Brescia is a rich industrial city between Lake Garda and the Valtrompia in the foothills of the alps, about 100 km east of Milan. It is less famous for its history and art than 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.
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.
Brescia has a very small airport 20km from the city centre in Montichiari. However you can reach Brescia from Milan Orio al Serio Airport which is in province of Bergamo (50km away) which hosts several low cost airlines such as Ryanair, AirItaly, Transavia, and MyAir. Brescia is also reachable from Verona VillaFranca Airport (50km away), Milan Linate (100km away) and Milan Malpensa airports (150km away).
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.
The smallish historical center of the city has an autobus system that works well for inhabitants and other commuters. 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. Brescia has a subway that makes it the smallest city in the world with an underground train system. The underground system was opened to the public beginning March 2013, 2 months later than the scheduled official opening (31.12.2012) due to medieval findings during tunnels excavations. This subway is fully automatic (driverless) very similar to the one in operation in Copenhagen (Denmark).
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: Old Roman ruins, the last remains of what once was the city's forum during the Roman Empire, built by the emperor Vespasian. Historical placards are well translated in English.
- Old and New Duomo: The unique pre-renaisance church has a massive stone dome and 12th century crucifixes. Next door is the city cathedral, built 150 years ago, with the third largest dome in Italy. The local hero is former Pope Paul VI, a native Brescian. Don't expect good English translations.
- The Castle: Dating to pre-Roman times and last fortified by the Venetian overlords of the 16th century, the city's stronghold houses museums of armory and of the Risorgimento (Italy's first struggles for independence and unification), and provides eccelent views of the Valtrompia, the alps, and the city itself.
- Santa Giulia's cloister: This museum and former convent houses a massive collection of art and archeology dating back more than 10,000 years and exploring the region's history from pre-history to Roman occupation to the Lombard invasion, etc. The museums also contain foundational remnants of Brescian houses from various periods. The permanent collection of religious art is one of the best in northern Italy, and the city prides itself in attracting traveling exhibits of excellent and prestigious collections. It is currently displaying over 100 of Van Gogh's early sketches, designs and paintings (2008-April 2009). Some English translations will be found throughout the museum, but they will be inconsistent and poorly translated.
- La Loggia: The city hall and center of regional government, this large and oddly shaped building presides over the city's central square, where you'll often see political demonstrations, concerts, and markets. You can enter the building and look around in the main halls, enjoying the architecture and decor, but it remains primarily functional. The Loggia (lodge) also marks the northern end of the city's retail shopping district.
- Mille Miglia: Until the auto industry made its dirty, cliffside roads, hairpin turns, and spectator presence far too dangerous, the Mille Miglia, which starts in Brescia, was one of the world's top automobile races. Since it was discontinued as a real race 40 years ago (following numerous driver and spectator deaths), it has continued as a museum of automobile history. The actual race, now a parade of refurbished and custom designed cars that slowly winds its way through 1000 miles of northern Italy, starts in May of each year.
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. 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 untrampled 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.
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.
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.
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 cornmeal, 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.
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.
Viselli's: A small bar with an ancient proprietor who owns the copyright to his cocktails. It's a must in Brescia to try the Viselli's Champagnone (very good but very strong). Near P.le Arnaldo. Look for the crowds and ask somebody. Borgo WÜHRER: lots of beautiful bars such as Nacio, Hico de puta, BW Cafè, Pappavero, and more.
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.
- La chiocciola di Moriana B&B, Via Ancona, 48, 25100 Brescia (arriving from autostrada A4, drive off at Brescia Ovest ramp, the place is 2 km from there), ☎ +393482866257 ([email protected], fax: +390303541632), . checkout: 10:30. Very pleasant house, on the top floor of which there are rooms for rent. The place is apparently recently renovated, with automated conditioning system, digital door locks etc. It is cared for by an English-speaking lady. Nice breakfast, wifi, car park on the back yard for 4-5 cars. 30-110 EUR, according to a document on the wall in one of the rooms (2014). edit
- "'B&B Cà Del Gando"' Via dei Musei, 75, 25121 Brescia, Italy Tel. +39 340 675 3630. Quaint, local B&B. Very attentive owner and situated in the heart of the Brescia historical center. Close to cultural attractions such as museum, roman ruins and nightlife Piazza Arnaldo.
- Ai Ronchi Motor Hotel  Viale della Bornata 22 Brescia, Tel.+39.030.362061 · Fax+39.030.3366315. Presents 4 stars hotel located only few steps from city centre of Brescia,
on the main road that leads to beautiful Garda Sea. Friendly english speaking staff.
- Continental Hotel, , Via Martiri della Libertà 267 Roncadelle Brescia, Tel.+39.030.2582721 · Fax+39.030.2583108. A renovated, modern and functional ambience here along with top quality services and excellent comfort.
- NH Jolly Igea, Viale Stazione, 15, +39 030 44221 . Situated in the heart of the historic and financial centre, the NH Jolly Igea offers 87 rooms, with every modern comfort to guarantee a peaceful and relaxing nights sleep.
- Park Hotel Ca Noa Brescia – Via Triumplina, 66 . Telephone +39 030 398762 • Fax +39 030 398764. The Park Hotel Cá Noa is four star hotel with 79 guestrooms, private bath, shower, internet connection, satellite TV and air conditioning. Also available: three meeting rooms and private parking.
- "Hotel Vittoria" - Via Dieci Giornate, 20, 25121 Brescia (in the city centre) Telephone:030 768 7200. The Hotel was projected during the fascism period. A legend has it that the Dux Benito Mussolini used to plan the Libya's attacks from the "Sala delle Rose", a room at the third floor. Now Vittoria is a 5 star hotel with a restaurant and it's used by leisure and business tourists for the presence of some meeting rooms.
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.
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