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Duomo, Brescia

Panorama of Brescia

Corso Zanardelli, Brescia

Welcome to Brescia
From Jesses Journeys in Italy

Population: 187,865 (2003)
Official site:

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Milan is the largest city in Lombardia (Lombardy); Brescia, a modern industrial city with a history that begins in the Stone Age, is the second largest.  It is also the capital of Brescia Province, which, with over 1 million people, is one of the most heavily populated in Italy.

Brecia's importance in the Roman Empire, its interesting and complex medieval history, and its proximity to Lake Garda, Lake Iseo and the Alps combine to make the city a beguiling  attraction to travelers from all over the world.

When you arrive, we recommend that you locate the Piazza della Loggia in the "centro", to get your bearings.  Some say it is the most beautiful Venetian square outside Venice. There you will find the  Palazzo del Popolo, now the city hall, with its loggia overlooking the square.  Both the piazza and the palazzo, along with most of the other buildings facing the square were built during the 16th Century Italian Renaissance and have a decided and captivating elegance.  This is a good start.

Opposite the city hall on the other side of the piazza is an 11th Century clock tower, the Torre dell'Orolgio, with two figures that strike the hours.  The old town hall, known as the Broletto, is on the Piazza della Loggia too.

Other renaissance buildings on the square include the Monte Vecchio di Pieta ("Old Mercy Mountain"), now a museum constructed of stone, probably the oldest example in all of Italy.  The Tosio Martinengo Art Gallery in the Palazzo Martinengo is a picture gallery containing a number of very beautiful and sometimes important works, including a Raphael, the "Blessing of Christ".  In the Renaissance church of Sante Zazaro e Celso hangs a 5 panel painting by the equal famous artist, Titian, called the Polychtic Averoldi.

The "old" and "new" Cathedral are inextricably wed to one another, creating a unique architectural experience.  The old part, built in the 11th Century is done in the Romanesque style, and has works by the artists Moretto and Romanino hanging inside, while the newer part was constructed 600 years later, in the far more ornate Baroque style.

Moving to the Piazza del Foro, situated on the old Roman Forum, you will find the principal Roman ruin, the Temple Capitolino built in 73 AD, with a few columns and wall fragments, particularly beautiful at night when it is illuminated.  Close by is what remains of the Teatro Romana, constructed in the 3rd century, and one of the largest in Northern Italy.  The theater was heavily damaged in the 5th Century.

The Monastery of Santa Giulia and the Church of San Salvatore, the patron saints of the city, sit adjacent to the temple ruins.  The Monastery houses the archaeological  museum, or Roman Museum as it is known, which contains a wide variety of artifacts dating to the origins of the city, and other parts of Brescia Province.  On display you will also see one of the museum's most prized Roman possessions, the elegant copper statue, the Vittoria Alata, or "winged victory", also known as the "Nike of Brescia".

The Basilica San Salvatore (9th Century) is home to a museum of early Christian art.  Among the artifacts in the latter museum is the Croce di Desiderio, a jewel encrusted cross.  The walls of the Roman Basilica are situated on the southern side of the forum area.

Another museum of note is the Pinacoteca Tosia Marinengo, housed in a 16th Century Renaissance palazzo, which houses works of art by artists in the so called "Brescia school" of painting.  Other works are hung in various other churches around time which you might want to take in during your stay, including the Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Santi Nazaro e Celso, Madonna della Grazie, Sant’Alessandro, Sant Agata, San Giovanni Evangelista and Madonna del Carmine.

The preaching church, the Chiesa San Francesco is another Romanesque building in the "centro", with a grand and airy interior.

Overlooking the city, accessible through the Sant'Urbano quarter, and sitting on the Cidneo Hill is the Castle of Brescia, built between the 13th and 16th Century.  You may tour the Castle and explore its towers, ramparts, drawbridges and rooms.  In the Visconti Tower, look for the Marzoli museum where you will find an amazing display of arms, armour and armaments.  The Castle also houses the Museum of the Risorgimento, commemorating the days leading to the Unification of Italy.

Enough of monuments and architecture.  What about Brecia, the city?

Well, Brecia sits on the Padana Plain at the south end of the Val Trompia flowing out of the Alps.  It is circumscribed on the east by the Ronchi Hills, and on the west by the Mella River.  It was originally a Gallic settlement, but, in 187 BC, was captured by the Romans, who knew it as "Brixia", and who used it as a strategic staging area for their incursions further North.  The Romans built extensively in the city and many ruins of their buildings are accessible to modern day visitors.

The collapse of the Roman Empire left the city vulnerable. Attila and his Huns invaded first and sacked Brescia in 452 AD.  The Ostrogoths came next, then the Byzantine .  Thereafter, control of the city passed, through dint of arms, from the Longobards to the Franks under Charlemagne, to Venetians.  As part of the Lombard League in 1176, the city, a "free" comune, resisted the Holy Roman Empire.  The age of the comunes gave way to the age of the signories when Brescia came under the control of a succession of powerful families, including the Angioni, Visconti and Malatestas.

In 1426 Brescia fell under much more liberal Venetian control and remained their for 450 years - a period of tranquility and prosperity during which time new walls and fortifications were added and most of the major Renaissance buildings and piazzas were built.

As Venice's power declined, Brescia suffered from various incursions and sackings, culminating in the city's rebellion against Venice.  Napoleon conquered the "willing" city and made it part of the Cisalpine Republic.  When Napoleon fell, the Austrian's grabbed Brescia and held on until 1859, although the Brescians rose-up and for 10 bloody days held the Austrians at bay.  Henceforth, Brescia has been known as the Lioness of Italy.  The wars of independence ended Austrian rule, and so in 1860, Brescia became, along with all Lombardia, annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.

The city, an important rail and road junction, is the home of many important companies including those involved in financial services, textile manufacture, metal ware, processed food, mechanical and automotive engineering, and machine tooling.

And that's it.  Possibly, all you ever wanted to know about Brescia.

By Vian Andrews, November 17th, 2005


45°32' North Latitude and 2°14' Longitude


By Car:
Cremona - 52 km
Piacenza - 90 km
Milan - 105 km
Parma - 117 km
Lecco - 128 km
Como - 140 km
Bellagio - 146 km
Venice - 180  km
Bologna - 186 km


Statue of Vittoria Alata, Brescia

Racer in the Mille Mila Car Race

The Mille Mila Car Race starts and ends in Brecia every May.  Racers in different styles and classes of cars race to Rome and back, driving through Arezzo, Ferrara, Assisi Roma, Viterbo, Florence, Modena, Matova and other beautiful Italian cities.  For a history of the race click here. 


The great architect, Palladio, born in nearby Padua, was involved in the building of the Palazzo del Popolo on the Piazza della Loggia.  He was responsible for the upper floors of the Loggia, as exemplified by their windows.  The architect Sansovino was also said to have played a part in the design and building of the Palazzo.