Comune di Brescia tourism website: useful information about what to see and where to go.

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Contemporary Brescia

Brescia Piazza della Vittoria

The twentieth century and the beginning of the new millenium

Already towards the end of the nineteenth century the city had urbanised new areas for residential and industrial purposes, then, in the first fifteen years of the twentieth century, the population of Brescia increased enormously and by the end of the 1920s had reached 100,000. So the city went on growing, often due to private enterprise, without any new town planning to regulate the development of areas to the south and west of the town. The speculative nature of these developments and the capitalistic appropriation of these areas connote the new districts which grew up in the wake of industrial expansion.  Historicity and eclecticism were the salient characteristics of new buildings in the town centre. Even the most important constructions, designed by famous building firms which were operating until the end of the 1930s, were not the work of architects with original ideas, as happened in other cities in Lombardy, architects who could give the distinctive style of the period to an edifice, in fact not even the  Art Nouveau movement impinged on the dignified, but not artistic, eclecticism of this predominating trend. 

On the other hand Brescia became an example for other cities to follow as regards the demolition and rebuilding carried out in line with fascist town planning policies. With the demolition of a picturesque medieval district to make way for Piazza della Vittoria, inaugurated in 1932, the historic structure of the city was disturbed, even if the square remains one of the best examples of urban reconstruction by the architect Marcello Piacentini. Nowadays this is the square where every year in May there is the checkpoint for cars taking part in the Mille Miglia, the spectacular evocation of the most wonderful race in the world, which only sports cars produced in the years between 1927 and 1957 can take part in.

The Second World War caused a lot of damage to the city, but postwar Brescia expanded in every direction and the population reached the present-day number of  200,000. Public works of great importance were undertaken in those years and changed the course of  redevelopment of urban areas; to mention just a few: the opening of the tunnel under Mount Cidneo, the continuation of the road to the north towards the new hospital, the road up the Ronchi, the Kennedy flyover passing over the railway, which has encouraged the development of the new district: Brescia 2, an area  characterised by original examples of contemporary architecture.

As a result of war damage to buildings and the lack of any serious town planning (the first proper town development plan dates back to 1961) demolition and rebuilding were carried out that altered the traditional appearance of the town. It was only at the beginning of the 1970s that the town council changed its policy. The period of expansion was over and the new 1971 plan proposed to improve the quality of the existing city fabric by rendering it fitter to live in. To this end an intelligent plan for the preservation and restoration of the old city centre was approved and put into practice This plan has borne fruit and many districts have been lovingly restored. The most important  works concentrated on the Carmine district, the restoration of the Castle, the building of the new law courts and the restoration of the conventual complex of San Salvatore-Santa Giulia, where the City Museum was inaugurated in 1999; an example of collaboration between the Town Council and private enterprise, which has led to the creation of one the largest exhibitions of any museum in Italy.

In 1975 the district of San Polo Nuovo was built to provide accommodation for 18,000 people in terrace houses and high tower blocks: this was the last example of town planning for an expanding city.