architect Piacenini, most of the piazza and its biuding facades is in shades of poliched marble. The Post Office building is particularly impressive, with alternate contrasting bands of colour.
I don't know what the tall chunky building is, but it certainly made an impression on me.
Worth a look if only for the total contrast between Piazza della Vittoria and the Adjoining Medieval Piazza della Loggia.
Address: Central Brescia; easy to find.
Directions: To the SW of Piazza Paolo Vl, to the S of Piazza della Loggia.
Duomo Vecchio exterior
The Duomo Vecchio (Rotonda) is such an ancient church (1100s, but built over an earlier church probably dating from the 7th century) that its entrance now lies some way beneath the modern surface of Piazza Paolo Vl. You now enter through what was originally the women's gallery.
The Duomo is round...the original Romanesque style. It is one of the most important examples of this style in Italy. Its crypt...the Crypt of San Filastrio...dates from the time of the earlier church, probably the 800s, and is filled with chunks of roman masonry, its roof held up by recycled Roman columns.
Inside the main church you can see frescoes from the 1300s and 1400s (with a very little surviving from the 1200s). What remains of the frescoes in the Crypt of San Filastrio dates from even earlier...probably the 1100.
There are also works of art within the Duomo, including paintings by Romanino and Moretto, and the huge red marble sarcophagus of Berado Maggi, Bishop of Brescia in the 1200s.
Near the altar you'll find chunks of floor have been removed and replaced by glass panels. These allow you to see fragments of the Roman bath house which lies beneath the structure, with its mosaic floors and walls, as well as parts of the earlier church.
Definitely worth a visit.
Address: Piazza Paolo V1
Directions: Unmissable once you find the Piazza. Open Tues-Sun, 9-12 and 3-7 in summer, 10-12 and 3-6 in winter.
I din't really pay as much attention to this as I should have done. It looked too modern. Since returning home and researching further, it turns out that the Torre dell'Orlogico is really pretty old.
Venice has a similar clock tower, and the good citizens of late-Medieval Brescia decided they would like one as well. So, between 1540 and 1550, they built the one in the photo.
The clock itself dates from 1544-1546 and can mark moon phases and zodiacal signs as well as the hours. On top of the tower are two mechanical men (installed in 1581), made of bronze and linked to the clock mechanism. They strike the hours.
The tower itself is incorporated into a long, white-stone arcade dating from 1595.
Address: Piazza dell Loggia
Directions: Directly opposite the Palazzo della Loggia, on the eastern side of the piazza.
Monte di Pieta, with balcony
This building fascinated me.
Set on the southern side of the piazza it dates from the 1400s. Originally shops, in 1480 the city authorities decided to add various bits of Roman masonry to the facade. There are two loggias (colonnaded spaces) which allow access to the much-more-modern Piazza della Vittoria and, above these, a balcony from which, it is thought, speeches may once have been made
The building was later used by the Monte di Pieta, a type of city-run pawnbrokers.
There are Roman inscriptions galore to be sought out on the facade and it is this which fascinated me. Some are memorial stones, some are simply reliefs, some are...well, my Latin is no longer up to the challenge!
Definitely a must-see. Be warned: centuries of pollution have worn away the inscriptions so you will have to look closely. Most of them are not at all obvious.
Address: Piazza della Loggia
Directions: The long white building on the left as you stand with the Loggia behind you.
Palazzo della Loggia
Piazza della Loggia is Brescia's main square and a pretty one, with Medieval buildings on all sides.
The Loggia in the name is placed at the western end of the square...the Palazzo della Loggia, to be accurate, started in 1494. The lower part was completed in 1501, the upper in 1548.
Built by the city, its was originally intended for hearings by various civic authorities including those of Venice, for Brescia at that time was under the protection of powerful Medieval Venice.
At one time there was a room with paintings by Titian, but this was destroyed by fire in 1575.
I didn't go inside (the building still houses municipal authorities) but believe that on the first floor there is an octagonal 'salon' with a wooden ceiling and frescoes.
Address: Piazza della Loggia
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