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Brescia
Thanks to its specific geographical position, Brescia has always been in contact with several populations and was influenced by their different cultures. It is this multicultural element that surprises visitors and makes them want to come back.
Brescia City of Art is a continuous discovery. Around the Roman Temple stands the largest archaeological site in northern Italy. Every street abounds in historical buildings, that were built in different ages but whose styles combine to create a harmonious whole

History

Different mythological versions of the foundation of Brescia exist: one assign it to Hercules, while another says that it was created as Altilia ("the other Ilium") by a fugitive from the siege of Troy. According to a further one, the founder was the king of the Ligures Cidnus, who had invaded the Padan Plain in the late Bronze Age. Other scholars attribute the foundation to the Etruscans.
Invaded by the Gauls Cenomani, allied of the Insubri, in the 4th century BCE, it became their capital. During the Carthaginian Wars Brixia was usually allied of the Romans: in 202 BCE it was part of a Celt confederation against them, but, after a secret agreement, changed side and attacked by surprise the Insubri, destroying them. Subsequently the city and the tribe entered peacefully in the Roman world as a faithful allied, mantaining a certain administrative freedom. In 89 BCE it was recognized as civitas ("city") and in 41 BCE received the Roman citizenship. The Roman Brixia had at least three temples, an aqueduct, an amphitheater, a forum with a further temple built under Vespasianus, and some baths.
When Constantine advanced against Maxentius in 312, an engagement took place at Brescia in which the enemy was forced to retreat as far as Verona. In 402 the city was ravaged by the Visigoths of Alarich I. During the invasion of the Huns under Attila, the city was again besieged and sacked (452) while, some forty years later, it was one of the first conquests of the Goth general Teoderich the Great in his war against Odoacer.
In 568 or 569 Brescia was occupied by the Lombards, who made it the capital of one of their semi-independent duchies. First duke was one Alachis, who died in 573. Later dukes included the future king Rotharis and Rodoald, and Alachis II, a fervent anti-Catholic who was killed in the batte of Cornate d'Adda (688). The last king of the Lombard, Desiderius, had been also duke of Brescia. In 774 Charlemagne captured the city and ended the existence of the Lombard kingdom in northern Italy.
Notingus was the first (prince-)bishop (in 844) who bore the title of Count (see Bishopric of Brescia). Later the power of the bishop as imperial representative was gradually defied by the local citizens and nobles, Brescia becoming a free commune around the early 12th century. Subsequently it expanded in the nearby countryside, first at the expenses of the local landholders, and later against the neighbouring communes, notably Bergamo and Cremona. Brescia defeated the latter two times at Pontoglio, and then at the Grumore (mid-12th century) and in the battle of the Malamorte (1192).
In the successive struggles between the Lombard cities and the emperors, Brescia was implicated in some of the leagues and in all of the uprisings against them. In the Battle of Legnano the contingent from Brescia was the second in size after that of Milan. The Peace of Constance (1183) that ended the war with Frederick Barbarossa confirmed officially the free status of the commune. Memorable is also the siege laid to Brescia by the emperor Frederick II in 1238 on account of the part taken by this city in the battle of Cortenova (27 November 1237). Brescia came through this assault victorious. After the fall of the Hohenstaufen, republican institutions declined at Brescia as in the other free cities and the leadership was contested between powerful families, chief among them the Maggi and the Brusati, the latter of the (pro-imperial, anti-papal) Ghibelline party.
In 1311 Emperor Henry VII laid siege to Brescia for six months, losing three-fourths of his army. Later the Scaligeri of Verona, aided by the exiled Ghibellines, sought to place Brescia under subjection. The citizens of Brescia then recoursed to John of Luxemburg, but Mastino II della Scala expelled the governor appointed by him. His mastery was soon contested by the Visconti of Milan, but not even their rule was undisputed, as Pandolfo Malatesta in 1406 took possession of the city, but in 1416 bartered it to Filippo Maria Visconti, who in 1426 sold it to the Venetians. The Milanese nobles forced Filippo to resume hostilities against the Venetians, and thus to attempt the recovery of this city, but he was defeated in the battle of Maclodio (1427), near Brescia. In 1439 Brescia was once more besieged by Francesco Sforza, captain of the Venetians, who defeated Niccolò Piccinino, Filippo's condottiero. Thenceforward Brescia acknowledged the authority of Venice, with the exception of the years between 1512 and 1520, when it was occupied by the French armies. It subsequently shared the fortunes of the Venetian republic until 1796.
After the end of the Napoleonic era, Brescia was annexed to the Austrian puppet state called Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. It distinguished for the revolt called the Ten Days of Brescia (march 1849), for which the poet Giosuè Carducci called it "Leonessa d'Italia" ("Italian Lionesse").
Brescia was annexed to Italy in 1859.

Main monuments

Rotonda
Rotonda Brescia Lombardy tourism

The Old Cathedral of Brescia is also known as Rotunda. The old cathedral of St. Maria Maggiore was pulled down around the 11th-12th centuries, and replaced by a stone building in the European Romanesque style. The large and circular church has one-light windows, and the tambour has a conical roof. Outside, an excavation – now a small garden - shows the original ground level of the old entrance, replaced in 1571. The main doorway still exists today on the west side of the building, although the tower which stood over it collapsed. Inside, just in front of the entrance, there is an imposing sarcophagus carved in bas-reliefs: it contains the body of Bishop Berardo Maggi, Lord of the city, who died in 1308. Some stairs lead down to the Rotunda: eight trapezoidal pillars and round arches form a circle and support the hemispheric dome. The presbytery is deep and raised from the floor. On the left, there is the Holy Crosses Chapel, where the precious shrines are kept behind a grate. On the right, the Holy Sacrament Chapel is enriched with four paintings by Moretto; two works by Romanino can be seen in the area before the chapel gate. In the transept opposite the altar there is a remarkable painting by Francesco Maffei from Vicenza (1656), representing the procession to transfer the relics of the Holy Bishops to the Old Cathedral of S.Pietro de Dom. The choir is dominated by the beautiful Assumption by Moretto, and is enriched with wooden seats by Antonio da Soresina (1522); the organ was made by Costantino Antegnati (1536). Two little stairs (on both sides of the presbytery staircase) lead to the crypt dedicated to St. Filastrio, bishop of Brescia in the 4th century, decorated with Roman, Byzantine, 8th and 9th-century columns and capitals, taken from the crypt of the original cathedral.

The Capitolium
The Capitolium Brescia Lombardy tourism

The Capitolium, built by the emperor Vespasian in AD 73, was a religious site and the monumental centre of ancient Brixia. The building was situated on the decumanus maximus (on the line of Via Musei) and was discovered in 1823. It is a temple with three chambers, where the Capitoline trinity of deities was worshipped, and is based on the plan of the underlying Republican temple (probably constructed in 80-70 BC, soon after Roman citizenship was granted in 89 BC), which has also been brought to light by the archaeological excavations. It seems that the Capitolium originally had four chambers, a peculiarity due to the form of the preceding Republican temple, the easternmost of which was demolished to make way for an extension of the theatre. This fourth cella was probably used for the worship of a local deity, perhaps a Celtic god such as Bergimo, or maybe Hercules, given that there existed an oral tradition of referring to the Capitolium as the Temple of Hercules.
Inside marble fragments of an enormous male statue were found; others have come to light recently. The most probable intriguing explanation is that these came from a sculpture of the enthroned Capitoline Jupiter Optimus Maximus which dominated the central chamber; such a statue would have been modelled on that in the Capitoline temple in Rome, copies of which were installed in religious buildings throughout the empire.
The temple was reached by means of two flights of stairs, and overlooked the forum and basilica. Cidneo Hill thus provided a dramatic background to the setting, in the style of Hellenistic architectural models. The surrounding area, once the Roman city centre, contains the remains of numerous monumental buildings of importance for civil, social and economic life, such as the theatre, which was used for entertainment and public meetings and is calculated to have held fifteen thousand people. The forum, in front of the Capitolium (under Piazza del Foro), housed Brixia's market and was the centre of commerce; it was surrounded by arcades lined with shops and closed to the south by the basilica, the ancient law court.

s. Agata
s. Agata Brescia Lombardy tourism

The construction of the church dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries. The Renaissance-style portal surmounted by baroque statues opens to reveal an imposing, harmonious sight. The interior, however, contains elements of different periods: the presbytery was built in the 15th century, the vaults and gallery in the 16th century, the altars, frescoes and plaster-works were added in the 17th century and the Holy Sacrament Chapel in the 18th century. The nave seems larger and deeper than it really is, thanks to the the frescoes depicting architectural elements (1683). The altar-piece representing St. Agatha crucified among St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Lucy and St. Apollonia (1522) is considered the masterpiece of Francesco Prata da Caravaggio.

 
Broletto
Broletto Brescia Lombardy tourism

During the Middle Ages the civil and religious centre of the town moved from the Forum to what was then called piazza Mercato and what is now known as piazza Paolo VI. Around the square stand the Broletto which houses the city council administrative offices, the Duomo Vecchio and, situated between the two, the 18th c. Duomo Nuovo with its impressive façade. The Broletto is one of the most notable medieval Lombard structures and it is topped by the Tower of Pegol (the stone south face dates from the 13th c.) and has been expanded and rebuilt from time to time. It now encompasses various other buildings, including the 15th c. church of St. Augustin whose beautiful brick façade can be seen in the lane of the same name.

Loggia
Loggia Brescia Lombardy tourism

The Loggia was started in 1492 and finished circa 1570, it is a symbol of the city and main office of the City Council. Some of the greatest architects of the time helped in its design including Sansovino and Palladio. Its sculptural decoration in Botticino marble is particularly impressive.
The building’s original lead roofing was lost in a fire in 1575 which also destroyed the three large ceiling paintings by Titian. After a series of temporary solutions, the cupola seen today was built in 1914 inspired by the Renaissance model.
Piazza Loggia is one of the most beautiful Venetian style squares outside of Venice itself.
Its construction was initiated in 1433 by Marco Foscari, the Venetian mayor of Brescia, when it replaced a maze of lanes in the medieval city; its completion took over a century. Built around the square were the Loggia, the Monte Vecchio and Monte Nuovo di Pietà, and the porticoes surmounted by the Clocktower.

The castle
The castle Brescia Lombardy tourism

The castle stands on Cidneo Hill, which constitutes an important park area within the city. It is one of the most interesting fortified complexes in Italy, in which signs of the various periods of domination are still evident.
The central keep, the impressive battlemented walls and the tower were built by the Visconti, whereas the massive ramparts and monumental entrance with drawbridge bear witness to the power of the Venetian Republic, which sustained the city for more than four centuries.
Once focus of Brescia's famous “Dieci Giornate” rebellion, the castle has now abandoned all belligerence and instead offers visitors the opportunity to stroll on its rolling slopes. The hilltop can be reached from the centre of the old city centre, Piazzetta Tito Speri, by means of Contrada Sant'Urbano. The castle is full of unexpected paths and hidden rooms and provides a marvellous panorama of the entire city centre, nearby hills and valleys.
The encircling towers and the “Strada del soccorso”, an escape route of Viscontean age, have participated in the numerous sieges which the city has known. Following the paths, you can also discover the castle's balanced eclecticism; one of the city's oldest and most prized vineyards, on a slope of the hill, coexists naturally with Roman remains, such as a group of olive oil tanks, medieval bastions and a 1909 railway locomotive, the “Prigioniera del Falco d'Italia”, for the enjoyment of younger visitors.

S. Maria del Carmine
S. Maria del Carmine Brescia Lombardy tourism

The church was built in fifty years starting from 1429. The brick façade, overlooking a narrow street, is majestic and elegant with its slender brick pinnacles. The beautiful marble portal, decorated with bas-reliefs, incorporates a lunette with a fresco by Floriano Ferramola representing the Annunciation. There are several masterpieces inside the church: The Mourning of Christ's Death is made of polychrome terracotta statues with intense, tragic expressions, made by a 16th-century sculptor from Lombardy or Emilia; the three beautiful cloisters near the church house the Library of the Brescia University.

Ss. Nazario e celso
Ss. Nazario e celso Brescia Lombardy tourism

The 15th-century church was completely re-designed by Giuseppe Zinelli and Antonio Marchetti in the second half of the 18th century, and given a monumental, classical style. The presbytery can boast one of the most important paintings in the city: the Averoldi Polyptych paint by Titian in 1520-22 commissioned by Altobello Averoldi. the altar-pieces by Moretto (above the third altar on the right and the fourth altar on the left), the organ panels by Romanino and the Sacristy are also remarkable

 

Museums

Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo

Palazzo Martinengo da Barco, in Piazza Moretto, houses the Civic Art Gallery that was created in 1908 from the union of two earlier collections, the legacies of Count Paolo Tosio (1844) and Count Francesco Leopardo Martinengo (1883), to which other bequests were subsequently added, together with works from deconsecrated churches and demolished buildings, and recent purchases. Twenty-five exhibition rooms contain a collection that ranges from the 13 th to 18 th centuries and includes masterpieces which establish the international importance of the Brescian collection, starting with the incomparable beauty of the paintings by Raffaello Sanzio and Lorenzo Lotto. There are numerous important works by Vincenzo Foppa, a leading figure in fifteenth-century Lombard painting, and by the Brescian Renaissance masters Savoldo, Romanino and Moretto. Sixteenth-century portraiture is represented by Tintoretto and Sofonisba Anguissola. With regard to the 17 th and 18 th centuries, several great painters from other regions are present (Palma the Younger, Andrea Celesti); the Brescian “Reality Painters”, such as Antonio Cifrondi and Giacomo Ceruti (known as Pitocchetto) merit attention. There is a remarkable quantity of paintings of quality and great diversity by the latter in the gallery.
The graphic art collection, begun in the eighteenth century by Cardinal Angelo Maria Querini and expanded in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is equally exceptional. The most important part consists of about three thousand works which illustrate the development of print-making, through the various techniques of wood and burin engraving, etching, chiaroscuro woodcuts and lithography, from the fifteenth century to the present day. There is a notable series of German engravings: early pieces by Martin Schongauer and an almost complete collection of the works of Albrecht Dürer. The sixteenth-century Italian prints are equally important, with examples by Parmigianino, Annibale and Ludovico Carracci. The Dutch school is represented by numerous works of Luca di Leida and celebrated masterpieces by Rembrandt. Guido Reni and Giovanni Battista Castiglione, known as Grechetto, are also present. Eighteenth-century works include those by the Venetian masters Canaletto, the two Tiepolos and Piranesi. Amongst the nineteenth-century pieces, a complete, bound edition of Goya's Capricci and the well-known satirical lithographs of Daumier stand out. Modern prints include Giorgio Morandi's great still life (1928), considered a masterpiece of twentieth-century Italian engraving.
piazza Moretto, 4
Tel 030 3774999
Open: Oct-May: Tue-Sun 9:30-13:00/14:30-17:00; Jun-Sept: Tue-Sun 10:00-17:00
Tickets: € 3; € 2 (groups and associates); € 1 (14-18 years old, over 65). Single ticket, valid 1 year, for the visit of the 4 Musei Civici: € 14 (discount ticket: € 11)

 
Santa Giulia city museum

The City Museum, unique in its design and location - a monastic complex of Lombard foundation - and with display areas covering 14,000 m², offers a journey through Brescia's history, art and spirituality from prehistoric times to the present day.
The Benedictine convent of San Salvatore - Santa Giulia was founded in 753 by the last Lombard king, Desiderius, and his wife Ansa and occupied a role of great religious, political and economic importance, which continued after the Lombards' defeat by Charlemagne. According to tradition, the dramatic story of Ermengarda, daughter of Desiderius and rejected bride of the Frankish emperor, was played out here; it was recounted by Manzoni in Adelchi.
The site is composed of parts from many different epochs: a stratification of memories and a continual source of unexpected discoveries. The complex was built on the ruins of impressive Roman town houses and includes the Lombard church of San Salvatore and its crypt, the Romanesque Santa Maria in Solario, the Nuns' Choir, the sixteenth-century church of Santa Giulia and the monastery cloisters. It is the perfect location for the City Museum and the natural focal point for a visit to Brescia.
The Museum's special distinguishing feature is the close relationship between the historic buildings and the objects on display, which number about 11,000 and include Celtic helmets and horse harness ornaments, Roman portraits and bronze sculptures, Lombard items, grave goods, frescos, an applied art collection and artefacts dating from the medieval period to the 18 th century AD.
The Winged Victory, the city's symbol, is a large bronze statue from the Capitolium. Recent studies have shed new light on the sculpture's history and the life of ancient Brixia. This is but one of the surprises Santa Giulia has to offer!
Open: Oct-May: Tue-Sun 9:30-17:30;
Jun-Sept: Tue-Sun 10:00-18:00
Tickets: € 8; € 6 (groups and associates); € 4 (14-18 years old, over 65) - € 1 (schools). Single ticket, valid 1 year, for the visit of the 4 Musei Civici: € 14 (discount ticket: € 11)