While the province is rich in scenic and popular tourist destinations, including the shore of the Lake Garda, Brescia itself is less known for tourists. One may that due to its heavily industrialized cityscape it can be found not as interesting compared to other major cities of Lombardy.
Yes, Brescia is famous for its industrial past and for its role as a major manufacturing centre: numerous factories produce weapons (including the famous Beretta pistols) and cutlery/kitchen accessories. This industry has brought the city tremendous wealth and prestige since the 1960s, 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.
Also, vintage car aficionados flock to Brescia to witness the start and final of the Mille Miglia race, and wine lovers appreciate the local fine Franciacorta wines.
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 (see Longobards in Italy, Places of Power (568–774 A.D.)).
Brescia is a city rich in history, flavours and artistic monuments of great importance. Visiting this city is like taking a dip in the most ancient history. In addition, Brescia is a city that offers a lot from a naturalistic point of view despite its large industrial size. The most popular excursions and trips among visitors who are passionate about outdoor sports are the itineraries that lead to the eastern hills, Mount Maddalena and Cidneo, where the first inhabited centre developed. Alongside the artistic part of the city, rich in museums and legends, there is a hyper-modern part consisting of the subway that allows the visitor to pass through the territory of the city from one side to the other. An easy itinerary to do on foot in the historic centre is the "street of museums" in the historic centre, which includes most of the most important museums in the province.
- 1 Aeroporto di Brescia-Montichiari (VBS IATA) (20 km from the city centre in Montichiari). A small airport served by charter flights.
The other close airports are:
- Bergamo Airport (aka Milan Orio al Serio, 50 km away, and is served by low-fare flights from all over Europe)
- Verona Airport (50 km away)
- Milano Linate (100 km away)
- Milano Malpensa Airport (150 km away).
You can reach Brescia by any train from the expensive Eurostars to the cheap and slow regionale commuter trains.
- 2 Stazione di Brescia (Railway station). It is about an hour from Milan (costing €7.30 on the Regionale), and other cities including Bergamo, Verona and Venice are within an hour or two.
There are 2 bus hubs located near the railway station.
Brescia is reachable using the following motorway:
- (Torino-Trieste), exits: Brescia Ovest, Brescia Centro, Brescia Est;
- (Torino-Brescia), exits: Brescia Centro, Brescia Sud;
- (Brescia-Bergamo-Milano) .
The ring roads around Brescia are: the Tangenziale Sud, or Tangenziale Alcide De Gasperi, which goes around the town to the south, and the Tangenziale Ovest is a municipal road, classified as urban, which goes around the town to the west.
Brescia is crossed by the following state and regional roads:
- State road 11 Padana Superiore
- State road 510 Sebina Orientale
- State road 235 of Orzinuovi
- State road 45 bis Gardesana Occidentale
- State road 345 of the Three Valleys
Directions from the most famous cities in Northern Italy:
- From Milan head towards A51 passing the junction for Tangenziale Est / Lecco / Tangenziale Nord / Turin / Venice / Usmate Velate / Malpensa Airport. Then predente the exit for A4 / E64 towards Venice. Continue towards the Brescia Ovest exit. From there you will find directions to the city center.
- From Venice, first take the A13 / Bologna / Padua / SS309 / Ravenna, then the A57 to Milan / Bologna and the A4 to Brescia.
- From Mantua, first take the A22 / E45 to Brennero / Milan / Venice then the E70 / A4 towards Milan / Venice / Verona Sud, finally follow the signs for Milan / Brescia and enter the A4 / E70.
- From Parma take the A1 / E35 and then the A21 / E70.
- From Cremona: A21 motorway, Brescia est exit
- From Turin: A21 motorway, passing through Piacenza, head towards Brescia and exit at Brescia est
The compact historical centre 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 metro, opened in 2013, 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.
The Brescia metro is an automatic light metro line, whose construction began in 2003, and inaugurated on 2 March 2013, which connects the northern districts of the city to those of the south-east area, passing through the historic centre. It uses a fully automatic rapid rail transport system designed and built by Ansaldo-STS, similar to the one already built for the Copenhagen metro.
The route is limited to the municipal area only and extends for 13 km. There are 17 stations, of which eight in a deep tunnel, five in a covered trench, two located along the surface section and two on the viaduct.
The frequency varies from 4 minutes during peak hours to 10 minutes at night or less crowded. Each station is equipped with automatic cash machines, but if you are in a hurry, buy your ticket in advance at a newsagent or tobacconist. There are no turnstiles, but the ticket must be validated before entering the platform. Metro stations are (from north to south).
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.
- 1 Monastero di Santa Giulia, Via dei Musei, 81/b. 16 Jun - Sep: Tu-Su 10:30-19:00; Oct - 15 Jun: Tu-Su 09:30-17:30 (last admission 30 min before closure). A UNESCO World Heritage Site. A former monastery of Santa Giulia (it includes the earlier monastery of San Salvatore) now is a massive museum with a 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 settlement, etc. The museums also contain foundational remnants from various periods of Brescian houses with well preserved beautiful mosaic floors. The permanent collection of religious art is one of the best in northern Italy. Be sure not to miss the Vittoria alata di Brescia (Winged Victory of Brescia) — a true gem of the museum. It's a Greek statue of 3rd century BC, modified in the 1st century with adding the wings — a must see by your own eyes. Also not to be missed a collection of Ritratti romani bronzei di Brescia — a collection of six gilded bronze busts found in 1826 at the Capitolium of ancient Brixia. €10; see Tempio Capitolino (Brixia) for combined tickets.
- Chiesa di Santa Maria in Solario (entry through the museum of the Monasterio di Santa Giulia). Not to be missed for its magnificent frescos. Also there you'd find the Croce di Desiderio (Desiderius’ Cross) a 9th-century wooden processional cross covered with golden foil and adorned with 212 gemstones (50 of them are of antique origin) — the biggest and finest artifact of Lombard goldsmith of the period.
- 2 Tempio Capitolino (Brixia. Parco archeologico di Brescia romana), Via dei Musei, 57. 16 Jun - Sep: Tu-Su 10:30-19:00; Oct - 15 Jun: Tu-Su 09:30-17:30 (last admission 30 min before closure). Said to be one of the best-preserved Roman public complexes in Italy (still it's not like in Pompeii), complete with a forum, amphitheatre and capitolium (Roman temple). Old Roman ruins, the last remains of what once was the city's forum during the Roman Empire, built by the emperor Vespasian. €8; + Museo di Santa Giulia €15; + Museo di Santa Giulia + Museo delle Armi Luigi Marzoli €20.
- 3 Piazza del Foro. Located at the place of the Roman Forum.
- 4 Castello di Brescia (Museo delle Armi Luigi Marzoli e Museo del Risorgimento), Via Castello, 9, ☏ . Museum: 16 Jun - Sep: F-Su 11:00-19:00; Oct - 15 Jun: Th-F 09:00-16:00, Sa-Su 10:00-17:00 (last admission 30 min before closure). 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 excellent views of the Valtrompia, the alps, and of the city. The Brescia Castle (also called "Falcone d’Italia") is a fortress built in the Middle Ages and perched on the Cidneo hill, close to the historic centre of the city. It dominates the Cidneo hill, facing the historic centre. The Cidneo is a block of Liassic rock (Médole domeriano). The castle is surrounded by a green quadrilateral covered with numerous trees and surrounded by defensive walls. The heart of the castle is the keep, built in the first half of the 14th century. The building has a rectangular base with crenellated walls. It houses the Luigi Marzoli Weapons Museum where you can see some unique pieces of artillery from the 15th and 16th centuries. The building was erected on the foundations and the remains of a temple Roman from the 1st century AD. To reach the keep you have to cross a drawbridge at the Torre dei Prigionieri. The castle complex includes several other towers: the Torre dei Francesi, so named because, after the explosion of a powder keg, it was rebuilt by the French who from 1509 to 1516 took the Venetian dominion over the city from the Venetians; the Torre Mirabella, cylindrical in shape, is commonly believed to be the only building from the municipal age; the Torre di Mezzo and Torre Coltrina attributed to the engineer Jacopo Coltrino from whom it takes its name, is in the northern area of the castle; cylindrical in shape with a high truncated conical base, it is arranged on two levels and is connected to a gunboat covered with a barrel vault. Inside the castle complex we also find the oil warehouses, dating back to the Roman period, the Piccolo and Grande Miglio, buildings erected between 1597 and 1598 and used as grain stores. The Grande Miglio is now home to the Civic Museum of the Risorgimento. €4; + Museo di Santa Giulia + Brixia. Parco archeologico di Brescia romana €20.
- 5 Chiesa di San Giuseppe, Vicolo San Giuseppe, 5. 16th-century church, inside, there is one of the oldest organs in the world.
- 6 Broletto, Piazza Paolo VI. 12th-century Town Hall
- 7 Duomo Vecchio (La Rotonda). The unique pre-renaissance church has a massive stone dome and 12th century crucifixes.
- 8 Duomo Nuovo (New Cathedral). The city cathedral, built 150 years ago, with the third largest dome in Italy. The local hero is Pope Paul VI (1963–1978), a native Brescian.
- 9 Palazzo della 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.
- 10 Case del Gambero (Houses of Shrimp), Corso Palestro. Several buildings constructed in the mid-16th century probably by Lodovico Beretta between 1550 and 1555. The façades are decorated by a vast cycle of frescoes painted by Lattanzio Gambara, partly lost, partly moved to the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo, but still partly on site, albeit mostly severely degraded. The name "Gambero" is after the hotel Gambero, which was in the vicinity, south of Corso Zanardelli.
- 11 Corsia del Gambero (Gambero lane). A nice portico passage built in the 15th century near one of the oldest hotels in Brescia — Locanda del Gambero (now private apartments).
- 12 Chiesa di San Giovanni Evangelista. It is one of the oldest churches in Brescia: it was consecrated in the early 5th century.
- 13 Torre della Pallata. 32-metre-high 13th-century tower.
- 14 Palazzo Martinengo Cesaresco, Via dei Musei, 30, ☏ . M-F 9.00-13.00. A mid-17th-century palace that houses the offices of the province and occasional exhibitions .
- 15 Santa Maria dei Miracoli. A Renaissance church with bas-reliefs façade and peristilium. It is considered as one of the finest examples of architecture of this style in Lombardy.
- 16 Santi Nazaro e Celso. The church contains the Averoldi Polyptych(1522), a masterwork of Titian.
- 17 Piazza della Vittoria. It is a characteristic example of architecture 1930s, designed by Marcello Piacentini, one of the architects of the EUR district in Rome.
- 18 Casa Ottelli, Corso Palestro (at the crossing with corso Martiri della Libertà). Built in 1932, at the facade there are two bas-reliefs by Angelo Righetti, the sculptor who was quite famous at the time after he created the sculptures for the Piazza della Vittoria.
- 19 Piazza Tebaldo Brusato. Named after a Guelph hero of the defense of Brescia. It was established in 1173 as the first municipal square in the town.
- 20 Mercato dei Grani (south of Piazza Tebaldo Brusato). A building with a notable sequence of porticos.
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.
- 1 Teatro Grande (Opera House). Since 1912, the theatre is a national monument of Italy.
- 2 Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo (Palazzo Martinengo da Barco), Piazza Moretto. the building is closed for renovations.
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.
- 3 Museo Mille Miglia, ☏ . Daily 10:00-18:00. The Mille Miglia, which started in Brescia, was one of the world's top automobile races until 1977. It is now a parade of refurbished and custom designed cars that slowly winds its way through 1000 miles of northern Italy, starting in May of each year. It is commemorated in a museum of automobile history in the monastic complex of Santa Eufemia della Fonte, whose foundation dates back to 1008. It is on the outskirts of Brescia. Two OM from 1929 on display were born from the experience of simple mechanics. Other exhibits include the 665 SS Corsa “Superba” and the 665 “Superba”, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Fiat, Maserati, Ferrari, and Mercedes-Benz.
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 centre of the city has an active shopping district, with numerous clothing and jewellery 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 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!
The Brescia cuisine is based on dishes with strong and decisive flavors that fully reflect the territory and the products and raw materials come exclusively from the hilly areas, from the mountain areas and from the lake areas.
Let's see what are some of the best typical dishes of Brescia that you absolutely must not give up:
- Casoncelli alla Bresciana
- Risotto alla Pitocca
- Beef in oil
- Caicc (Ravioli di Breno)
- Local cured meats and cheeses
- polenta taragna
- Bresciana-style rabbit
- Stuffed pigeon
- Brescia spit
- Whitefish alla Bresciana
- Fried lake fish
The traditional cuisine of Brescia reflects the territory of its province; vast hilly, mountainous, wooded and lake areas, in fact the gastronomy of Brescia is marked by tastes and dishes where land and lake are combined. Some of these typical products are oil (produced in the area of Lake Garda), Bagoss (a hard mountain cheese, extremely tasty), Franciacorta wines (especially sparkling wines produced exclusively in the Brescia area which have surpassed even those French in many international competitions).
What to eat in Brescia to taste the typical local cuisine? The typical Brescian dishes you should try during your stay in Brescia are:
- The spit which is the main dish of Brescia, typically originating from Valtrompia, consisting of a mixture of pieces of meat (pork, beef and birds) strung on raffia and simmered for many hours. During slow cooking, the meat is continually sprinkled with a butter and sage-based sauce, making it moist and tastier, while the external part of the bites of meat, with this particular cooking, remain crunchy.
- Beef with Rovato oil: The name of this beef in oil refers to a town in the province of Brescia, precisely Rovato. The main thing to prepare an excellent beef with oil is the quality of the meat which must be a young cut, low in fat and low in fibrous. The piece of poached meat is filled, by means of pockets engraved on the 4 sides, with chopped celery, carrots and onions; it is then floured and sautéed in oil blended with white wine. The meat thus obtained is then cooked in abundant water, so that all the ingredients come to form a thick sauce.
- Brescian-style rabbit: Composed of pieces of rabbit cooked in the oven and softened by butter, lard and Lugana wine; it is usually accompanied by polenta and potatoes.
- Polenta taragna: It is assumed that the name “taragna” derives from the “tarèl”, a stick needed to continuously stir the polenta, preventing it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Polenta taragna is prepared with selected wholemeal corn flours, such as Quarantino corn flour and buckwheat corn, all types of corn found in the Brescia area.
- Casoncelli in Brescia style: Casoncelli are made from triangular or rectangular egg pasta, classically filled with cooked ham, Parmesan cheese and nutmeg. The variations of the filling are however many: with raw ham, with pumpkin, with minced meat.
- Bossolà: It is the typical dessert of traditional Brescia cuisine, consisting of a very tall and soft donut, covered with powdered sugar. It is usually served accompanied by custard, chocolate or mascarpone.
- Brescia biscuits: The appearance is that of a simple biscuit, but when you taste it you will understand that they are truly special. The ingredients are the classic biscuit ingredients: flour, milk, sugar, butter, honey, vanilla and Marsala. But the peculiarity of the Brescia biscuits is given by the fact that they are cooked twice: the first time they are baked to make the mass of dough cook, the second time to brown the surface. It is the dexterity of the skilled pastry chefs of Brescia that make the biscuits truly special, products absolutely to be tasted.
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 (Near P.le Arnaldo. Look for the crowds and ask somebody). A small bar with an old 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)
- 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.
- B&B Cà Del Gando, Via dei Musei, 75, 25121 Brescia, ☏ . 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,, ☏ , fax: . 4-star hotel located only few steps from city centre of Brescia, on the main road that leads to beautiful Lake Garda. Friendly English-speaking staff.
- Continental Hotel, ☏ , fax: . Via Martiri della Libertà 267 Roncadelle Brescia. A renovated, modern and functional ambience here along with top quality services and excellent comfort.
- NH Brescia, Viale Stazione, 15, ☏ . This fairly standard NH is not as fresh as it used to be, but makes up for it with its location next to the train station and the usual NH breakfast buffet.
- AC Hotel Brescia by Marriott, Via Giulio Quinto Stefana 3. In an industrial estate right out of the city. A fairly standard, new and solid AC hotel, with typical upscalish simplicity aimed at business travellers.
- Novotel Brescia Due, Via Pietro Nenni 22. Renovated in 2016 it is a typical Novotel, complete with an outdoor pool, garden and family-oriented amenities, situated in a business park within 15 minutes of the train station.
- Best Western Hotel Master. A solid if slightly uninspired choice in the north of Brescia.
- Park Hotel Ca Noa Brescia, ☏ , fax: . – Via Triumplina, 66. 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. The closest hotel to the Duomo
- Hotel Ambasciatori. Upscale hotel with lush historizing decoration, reasonably close to the metro.
Hiking and biking in the alpine foothills around the city are open to more physically fit and adventurous travellers.