|Piazza del Loggia Brescia, from Palazzo Loggia|
I stayed in the Hotel Vittoria, a classic hotel in the center of Brescia. It was my favorite type of hotel: old but very clean and well maintained. The breakfast was excellent with great coffee and a German style buffet (with Italian foods!).
|Fresco in Santa Maria in Solario Chapel, Santa Giulia Museum Brescia|
I decided to visit the Santa Giulia museum (home page in Italian only, odd for a tourist destination, but all the information in the museum is provided in English and Italian). This museum is built on the site of a former abby that was founded in the 700s. Brescia was an important Roman town and getting to the museum you pass the old forum and ruins of the Forum Temple and Roman theater. The Santa Giulia museum covers the city's history from pre-historic times until the present. The city brought items found throughout the city to the museum for viewing.
The museum is quite cool because it uses the old abby buildings to show the history. You walk through several eras of history in the different chapels that are on the site. Artwork from the appropriate age is displayed in the chapels and connecting structures. In between you can look out on the classic abby courtyard. The museum has some real treasures including a precious stone embedded cross (Cross of Desiderius, late 8th Century) and unbelievable medieval frescoes in the Santa Maria in Solario chapel.
|Roman mosaic floor featuring Dionysus and panther, Santa Giulia Museum Brescia|
Then, because the abby was built over part of the old Roman city they have a large indoor space where you an look down on several remarkably well preserved Roman houses. The frescos and mosaic floors are incredible to see. I took lots of photos, the better ones are on my Flickr photos of Santa Giulia Museum. There are also lots of examples of everyday objects from the Roman era. The transport planner in me liked the milestone markers and the sections of Roman roadways that they left intact for us to see.
I would highly recommend the museum for those interested in seeing Roman city planning history and medieval art, two things I really enjoy. My photos of the Santa Giulia Museum Brescia on flickr.
|Torre D'ercole, Via Carlo Cattaneo, Brescia|
|Outside alcove table, Torre D'ercole|
|Tape measure display at architect's office, Via Carlo Cattaneo, Brescia|
There are also lots of interesting buildings in the historic center including the Loggia (my photos of the Loggia on flickr), the official city hall, which was designed by several famous architects including Pladdio, and the Cathederal. Also lots of nice squares, many of which have been turned into pedestrian areas.
Brescia is part of the EU funded CIVITAS project and they are doing lots of interesting work on sustainable transport. Brescia has a very nice bicycle rental system, good public transport (they are building a tram line through the center of the city, partly underground) and a unified smart card for public transport, car sharing and bicycle rental. Very impressive for a relatively small city (about 250,000 in the city and a million in the region). All my photos of Brescia on flickr.
In summary, Brescia is a nice city to visit, especially so because it's off the main tourist path.