It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to a city and haven’t heard a single word of English all day. The city of Brescia, located an hour away from Milano in the Lombardia region of Italy, broke that streak. Like most towns built before the modern age, the historic part of Brescia is very compact and makes for easy walking.
Running on three hours of sleep is never fun, so I headed straight to Piazza Duomo and got myself an espresso and a treat. This central plaza is one of the oldest in the city, and is home to three distinct buildings, the Duomo Vecchio, Duomo Nuovo, and the Broletto Palace. The Duomo Vecchio, or Old Cathedral, built in the 12th century, is over the remains of a Christian Church dating back to the 5th century. Glass panels on the floor allow you to peek into the history of this building from early Roman times.
The Duomo Nuovo was built over the span of over 200 years, from the 17-19th centuries. Because of this, there are several different architectural features from these different eras. On the interior, the highlight for me was the altar. Supported by a carved and polished root clump, it was a beautiful contrast to the white marble. There is also a monument to Pope Paul VI, who was born in the province of Brescia. The dome itself was rebuilt after being bombed in WWII.
At the north end of the square, the Broletto is the oldest public building in the town. Originally built in the early Middle Ages, this building was constantly added to up until modern times. Even today it is undergoing some changes as it still serves as municipal offices for the town. Also bordering the square is the Tourist Information Center.
A short walk from the Piazzo Duomo lies some of the towns oldest ruins. Dating back to the first century, the temple and theatre were both closed when I was there on a Monday. I was able to snag some shots through the bars, but wish I had been able to explore more. There is also an archaeology museum that seemed interesting.
On the opposite side of the street is more evidence from ancient times. The Piazza del Forro was an active site from the Iron Age on, though was busiest during the Roman rule of the region. You can see some pillars that remain from its time as a market square.
The highlight of my time in Brescia was visiting the Castello. Dating back to the first century BCE, it is clear why people chose this site for military fortresses and castles over the centuries. On one side you can see the domes and towers of historic Brescia. And on the other sides you can see the sprawling city that Brescia has become.
The castle is home to a museum, closed though, when I visited on a Monday. The castle grounds were still open so I spent a couple of hours wandering around the gardens, ramparts, tunnels, and moat. Be sure to visit the park on the eastern grounds of the castle. Walking through the castle you can see the impacts of the areas former rulers. Venetian, Austrian, and Roman elements can be found throughout.
This Renaissance style square is filled with reminders of the cities former Venetian reign. The curve roofed Palazzo was built in the early 16th century to showcase the power and artisanship of the Venetian Empire. They then used it to house the daily meetings and affairs of the city. On the opposite end, the clock tower was a favorite of mine, with Its astronomical motifs.
In a historic city dominated by Ancient Rome and the Renaissance, I love the late art-deco style of the Piazza della Vittoria. The architects of the post office and adjacent clock tower combine the classical elements of Brescia’s historic architecture with the modern (at the time) style of the late 1930s. The water feature and open space made this quite a lively place even in the autumn.
A town as old as Brescia has history around every turn. I spent a couple of hours wandering around the city, marveling at it all. Go get lost down some of the cobblestone streets and discover all the other smaller features of this city.
For those with smart phones and an internet plan, pay attention to the various QR codes. Located in front of almost every historic attraction, you can scan and listen to the history of whatever you happen to be viewing. If you are interested in learning more about Brescia, before you get there, the tourism website is very well done, and in English.