Ancient monuments and new art: inside Brescia, Italy’s latest capital of culture

Published April 23, 2023

4 minutes read

This short article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Unusually, Italy has 2 capitals of culture in 2023: Bergamo and Brescia, sharing the spotlight after their terrible 2020, when the set were Italy’s early pandemic hotspots.

Bergamo is much better understood– its stunning Città Alta, or upper town, cantilevered above the Po Valley, has actually been a traveler component for the previous number of years. That makes lesser-known Brescia your top priority for this year– and this impressive city might simply amaze you. It has unbelievable Roman remains, among northern Italy’s finest museums, and a boundary-pushing food and beverage scene. Plus it’s a simple 36 minutes by train from Milan. A brand-new 50- mile cycle path by means of Lake Iseo links it with Bergamo, too, need to you want to integrate the 2.

The Capital of Culture occasions program is greatly concentrated towards Italians, however you may wish to avoid the main occasions and simply see the city. Start at the start. Brescia was established by the Celts, who settled at the foot of the Cidneo Hill. They later on allied themselves with the Romans– prior to ending up being Roman themselves. And it’s the Roman city, developed by the Emperor Vespasian, that need to be initially on your list. Today a big, likely square sits over the old Forum, topped by the Capitolium– a huge, three-chapel temple, framed by giant columns.

The emphasize within is the Vittoria Alata– a super-sized bronze statue of a Winged Victory so realistic that she appears like she might remove any minute. And there’s an emphasize underground too: a chapel of an earlier Roman temple, still brilliantly frescoed with natural trompe l’oeil garlands.

Beside the Capitolium stands a massive (if broken-down) Roman theatre, and simply down the street is the Santa Giulia Museum, embeded in a rambling old abbey complex which goes back to the 8th century. Tracing the history of the city from prehistory to today, it’s a marathon of refined bronzes, Roman mosaics and the frescoed, starry-roofed church of Santa Maria in Solario.

But Brescia isn’t practically its history– a rich, commercial city, it’s likewise a leading purveyor of dolce vita. Take Inedito, for instance– a pizzeria, however not simply any old pizzeria. Opened in 2021, it serves a seven-course tasting menu, consisting of focaccia topped with burrata and prosciutto that’s been aged for a tremendous 50 months.

Then there’s Massenzio, a mixed drink bar down a middle ages street near the Capitolium. Fittingly, it’s Roman-themed– you can attempt a flight of mixed drinks, each called after ancient emperors and empresses.

And near the station, the AreaDocks Boutique Hotel is the heart of a transformed train storage facility, in addition to dining establishments, bars and style shops.

Prefer something more timeless? Sit at one of the numerous bars in Piazza della Loggia, a square flanked by Venetian-built porticos, and attempt a pirlo– Brescia’s take on a spritz, with Campari and gewurztraminer.


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