In Brescia, there is much to see and do for those who love art, nature, and good food. The historic center of the city is small and collected, full of cobbled streets and beautiful views. Because all the main things to see are located a short distance from each other, you can visit everything on foot without problems.
Things to do in Brescia
Piazza della Loggia
You can start the tour from Piazza della Loggia, the most important square in the city as well as one of the most beautiful squares built in Venetian style when Brescia was dominated by the Serenissima Republic. This square, built in the mid-fifteenth century, stands in place of a medieval market and houses some of the most beautiful and historic buildings in the city.
The Loggia from which the square takes its name is the unmistakable white building with three arches and the dome that dominates a large, richly carved white marble facade. Built-in 1492, today it is the seat of the Town Hall offices. Inside, a large Renaissance staircase leads to the first floor, to the Salone designed by Luigi Vanvitelli in 1773.
On the opposite side to the Loggia is the Clock Tower, built-in 1540 with the two bronze statues that strike the bell every hour. On the tower stands a large mechanical clock from 1544 which also indicates the zodiac signs and the moon phases.
To the left of the tower, instead, stands the building of Monte di Pietà, from 1484: on the facade, there are a series of Roman inscriptions recovered during excavations in this area.
On Saturdays, the square hosts the open market, and the whole year is the perfect meeting place for a coffee at the tables and for some shopping in the shops under the arcades.
Piazza Paolo VI
The itinerary continues towards Piazza Paolo VI, a beautiful medieval square in the heart of Brescia. The two cathedrals of the city overlook this square: the Summer Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (the new cathedral) and the Winter Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (the old cathedral). The square also houses the Palazzo del Broletto with its stone tower, built starting from 1200.
The old cathedral is a round stone building: it was built in 1100 and today it is the largest circular Romanesque temple ever. The interior houses the beautiful mosaics of the early Christian basilica that stood at this point, the remains of a Roman thermal system, and the sarcophagus made of marble at the beginning of the fourteenth century.
The new cathedral is today the most important church in the city. Built starting from 1604 and completed in 1825, it is unmistakable thanks to its baroque marble facade and dome, which with its 80 meters is the third-largest in Italy after that of San Pietro in Rome and that of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Inside it houses works of art from the 1400s until the 1700s, including a wooden crucifix from the 1400s.
In addition to the two cathedrals, the Palazzo del Broletto stands out on the square. Remodeled and renovated several times, this building was the center of government in the Middle Ages and today occupies an entire block. The square is closed to car traffic and has become a meeting place, especially in the evening.
Piazza Vittoria, Brescia
Another interesting square is Piazza Vittoria, a fairly large and relatively recent square that was born on the occasion of a redevelopment of the city during the fascist period. In the square stands the large post office building and the Torrione, the first reinforced concrete skyscraper in 1932, considered at the time as the tallest building in Europe.
Capitolium of Brixia
Brixia was the ancient name of Brescia in Roman times. For this reason, we still find the remains of Roman buildings in the city, including the theater, the city forum, and the Capitoline temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This temple was the heart of the Roman city, dedicated to the three main Roman gods: Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. Today you can admire the remains of the temple with a series of Corinthian columns and inside the wonderful polychrome marble floors with geometric decorations of the first century AD.
In reality, what you can see in Brescia is now a reconstruction that took place in the nineteenth century; this can be seen, for example, by the different colors of the columns that support half of the temple.
The castle of Brescia
Brescia Castle, a symbol of the city, stands on a hill, in the place where the first settlement of the city was, in the Bronze Age. The castle, one of the largest in Italy, is perfectly preserved.
A visit to this complex is an opportunity to learn about the history of Brescia. In 1849, the castle was the scene of clashes with the Austrian army and in 1945 some members of the Resistance were shot. Today the visit to the castle includes a double drawbridge, a walk around the keep, a magnificent panorama, underground tours, and two museums: the Arms Museum and the Risorgimento Museum.
The Arms Museum contains one of the most complete collections of European weapons and armor. Here you can admire, for example, luxury armor, customized with embossed decorations, and a rich collection of firearms and white weapons.
The Risorgimento Museum, instead, recounts in detail the 10 days of Brescia against the Austrians in 1849 and all the events from the Second Italian War of Independence onwards, with documents, memorabilia, paintings and everyday objects.
Museum of Santa Giulia
The Museum of Santa Giulia stands in place of the female monastery of S. Giulia and contains a Lombard basilica, a 16th-century church, and the remains of the Roman Domus.
This museum testifies the daily artistic and spiritual life of Brescia from prehistory to today. The visit can start from the ground floor, where the houses of the Roman era are located, from the 1st to the 4th century AD. It is a path where you can admire frescoes and mosaics.
The church of San Salvatore is one of the most important Lombard buildings ever and was built in 753 AD by King Desiderio as a symbol of his monarchy. Worth a visit for its rich sculptures.
We then visit the church of Santa Maria in Solario, the oratory of the nuns. It dates back to the 12th century and on the lower floor, it houses an ivory box from the 4th century AD used as a reliquary. Upstairs the hall is completely frescoed. Here there is the “Croce di Desiderio”, a 9th century AD cross with Lombard and Roman decorations.
Last but not least, among the Roman finds that surround the Renaissance cloister is the “Winged Victory” of Brescia, a bronze figure made in the first century. A.D., which depicts a woman with angel wings, wrapped in a cloak. Today it is one of the symbols of the city.
“Tosio Martinengo” Art Gallery
The “Tosio Martinengo” Art Gallery houses a collection of 480 works by the most important authors from 1200 to 1800, including the protagonists of the Renaissance, from Raphael to Lotto, and the greatest exponents of the nineteenth century including Canova and Hayez.
The route winds along 21 exhibition rooms and is perfectly integrated into the architectural structure of the building. The heart of the collection is the Renaissance painting of Brescia, but among the works not to be missed, there are also works by Raphael. The collection also includes a series of medals, enamels, ivories and goldsmiths. The collection has grown over time, and today it also houses Japanese and Chinese paintings.
Church of Sant’Agata, Brescia
But Brescia still has many churches. Among these, there are some that deserve to be visited for their historical and architectural value, such as the church of Sant’Agata which, built since 1300 and remodeled several times, has a Renaissance portal with two baroque statues. The interior is a perfect example of harmony between the fifteenth and sixteenth-century styles, with frescoes and stuccos from the 1600s. The chapels of the nave date back to the 16th century, wonderful frescoes from 1683, one of the first examples of Baroque decoration in Brescia.
” Santa Maria dei Miracoli” Church, Brescia
The church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli is a real treasure of Renaissance art and is located in the center, in Corso Martiri della Libertà. This church was built in 1488 to preserve the miraculous image of the Madonna and Child.
church of Saints Nazario and Celso
The church of Saints Nazario and Celso is one of the largest churches in Brescia and is located in Via Matteotti. This church is a classic example of a neoclassical structure. Inside, this church consists of five chapels and houses many works of art. The origin of this church is medieval, but over the centuries it has been enlarged and enriched until it was completely rebuilt in 1753 in neoclassical style.
Teatro Grande di Brescia
The Teatro Grande di Brescia (large theater) was founded in 1640 and today is the most important theater in the city. From the end of the 19th century onwards, it staged the most famous lyrical works of the Italian tradition. In April and May it hosts the International Piano Festival and every year in June the Opera Festival, where once for a whole day, you can attend the most famous works of the opera tradition for free. The theater can be visited by reservation and allows you to discover the history and splendor of these places. The statues room takes its name from the 16 plaster statues of the most important Italian artists, including Giuseppe Verdi. The foyer is a room with sumptuous decorations from the 1700s.
The theater includes five orders of loggias and is dominated by the red of the tapestries, and by a series of decorations in gold and ivory. The ceiling is also decorated with frescoes and gilded stuccos.
But the visit to Brescia does not end in the light of the sun but continues underground, with Brescia Sotterranea, a path to discover all that is hidden under street level, with various routes. The main route lasts about 2 hours, and starts right below Piazza Loggia, with guides who explain step by step all the curiosities, and the underground history of the city. It is also possible to visit the basements of the Brescia castle, discovering the galleries, the olive oil warehouse, the water tanks, and the powder magazine.
Food And Wine in Brescia
After finishing your visit to the city, you cannot miss the part dedicated to the discovery of Brescia’s food and wine. Here the dishes are tasty, based on meat and dairy products, and cereals, among which the famous taragna polenta stands out, and then excellent wines.
You can start with the aperitif, called “Pirlo” here, made with lemon zest, white wine, red bitters, seltz, accompanied by “bertagnì” (fried cod).
The appetizers are rich in meats and cheeses, and among the first courses are the “malfatti”: gnocchi with bread, milk, butter, eggs, fresh spinach and nutmeg, boiled and seasoned with butter and sage.
Among the typical second courses to taste there is the beef cooked in extra virgin olive oil, which requires long cooking, and the donkey stew, cooked in wine and flavored with onions and tomato concentrate. Taragna polenta is rich in typical flours such as buckwheat. Today the tradition of polenta lives again thanks to stone-ground corn flour which accompanies all dishes.
The most traditional sweets are the “bussolà”, the “persicata” and the “Brescia biscuit”. Bussolà is a round dessert with a hole in the center based on butter, while persicata is a delicious jelly with pieces of peaches and caramel. The Brescia biscuit is simple and nutritious, and according to tradition it is not very sweet and perfect to soak.
Brescia also offers wines for all tastes and of excellent quality. The autochthonous wine is the white Invernenga, available in limited production. Among others, you can taste the classic Garda, the Botticino, the Lugana. Obviously, among the sparkling wines, there is the Franciacorta.
Where To stay in Brescia
If you are looking for a place to sleep in Brescia, the best one is certainly the city center. Living the city in the evening and then returning to some nice hotel or B&B a few steps from the main squares and monuments is in fact the choice that suits you best.