Brescia is situated in the Lombardy region to the west of Lake Garda. The town is in an attractive setting and contains some good Roman ruins, some fine Renaissance architecture, and a touch of Mussolinis excesses.
There are four substantial Piazzas in the centre of Brescia, and it is the most northerly of these, at Piazza della Loggia, that is most attractive and contains the best architecture, including the loggia and the torre dell'orologio (as at Bergamo to the west the square has a significant Venetian influence).
Exploring Brescia from the Romanesque age to the Renaissance...
Our suggested route for visiting the city and enjoying the many artistic works of Brescia starts from the railway station and along the short boulevard that leads into Corso Matteotti, which contains several 18th century churches and palaces.
In particular, see the Fe dOstiani Palace, and the Church of the Santi Nazario and Celso with paintings of Moretto (Coronation of Mary) and Titian.
Next continue via Fratelli Bronzetti to see the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, rebuilt often between 1488 and 1569. It has a very nice facade, with some Lombard and Venetian decoration.
From the Vicolo Saint Nicholas you can reach the Church of Saint Francis, of romanic style and built between 1255 and 1265.
This church is interesting because it contains a considerable number of important paintings and antiquities: in addition to a "Deposition of Christ" by a pupil of the great master Giotto (Giotto di Bondone, 1267-1337), the others include works by the 16th century Masters of Brescia, from the "Marriage of the Virgin" by Romanino (1484 c.-1562 c.) to many paintings by pupils of Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, 1488 c.-1576).
We recommend that you now pass along Corso Garibaldi (with the great Palaces of the Martinengo and Colleoni) and into Via Fenarolo (with the Church of the Madonna del Carmine and numerous paintings by Guido Mazzoni [1450-1518] and Vincenzo Foppa [1427-1515]).
Continue into Via San Faustino to see the Church of Santi Faustino e Giovita with an interior featuring impressive paintings by Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770).
From here you can climb up to the Castle, with a formidable entry portal by Michele Sanmicheli (1484-1559) from which you can enjoy the panoramic view across the city of Brescia.
Passing the grandiose Porta Bruciata ('Burned gate', named after a fire in 1184), you enter into the city centre with the Church of Saint Joseph and Piazza della Loggia [Lodge Square], in the Renaissance style.
In Piazza del Duomo you can see see the 12th century "Duomo Vecchio" ('old cathedral'), with some paintings by Moretto and the "Duomo Nuovo" ('new cathedral') built in 1604 in late-Renassaince style, opposite which is the magnificent Civic Library called Queriniana and dating from 1758.
On reaching Piazza Labus you can see the ruins of a Roman building (the Curia), and to the east you can admire a Roman column more than five metres high, and the ruins of a Capitoline Temple erected by Emperor Vespasianus in 73AD.
There is also a Roman Museum here, rich in examples of Romans portraits, works in glass and various bronzes. Near here also is the Museum of the Christian and Modern Age that collects many medieval works.
Archaeological excavations in this part of Brescia have also revealed a Roman Theatre, in which traces of frescoes of Pompeian style are visible.
Descend from the Museum towards Brescia Arnold Square, and the monument to 'Arnold of Brescia'.
Arnold of Brescia' (1090-1155) was a heretic who was fighting against the corruption of the Church in the 12th century. He was excommunicated by Pope Adrian IV in 1155 and executed in Rome in the same year.
You can conclude your tour of Brescia along the Corso Magenta, where you will see the Church of Santa Eufemia (1776) and the Oldofredi Palace; the Church of San Barnaba (1632); the Palazzo Martinengo (of Baroque style) and the Gallery Tosio-Martinengo that contains more than a thousand paintings from the 15th century onwards.
Brescia food and drink
If after a long visit you need to fortify yourself with the typical local dishes from Brescia, we recommend a famous dish of the place, the "polenta and osèi" [polenta and birds], the so-called "soup of mericonde" (flour, crumbs moistened in milk, butter and egg) and the "brofadei" (broth soup) and finally the "casonsei" (ravioli stuffed with vegetables and cheese).
We also recommend that you taste the famous "Malvasia grappa" among the liqueurs.
See also history of Brescia.