Things to do in Brescia, Northern Italy

Things to do in Brescia – a travel guide covering what to see, do, eat and drink.

Disclaimer: this was a press trip organised by the Visit Brescia tourist board. I did not have to pay for my activities, accommodation or food. However, this is an honest account of my experience and all opinions expressed are my own.

Where is Brescia?

Brescia is a city in the Lombardy region in Northern Italy. Nestled at the foot of the Alps, it is just a few kilometres from Lake Garda and Lake Iseo. It is about 45km from the city of Bergamo.

How do you get to Brescia Italy?

If you are flying with Ryanair to Brescia, book tickets to Milan Bergamo Airport. The name of this airport is also Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport and it is 50km (31 miles) northwest of Brescia. The airport code is BGY. FromMilan Bergamo Airport you catch a direct bus to the city of Brescia.

From Brescia, you can reach Milian in just 45 minutes on the train. You’ll be in Bergamo in about one hour and Venice and Florence in about two hours on the train. 

things to do in brescia

What is Brescia famous for?

Brescia is famous for lots of things. First founded in 1,200 BC, the city has been an important regional centre since pre-Roman times. The Cenomani Gauls founded Brescia in the 7th-century BC. Then, Brescia became the core of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire between the 4th-century BC and the 5th-century AD.

This rich history is everywhere to see in Brescia, which is like an open-air museum. The old town has the best-preserved Roman public buildings in northern Italy. There are loads of monuments and ruins, for instance, the medieval Castello di Brescia and both the Duomo Vecchio and Duomo Nuovo. There’s also the Capitolium of Brixia with its magnificent Winged Victory statue.

Brescia is also famous for having four historic squares, all of which are within a few minutes walk of each other. The four piazze of Brescia are the Roman Square, Medieval Square, Renaissance Square and Modern Square. 

Another thing that Brescia is known for is the Mille Miglia. This classic car race starts and finishes in the heart of the city.

Brescia Gastronomy

Brescia is a delicious city and food and drinks lovers will be in their element with all the great gastronomy. In fact, the whole area around Brescia is a European Region of Gastronomy. When it comes to eating out, the standards are so high here, that you won’t have a bad meal, unless you are really unlucky.

Oh, Brescia is also famous for its wine production. It is in this region that Franciacorta sparkling wine is produced. You can even take a tour and a tasting at a winery. As if you needed another reason to visit. I recommend a tour and tasting of the Guido Berlucchi Winery.

If you want to drink like the locals, kick your evening off with a pirlo aperitivo. This is Brescia’s version of the spritz. It is a super flavourful cocktail of sparkling wine, Campari and fizzy water, which is garnished with orange slices. An intriguing blend of light and bitter.

You will find plenty of places to try pirlo around the city, but I had a great (seriously strong) one in a place called Storage. This is located on Piazzale Arnaldo on the terrace of a stunning arched arcade. It was a postcard-pretty location for an aperitivo with a cool vibe and buzz about the place too. Oh, and they brought out a bowl of the most incredible fried potatoes that went perfectly with the pirlo.

Things to do in Brescia

If you know me, you’ll know that my favourite thing to do anywhere is to just walk around and soak up the atmosphere of a place. Brescia is a very walkable city. It is compact but it packs in a lot of sights.

I suggest walking from one square to the next and taking in the sites and sights as you go. It is also vitally important that you stop and sip espresso in a piazza and listen to the beautiful Italian conversations going on around you.

The Roman Square – Piazza del Foro

To get a great understanding of the city and its history, explore the squares in chronological order. Start at the Roman Square, the impressive Piazza del Foro. Here you’ll find the Capitolium of Brixia or the Temple of the Capitoline Triad – a temple and theatre from the 1st-century BC.

A landslide buried this UNESCO World Heritage Site and it wasn’t until 1823 that it was rediscovered.

Inside is the splendid bronze statue, the Winged Victory, thatarchaeologists found during a dig in 1826. This statue is also from the 1st-century and originally it would have had a helmet under its foot and be holding a shield. As a nice touch, the light that shines on the Winged Victory inside theCapitolium of Brixia mimics the shield.

There’s lots to explore in this part of town, so take your time. There are plenty of photo opportunities too. At every turn, there is something remarkable to look at. Plan at least a few hours in Roman Square.

The Medieval Square – Piazza Paolo VI

Piazza Paolo VI, in the heart of the city, dates back to the Middle Ages. This piazza is a great place for an alfresco coffee and some people watching. The square is dominated by two cathedrals that sit side-by-side. The two cathedrals are the Duomo Nuovo (the New Cathedral) and the Duomo Vecchio (the Old Cathedral).

The Duomo Vecchio is a splendid example of a circular stone building from the 12th-century. If you peer over the wall, you can see the former ground level of the city. Inside, the church is incredibly beautiful with lots of important works of art and painted ceilings.

At the entrance, you’ll find the sarcophagus of Bishop Berardo Maggi. This was made in 1308 from red Veronese marble.

The square is also where you’ll find the Palace of Broletto, which incorporates the municipal tower and the loggia delle grida balcony that overlooks the square. The Palace of the Broletto is the oldest municipal building in the city.

The Renaissance – Piazza della Loggia 

This is my favourite square, especially the narrow, atmospheric streets in and around it. It is one of the most picturesque squares I’ve ever seen.

Piazza della Loggia gives a glimpse of Brescia’s Venetian past. Many buildings have beautiful classical architectural features, for instance, the colonnades of the 15th-century Loggia (town hall).

At the other end of the square is Torre dell’Orologio, an astronomical clock that shows the phases of the moon and the zodiac. This clock was built in 1546 and if you look at the top, you’ll see two statues. These are “Màcc de le ure” (the madmen of the hours) or “Tone and Batista” and they strike on the hour.

Walk under the clock and explore the cosy, characterful winding streets of this part of town. Stop for lunch in one of the many small restaurants and cafes.

Better yet, come here for dinner in the evening as twinkling fairy lights adorn the place and prettify it even more. I can only imagine how beautiful this must be at Christmas time.

One restaurant in this area that caught my eye with its beautiful setting nestled in the corner with lots of outdoor tables and its indoor mural was Dukka Ristorante Palastinese. When I return to Brescia, I am going to eat here. If you go or have been, let me know how it was. It looks fab and so does the menu.

The Modern/Rationalist Square – Piazza della Vittoria

Opened in 1932, the grandPiazza della Vittoria is surrounded by buildings from the fascist era (1922–1943). On one side stands the imposing Post Office, on another, the 60-metre tall art-deco-style Torrione INA. This is the first skyscraper built in Italy and among the very first in Europe. You’ll also find theTorre della Rivoluzione (Tower of the Revolution) and a red stone frieze that depicts the history of Brescia from the Roman era to the middle of the 20th-century.

things to do in brescia
By Fred Romero, CC BY 2.0

On the second weekend of every month, you will find an antique market at Piazza della Vittoria. This is also where the sporting and technical checks take place of the cars taking part in the Mille Miglia “the most beautiful race in the world.” Nearby is the magnificent Mille Miglia museum.

Gelato in Brescia

Looking for gelato? I had a good one from Gelateria Lapecoranera onPiazza della Vittoria. Not only is the gelato super creamy and full of flavour, but it also has lots of unique local flavours to choose from. I had two scoops, naturally, one was made with local biscuits and the other with delicious fresh Italian figs.

So, there you have it. Things to do in Brescia. Visit the four squares. Immerse yourself in the remarkable history that surrounds you. Admire the art. Roam the ruins. Sip espresso. Eat Gelato. Drink pirlo. What a fabulous way to spend 24 hours in Brescia.

If you are looking for somewhere to stay, I didn’t actually stay overnight in Brescia. I stayed 40km away on Lake Iseo in the fab Cocca Hotel Royal Thai Spa. However, Brescia has lots of accommodation options to suit all budgets.

Thanks for reading Things to do in Brescia

So, what did you think of my list of things to do in Brescia? Have you been to Brescia? Did I leave anything out? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

If you liked this travel guide ofthings to do in Brescia, you might also like my Lake Iseo Travel Guide and my review of the Cocca Hotel Royal Thai Spa in Lake Iseo. If you are visiting Brescia, make sure you have a read of my experience on the Guido Berlucchi Winery Tour. Sure, you may as well check out my guide on the best things to do in Bergamo too, seeing how you’ll be in the area!

You might also like my Franciacorta Wine Guide to learn more about the local sparkling wine.

If you are looking for another great destination for food lovers, have a read of my guide on how to eat and drink like a local in Madrid.

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