The oldest part of the city
Piazzale Arnaldo, Piazza Tebaldo Brusato, Via Musei, monastic complex of San Salvatore - Santa Giulia and City Museum, Piazza del Foro, Via Cattaneo, Vicolo San Clemente, Via Trieste, Via Tosio, Corso Magenta.
Piazzale Arnaldo got its name in 1897 from the large bronze statue of Arnaldo of Brescia in its centre, the work of Antonio Tagliaferri (1882). The statue is in memory of the monk, who preached against the corruption of the clergy and was executed in 1155. The corn market was held in this square last century and the neo-classical building along its south side is the Mercato dei Grani or Granarolo (cereal market), one of the finest constructions of its kind. The two small arcades opposite each other near the traffic lights were built at the beginning of the XIX century as customs posts, to replace the demolished Torrelunga gate, which was the way into and out of the city on the road going east towards Venice.
At the end of the square facing the same way as Arnaldo's statue, you turn right towards Piazza Tebaldo Brusato. It was built at the end of 1173 and used to be an important market square up until the XVII century, while in medieval times fights, duels, jousting and tournaments took place here. In 1820 it was turned into a public garden furnished with two neo-classical fountains and planted with the great horse-chestnut trees still standing today. Piazza Arnaldo and Piazza Tebaldo Brusato are the last two squares accessible to cars before entering the limited traffic zone, and they are very lively in the evening with their restaurants, cafés and icecream parlours.
Palazzo Cigola, at no. 35, stands out among the ancient buildings which surround Piazza Tebaldo Brusato, this richly marble-decorated palace, built at the end of the XVI century and enlarged in the XVIII, is one of Brescia's most imposing dwellings; it fronts the square with a majestic main doorway surmounted by a balcony with three windows giving onto it, and a top floor crowned with pinnacles. Before leaving the square to go northwards into Via Musei, you pass Palazzo Maggi at no. 22.
Via dei Musei is where the decumano massimo (the main road in Roman times) used to be. The Roman road, which is now about 5 metres below ground level, crossed the ancient centre of Brixia from east to west, traversing that part of the town enclosed within the city walls since the first century AD. There are imposing buildings in this road, such as the most important Roman ruins in Brescia: the Capitolium, which, with the Forum in front of it and the Roman theatre , forms one of the major groups of monumental remains in Northern Italy. One of the finest and most important buildings left to us from the Lombard period is in Via Musei; the Convent of San Salvatore - Santa Giulia. It stands on one of the richest archeological sites in the city, where traces of Iron-Age, Roman and Lombard settlements have been found. The remains of Roman domus, the early medieval basilica of San Salvatore , the church of Santa Giulia and the votive chapel of S. Maria in Solario, where the treasure of Santa Giulia is displayed, are all to be seen inside. The exhibition area of the City Museum is part of the same building, a museum complex of 12,000 square metres, inaugurated in 1999, which attracts art and history lovers to Brescia with over 11,000 exhibits ranging from prehistoric times up to the period of Venetian domination, including Roman, Lombard and Carolingian times, the period of the city states and of the seignories.
Continuing along Via Musei you skirt the south side of Santa Maria in Solario, the only wall of the votive chapel not incorporated in the convent complex S. Salvatore-S.Giulia. Its south side can be seen from the outside with its massive wall decorated with pilaster strips and hanging arches, which incorporates stone tablets inscribed in Latin, salvaged from Roman buildings.
Casa Benasaglio, almost directly opposite at no.50, has recently been restored. This palace has beautiful wrought-iron railings and, at the end of the courtyard beyond the double-vaulted portico, there is a fine fountain designed by Vantini (1832) with a statue by Emanueli. Skirting the perimeter wall of the convent you turn left into Via Piamarta, the old road up to the castle. The Church of Santa Giulia faces this road; the Renaissance church is made up of two parts: the nuns' choir dating from the second half of the XV century, decorated with frescos by Floriano Ferramola and Paolo da Caylina the younger at the beginning of the XVI century, and the barrel-vaulted nave built at the end of the XVI century. The marble facade is divided in two by a frieze of arabesques and a statue of Santa Giulia crowns the triangular pediment.
A little further on, to the right a flight of steps leads to the Church of the Holy Eucharist and the Jesuit convent. The building of the church began in 1501 and it has an outstanding, marble Renaissance portal and interesting XV - XVI century frescos in the interior and in the cloisters, although some of them are in a bad state of preservation. The very fine decorations in the chapels on the right of the church, painted by Benedetto Marone in the middle of the XVII century, represent scenes from the Holy Scriptures.
Descending the road you will find Vicolo Fontanone, which takes its name from the roughly made, public washing-trough on the corner. Palazzo Maggi Gambara, which stands at no.1, was built at the end of the XV century on the remains of the stalls of the Roman theatre: here we are in the heart of Roman Brescia.
Coming out of Vicolo Fontanone you find yourself in the centre of the archeological zone, whose present layout dates back to 1830 and is also the result of restoration work carried out between 1939 and 1943 on the Capitolium temple erected in 73 - 74 A.D., which is attached to the Roman Museum . Here an important collection of stone tablets found in Brescia and its province is on display in the three cellae of the temple and an area behind it. The way the exhibits are laid out in XIX-century style, preserves the charm of an old-fashioned collection.
The Church of San Zeno in the Forum stands on the corner of Piazza del Foro. It was rebuilt in the first half of the XVIII century with a forecourt surrounded by railings with plaques crowned with cherubs and pairs of dolphins. On the opposite side of the square, one of the buildings which encroached on the area that in Roman times was open and paved is Palazzo Martinengo Cesaresco Novarino; the part which overlooks the square is the oldest - XVII century. Number 6 houses the Council office responsible for cultural activities in the Province of Brescia. There is a scale model of the archeological area of the town in the basement of this palace and the remains of a Roman spa and of the layout of the Forum walls and of some tabernae (shops and taverns) can also be seen. Going down Piazza del Foro the size of the monumental centre of Roman Brixia can be grasped; taking the road on the right, Via Laura Cereto, you pass by the Torre d'Ercole, a house in a tower 15 metres high, dating from early medieval times, built of material plundered from the Roman forum, and later lowered by Ezzelino da Romano. It stands at the crossroads of the decumanus and the cardus maximus. Crossing over Via Cattaneo you pass the Romanesque apse of San Marco Evangelista and come into Piazzetta Labus, where the remains of the rear wall of the Curia (which bounded the Forum to the south) are incorporated in the houses on the north side of the square.
Turning into Vicolo San Clemente you go through alleyways following the original Roman layout; the town council has recently repaired and reclaimed these narrow little streets without changing their character. Here you can appreciate the advantages of making the most of this tranquil environment, which surrounds one of the oldest residential districts of the city.
In Piazzetta San Clemente you will find the Church of San Clemente. The building, which already existed here in the XI century, was altered in the XV and XVI centuries and then again in 1840, when a design by Rodolfo Vantini was used to completely transform the interior. The church contains numerous works by Moretto, who is buried here, and there is a recently restored painting by Gerolamo Romanino in the second chapel on the right (Christ Resurrected between Saint Catherine and Saint Augustine).
Skirting a block of medieval buildings, you come into Via Trieste , where there are some antique shops and antique furniture restorers. No. 17 is Palazzo Martinengo Cesaresco, which nowadays houses the Università Cattolica and the Arici schools. The building was begun by the architect Ludovico Beretta in the XVI century. The imposing marble portal by Iacopo Medici is surmounted at its highest point by the Martinengo coat of arms with its eagle. The Roman remains in the basement are open to the public, and include mosaics and frescos belonging to a building from the Republican period (II - I century B.C.), which was rebuilt in the I century A.D. and transformed into Roman baths in the III century.
The cloister of San Clemente at no.31, which was restored in the XVII century, is now occupied by a school. Where Via Trieste crosses Via Veronica Gambara there is a wall which according to tradition was erected by the Brescians to defend themselves against the barbarian invasions.
Number 9 Via Trieste is Palazzo Soardi, nowadays Palazzo Bruni-Conter, built around 1730 by the architect Antonio Turbino on the site of a XV century building; it is one of the most striking late Baroque edifices in Brescia. The desire to achieve scenographic effects can be seen in the style of the entire palace: standing in front of the facade enlivened by the festoons on its stone doorway, you have a long view through the porch into the arcaded courtyard and beyond into the garden enclosed by iron railings contained in three stone archways, and then still further on until the view ends to the south in front of the palace with a fountain bearing a statue of Neptune designed by Antonio Callegari, which is placed in a niche up against the side of the church.
In the square of the same name there is the Church of Santa Maria Calchera, which was almost completely rebuilt in the XVIII century; inside, in the second chapel on the right, there is one of Romanino's early works dating from the 1520s: Saint Apollonius the Bishop and the communicants, Saints Faustino, Giovita, Afra and Italico.
The Bisogni mansion with its XIV century frescos is on the south side of the church; nowadays it is used for holding meetings. The statue by Luigi Contratti portraying Nicolò Tartaglia with Renaissance decorum and realism has been in the middle of the square since 1918. It was donated by the Academy in honour of the great XV century Brescian mathematician.
The Brescian Musical Instruments Museum is at no. 34 Via Trieste and is devoted to lutes and other stringed musical instruments.
Next you turn into Via Tosio ; nos. 10,12, and 14 all belong to Palazzo Tosio, the seat of the Academy of Science, Literature and the Arts, the prestigious Brescian Academy. The building is composed of three attached houses. The facade as it is today is the work of the architect Vantini, and represents one of the most extraordinary examples of the neo-classical in a private building.
Number 6 Via Tosio is Palazzo Martinengo da Barco, nowadays belonging to the Beretta family. It was built in the XVII century on the ground made available by pulling down the city walls. Looking through the entrance you can see the courtyard enclosed by railings surmounted by statues and beyond that the garden, which slopes down to a second lot of ornate railings made of wrought-iron set in marble, which are visible from Corso Magenta.
Walking through to Corso Magenta and turning eastwards, you arrive at no.27, Palazzo Bargnani, which was built in the mid XVI century and then united with the adjoining houses by Rodolfo Vantini.
Further along you come to the Conservatorio "Luca Marenzio", which was designed by the architect Luigi Donegani in 1837 and takes in part of the ancient Augustinian monastery of St. Barnabas. The central part is built in a simple unadorned style with a tympanum resting on four Ionic columns. The school was dedicated to the hero of the Risorgimento, Tito Speri.
Nearby is the former Church of San Barnaba, which is now used as a concert hall and a meeting centre, with a Baroque marble facade dating from 1675. The entrance to the Salone da Cemmo is at no. 50; this was the old library of the Augustinian monastery of San Barnaba. It has an antique wood-panelled ceiling and a series of frescos painted in 1490 by Giovan
Pietro da Cemmo.
There are two monuments in the adjoining garden: The Wing of Liberty , dedicated to the heros of the Brescian Resistance movement, by Quinto Ghermanti (1970) and Gli Emigranti (the Emigrés), a group of bronze figures of great psychological intensity, by Domenico Guidoni (1891).
Number 56 is Palazzo Poncarali, which is now a school - the Arnaldo Classical Lyceum. It was built in the first half of the XVII century, and Roman remains have been found in its cellars, as in many other nearby palaces.
Where Via Magenta turns into Piazzale Arnaldo you will find the Church of Sant'Afra in Sant'Eufemia with its harmonious marble facade. It was rebuilt in 1776 using the foundations of a previous building going back to 1462; the choir and the crypt are the only parts remaining of the earlier church. There is an important picture in the first chapel on the left painted by Paolo Veronese at the height of his power: The Martyrdom of Sant'Afra (c.1575) and on either side Saints Faustino and Giovita by Palma the Younger. The crypt is very fine with a nave and two aisles and there are the remains of XV century frescos and a Nativity from the same period over the altar.