Brescia

Brescia is a rich industrial city in Lombardy between Lake Garda, Lake Iseo and the Valtrompia in the foothills of the Alps, about 100 km east of Milan, and the capital of the province of Brescia. While the province is rich in scenic and popular tourist destinations, including the shore of the Lake Garda, Brescia itself can be found quite bland and not as interesting compared to other major cities of Lombardy due to its heavily industrialized cityscape and the fact that even historic buildings were mostly kept in the shades of grey.

Brescia, however, also has another face, having been founded over three millenniums ago in the times of the Roman Empire, of which several remains can be found, and it remained an important city throughout the early Middle Ages, with the local monastic complex earning a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Vintage car aficionados will flock to Brescia to witness the start and final of the Mille Miglia race, and wine lovers appreciate the local fine Franciacorta wines.

Brescia at dusk seen from the castle hill.

Understand

Brescia is famous for its Lombard history (UNESCO site with Cividale del Friuli(Udine), Castelseprio (Varese), Spoleto and Campello on Clitunno (Perugia),Benevento and Monte Sant'Angelo (Foggia)) and for its role as a primary manufacturing center. The large factories produce weapons (including the famous Beretta pistols) and cutlery/kitchen accessories. This industry has brought the city tremendous wealth and prestige in the past 50 years, to the point that an entire second city—the imaginatively named Brescia 2--has sprung up on the south side of the city's original boundaries.

Sunset in Brescia

Brescia is also the capital of the Lombardian province of the same name, which incorporates numerous beautiful and historic towns, the Valtrompia, and parts of the lakes.

Get in

Mercato dei Grani

By plane

Brescia has a very small airport 20 km from the city centre in Montichiari with only charter flights. However you can reach Brescia from Milan Orio al Serio Airport which is in the province of Bergamo, 50 km away, and is served by low-fare flights from all over Europe. Brescia is also reachable from Verona VillaFranca Airport (50 km away), Milan Linate (100 km away) and Milano Malpensa Airport (150 km away).

Brescia train station

By train

You can reach Brescia by any train from the expensive Eurostars to the cheap and slow Regionale commuter trains. It is about an hour from Milan (costing €6 on the Regionale), and other cities including Bergamo, Verona and Venice are within an hour or two.

By car

Brescia is reachable using the following motorway:

(Torino-Trieste) Exits:

(Torino-Brescia) Exits:

(Brescia-Bergamo-Milano) Under costruction.

Map of the metro in Brescia

Get around

Brescia Metro is not only convenient and modern but also quite spectacular

The compact historical center of the city has a bus system that works well for inhabitants and other commuters.

To get to the outer districts, you can take advantage of Brescia's spanking brand new metro, finished in 2014, making it the smallest city in the world with an underground train system. It features the same driverless automated system as in Copenhagen but with even more spectacular station designs.

Much of the rest of the area, including the Franciacorta wine district and nearby museums such as that of the Mille Miglia automobile race, is more easily accessible by car.

See

Brescia is home to several great museums. However, since it is not a primary tourist city, very few English translations are provided, and even if they are, translations are often so poor that you may prefer to try the Italian explanations.

Tempio Capitolino
Santa Giulia's Royal Lombard Monastery
Cathedral of Brescia

Do

The city's medieval historical center, with shopping districts, open markets (try Via San Faustino and Piazza della Loggia on Saturdays), gelaterias, etc., is a good example of city life untrammeled by tourism.

Travelers might find interesting that, due to the city's industry, Brescia is however a major immigrant center. The Via San Faustino neighborhood, with its cheap housing for both immigrants and university students, is an example of cultural integration that you won't find anywhere else in Italy.

Learn

If you are truly fascinated by the nearly endless parade of invaders that oppressed the city for the past 2000 years—the Romans, the Lombards, the Venetians, and the French, to name the longer-lasting ones—you'll find many historical sites and museums. The city's collection of religious art is housed by several museums. You can buy a yearlong, unlimited pass to the museums for 20 Euro, 15 for students. Brescia has a very old and well regarded university. The medical school, due to its proximity to the large regional hospital, is particularly well regarded. Brescia is not a common or canny destination for study abroad students.

Piazza della Loggia
Christmas lights in via X Giornate

Buy

Porticos in Corsia del Gambero

The historic center of the city has an active shopping district, with numerous clothing and jewelry stores. City residents enjoy strolling through the stretches from the Portici (shopping porticos built literally on top of their similarly styled and utilized Roman antecedents in the heart of the downtown) to Piazza della Loggia.

Piazza del Mercato

Eat

Try the true "bresciano" food, including casoncelli (called in Brescian dialect "casonsei"), homemade tortellini with beef, served with "Burro versato" (spilled Butter) and sage with sprinkling of Parmigiano. Try the polenta (in winter only) a mush made with durum wheat, Polenta taragna is mixed with homemade cheeses and butter. Try the amazing spiedo (in winter only) roasted larks and pork meat cooked for 6–7 hours in oven with butter and flavours or on grill. It's very typically Bresciano!!!

As with most of Lombard cuisine, Brescian cooking features more beef and butter and more hearty, German-style dishes than the rest of Italy. Excellent pizzerias abound, including Al Teatro (by the theater and portici on the corner of Via Giuseppe Mazzini and Via Giuseppe Zanardelli) and the South-American styled Tempio Inca Pizzeria (Piazzale Arnaldo). Authentic Brescian osterias and trattorias are common on the north side of the city center, but you will find that the best are out of the way and, purposefully, rather hard to find. Try to find the Contrada Santa Chiara, a dark side street parallel to Via San Faustino, where just off Via Dei Musei (close to the Roman Ruins and Santa Giulia), you'll find several highly authentic and inexpensive osterias including Osteria al Bianchi. Cafe culture is just as prominent here as elsewhere, and there are several great coffee and aperitivo spots. Try the Due Stelle on Via San Faustino (also a great restaurant), or any of several cafe/restaurants just north of the Duomos between the Piazza Paulo VI and Via Dei Musei, which feature drinks and unlimited gourmet aperitivo buffets for under 6 Euro.

Drink

Franciacorta wines are easily found. They're excellent, world famous, and very expensive. Try some of the non-DOC labels, which avoid EU regulations in order to preserve centuries-old vineyard traditions.

Brescia is also one of the most night-active city in the whole Italy, because of the industrial wealth. Brescian youths (and Lombardians in general) are famous for partying the night way — every single night. Many hotspots for locals can be found outside the city; in the center try Piazzale Arnaldo on the eastern edge and Borgo Pietro Wuhrer about 5 km east of the center on Via Venezia.

Villa Cadeo

Sleep

Because it's not a primary tourist destination, Brescia is a bit short on hospitality, especially in the budget range. You'll find a few budget hotels in shadier parts of the city, and some nicer ones close to the train station. For hostels, you're out of luck, and bed and breakfasts are recommended but only if you have a car, as they're usually found in the surrounding towns.

Budget

Historicist styling in Brescia

Mid-range

Splurge

Go next

You can take trains and buses to the lakes, but Brescia is so close to other cities more proximate to natural beauty (e.g. Iseo, Milan, Como, Verona, Mantua, and many more), that you may want to just use one of them as a base.

Brescia is close to Lakes Iseo and Garda. Travelers in possession of a car will find scenic drives there and elsewhere around the city.

The Franciacorta region south of Lake Iseo boasts opportunities to taste some of the finest (and most expensive) wines in Italy, as well as tour vineyards and cantinas.

Hiking and biking in the alpine foothills around the city are open to more physically fit and adventurous travellers.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, September 12, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.