We visited Brescia a few years ago and to be honest, it didn’t leave much of a lasting impression. To be fair, we were only there to change trains and as our next destination was the stunning Verona, it had some big competition. We only really saw the area around the main train station and so up until recently, Brescia hasn’t really been on our radar. However, a couple of weeks ago, we did a trip over to Bergamo from our new home in Istria, in northern Croatia and decided to break up the journey with a stop-over in Brescia. And how glad are we that we did? Wowsers! It’s amazing – and I just cannot believe that we’ve left it this long to get acquainted with this city.
I honestly think that Brescia’s main problem is that is located so near to so many more famous and renowned cities and attractions – Venice, Verona, Milan, the lakes of Garda and Como, the mountains… And, I think it has been overlooked. Just as we did. But if you ever find yourself in Lombardy, and you have the time, don’t overlook it. You won’t regret it.
Brescia is like many Italian cities, in that at its heart is the historical centre, full of ruins and antiquities around every corner, and then buildings sprawl out into the newer, more industrialised part of the city. Brescia is considered to be the industrial capital of northern Italy, home to firearms manufacturer Beretta, and shotgun producer Perazzi – but let’s not dwell on this as there’s a whole lot more to this city, named Brixia by the Romans and Bressa by the Venetians.
The centro is very walkable and we hit very lucky with our very unusual hotel – the Centro Paolo VI, described on the website as a reserved environment to stay…not just a hotel… And when I say it was unusual, I really do mean that. I’ve certainly never stayed in a hotel with a full on Catholic church in the grounds and live-in nuns. Blog coming up…
We also hit lucky with the weather when we arrived – late September, but brilliant, cloudless blue skies and warm sunshine, all dispelling the memories of our earlier visit to the train station, which was on a cloudy day. Meaning that we could take advantage of the hospitality on offer in the very beautiful Piazza del Duomo, in a bar facing not one, but two cathedrals – the “old” one and the “new” one. And, like in most Italian bars, when you order a drink, you receive a feast…
The historical centre is choc-a-block with ruins – and although maybe not on the scale of Rome or Athens, pretty impressive!
Via Twitter, we’ve met a fellow Italiophile, and Ms_Spritz has long extolled the virtues of Brescia – and it’s thanks to her that we also discovered another part of Brescia. She recommended that we visit a wine bar in Piazza della Vittoria, called Signorvino – which we dutifully did, just as the sun was dipping. Stunning.
The architecture in this square is quite amazing – although at ground level, I suspect many people walk across it and don’t look up and realise the significance. The buildings are immediately striking because they are not ancient ruins, or Venetian remains. They are solidly – and architecturally – of a very specific era. Mussolini. Historically, unpalatable things will have happened in & around this square, but there is a legacy and you can feel it. And, however politically incorrect it may be, these buildings – in a design/architectural sense – have a place, because they are a part of the history of this amazing city.
Brescia is also without a doubt, one of the coolest cities fashion-wise, we’ve visited in Italy. Apart from Milan. Obviously. I can’t think of anywhere else I’ve been, where men can just carry off the tight jeans & smart jacket look. Even just typing it makes me shudder, but in Brescia, it just… works.
So, I’m super delighted that we’ve eventually realised that there is more to Brescia than the train station. And, coming up next – another surprise we discovered. Salò, the shores of Lake Garda…