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Slow tour 5


From Piazza della Vittoria to the church of SS. Cosma e Damiano

The tour starts from Piazza della Vittoria, typical example of the town planning policy of demolition of the Italian historical centres carried out during the fascism. (Piazza della Vittoria has smooth pavement but the pedestrian) crossings are very uneven; pavement with ramp on every side of the square and staircase to the north side) Planned by architect Piacentini, the square was built between 1929 and 1932, razing the fifteenth-century decaying ‘Fish-shops’ quarter , which stood close to the ancient roman walls, rich of a more than millenary history, as proved by the imperial and Lombard ruins found there during the excavations of 1970 to construct the underground car park. This excavation, at its turn, cutting the paving in the centre, radically changed its spatial uniformity. According to the style of that age, the square is surrounded by monumental buildings and it was rich in decorations and celebratory works, mostly removed or destroyed. The square is dominated to the north by the huge Palazzo della Posta, with the characteristic marble friezes on the front and the architraved portals squared off with black marble from Belgium. At the west side of the square there is the Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali di Venezia, next to the Torrione, a building made of reinforced concrete tiled with fired bricks, 60 metres high, which represented a record among the house buildings in Italy. In front of the palace there was a beautiful fountain, destroyed at the end of the fascist period; on top of it there was a high statue of a naked young man in a proud, challenging attitude, sculpted by Arturo Dazzi, nicknamed “Bigio” by the people and still kept in a municipal store. On the classical-deco front of the palace the winged bronze lion stands out, modelled by Biagini, curiously faced up, at the east side of the square, by a similar one, carved on the building of Riunione Adriatica. Going along this side of the square we find the arengario, the beautiful pulpit made of red porphyritic stone, carved with nine bas-relieves by Maraini, celebrating: Roman and Lombard Brescia, Arnaldo da Brescia, Berardo Maggi, the siege of the town laid by the Piccinino and the rescuing appearance of the Patron Saints, the painters Romanino and Moretto, the X Giornate, the First World War and fascist Brescia. Behind the Arengario the Tower stands out; in the fascist period it was called 'of the revolution'; of its original celebratory decorations only the winged heads carved by Drei are still present on the two half-columns standing at both sides of the arch leading to the Quadriportico (once ‘Loggia of the Merchants’) planned by Tito Brusa from Brescia (Level access to Quadriportico from Via X Giornate). Here you can still find  the Stock Exchange Halls, now turned into an elegant coffee bar, still with two sculptures by Righetti inside.

At the end of the square we discover, fixed in the west wall of the Palazzo della Posta, the simple front of a sixteenth-century house, peculiar for the remarkable frescos with scenes of roman history by Lattanzio Gambara. Opposite there is the exterior of the apse of the very ancient church of Sant'Agata, whose origins date back to the Lombard age, as testified both by its location in the very centre of the Curia Ducis area and by its dedication to the Saint of
whom the Lombard were particular devotees (Slide at the back of the church of S. Agata (Via XXIV Maggio)
steep ramp to the small double door access. The chapel of the Crucifix and the sacristy are not accessible). The church was enlarged up to the present shape in 1458, adding the presbytery and the apse, built on a strong vault (partly still visible included in the base of the south and north walls of the presbytery) across the stream Garza which once crossed the whole town from the north. Unfortunately all the south side was very much modified in 1927, constructing an arcade coherent, from the architectural point of view, with the new buildings of the square; a rock was fit into one of its arches to remember the Alpine soldiers who died on the Adamello mountain during the First World War. What remains intact though is the exterior of the presbytery, with its polychromatic tiles of glazed earthenware framing the two oblong windows of the apse, together with the frieze below the roof. Besides the simple facade is original, half covered with marble from Botticino, on which two small blind eyes are open, together with the elegant fifteenth-century portal, to which, in 1739, they added the cymatium crowned with three beautiful statues by Antonio Callegari, celebrating SS. Agata, Lucia and Apollonia. The one aisled interior is rich with the remarkable works carried out over the centuries. Among the most considerable we mention: in the presbytery, on the back wall the interesting frescos picturing the ‘Crucifixion’, the ‘Nativity’ and ‘SS.  James and Anthony’ (1475), and the frescos on the vault, by Pietro Marone (1593), while behind the high altar there is the colourful bright altar-piece ‘Martyrdom of St. Agatha’ by Francesco Prata from Caravaggio (1522). The seventeenth-century cap vaults are frescoed with trompe-l'oeil architectural perspectives by Antonio Sorisene and Pompeo Ghitti (1638), while the great Holy Sacrament Chapel on the right side dates back to the eighteen century. Finally, on the first altar to the left, there is a remarkable polyptych of Brescia sixteenth-century school in the middle of which there is the fresco ‘Madonna of the Mercy’, object of popular veneration, once on the wall of a house close to the monastery of SS. Cosma and Damiano; at the sides the ‘Nativity’ and the ‘Epiphany’, attributed to Paolo da Caylina il Giovane and, in the altar step, three scenes of Maria's life. (Leaflet available at the front entrance).

Leaving the church we can go straight on along Via Dante, then becoming Via Cairoli, where there are some important historical buildings (Via Dante has level but very uneven pavement). At n. 15 we find Palazzo Togni, an excellent restoration, made in 1906 by architect Dabbeni, of the ancient fifteenth-century building which stood there, well-known as Casa del Carmagnola, after the name of the commander from Veneto in the battle of Maclodio who lived there in 1430. It was the residence of the 'podestà' until the end of the sixteenth century, with the name of “Palazzo Vecchio” and then became the property of various noble families over the centuries, until the final decline at the end of the nineteenth century. It was thanks to the Togni family that the building received its last decisive reconstruction with modern adjustments, proved by the majestic facade where the central portal stands out, over which the balcony with triple lancet window hangs, to the east with a large double lancet window loggia and to the west characterized by a niche with the statue of Paride by Achille Regosa.

A little forward, at n.16, we find Palazzo Calzavellia (now Palazzo Brunori), an ancient building of 1484 partly devastated by the bombing of the Second World War, whose beautiful facade maintains the architectural elegance of the early Renaissance with some fragments of the original fresco decorations still visible, while most of them were lost. Miraculously intact are the little balcony on the left, supported by volute brackets, of stone carved in the shape of candelabra and the beautiful marble portal, framed by two small Corinthian pilasters surmounted by two medallions with heads of emperors in the pendentives. The portal, at its turn, is framed by other Corinthian fluted pilasters that, supporting the trapezoidal bas-relief with two dolphins and the aristocratic coat of arms of the Calzavellia, are linked to the double lancet window, flanked by pilasters and by an architrave with spirals, friezes and medallions.

Now we reach the junction with Via Pace and we take Via Cairoli where at n. 2 we find Palazzo Martinengo della Mottella (The junction with Via Pace has traffic lights and pavement with

ramp. The north side pavement in Via Cairoli has several diffe ences in level next to the driveways) (afterwards Palazzo Calini) rebuilt in the XVIIth century on a pre-existing fifteenth-century building. On the facade, with its large windows crowned by triangular projecting tympanums, the original stone corner balcony stands out, destroyed by  bombs during the Second World War and recently rebuilt. The beautiful stone portal of the late XVIth century is really remarkable and so are the panel decorations carved with armours and trophies and captain on horseback in the top oval. The beautiful wood wings, remade in the eighteenth century exactly alike the original ones, are carved with a rich cartouche decoration  where you can find armours, trophies, masks and the eagles of the Martinengo, while two woman figures follow the curve of the entrance arch. This portal had a curious destiny: originally it was at the entrance of Palazzo Colleoni in Via Pace, then the Padri Filippini, owners of the building since the extinction of the Martinengo della Pallata family, handed it over to the Calini Counts in 1730, in exchange for the land necessary to build the church of S. Maria della Pace.

Opposite, at n. 1 and 3, there is Palazzo Oldofredi (nowadays Palazzo Guaineri),built in 1570 by the Montini family.  On its austere and simple facade, beside the volute frieze below the eaves cornice, the two twins portals of the double entrance stand out, the master's one and the service one, framed by pilasters and enriched with marble sixteenth-century medallions in the semi-pendentives.

Next to this building, at n. 5, you can see Palazzo Porcellaga (now Pellizzari), built in 1520 by that noble family from Brescia, well-known for the heroic Luigi and Lorenzo brothers, who died in the battle against the French in 1512. The lower part of the beautiful sixteenth century building is covered with stone and defined by two elegant pilasters,  while the remarkable portal resumes the classicizing themes of the arch framed by fluted pilasters with Corinthian capitals, with medallions decorated with two Caesarian heads in the semi-pendentives. Curiously enough some Latin maxims are carved both in the frieze on the portal architrave , “Intrent libenter amici” (Enter freely, friends) and in the first floor window frames: “Oculatior dominus” (The most careful master), “Sic blandimus patriae” (So we honour our country), “Coro oculi nos lares” (The heart, the eyes and us are the tutelary deities) and “Arridet genius luci” (The genius smiles at light).

Going forward, at n. 9, we find the Sala della Cavallerizza, at present municipal reading room, once church of the fifteenth-century monastery of S. Antonio, transformed into a hall for equestrian exercises  by Donegani in 1843.

Past the junction with Via Matteotti (The junction with Via Matteotti has level pavement.), at n. 14, we find another Latin maxim “Non me quaesiveris extra” (You will not ask me more) carved in the architrave of the Renaissance beautiful marble portal, unique remains of the ancient Casa Brunelli, with two balusters at each side with rich capitals on which the arch is placed, with triple frieze closed by a large foil and with two medallions above.

Opposite, at n. 19, there is Palazzo Duranti (now Bettini), a building of the middle eighteenth century, with a simple facade revived by the fine frames of the windows and by the cymatium of the first floor, typical of the Lombard late baroque.

At the corner of Contrada delle Bassiche, on the left, hidden by the roofs of the buildings all around, ( The junction with Contrada delle Bassiche has pavement without ram) we catch sight of the ancient church of SS. Cosma e Damiano: still visible the upper part of the fifteenth-century facade with horizontal friezes of brick and stone, and the pretty decoration of the brick arches below the cornice and the thin pinnacles towering against the sky. At the side there is the small quadrangular Romanesque bell tower of the fourteenth century, refined by the double lancet windows of the belfry. The church is included in the old people's home “La Residenza”, entrance from Via dei Mille 41. The interior was completely rearranged in the nineteenth century and now has rich typically baroque style and decorations. Some features of the ancient fifteenth-century decoration are still visible in the rosettes of the two chapels and in the pillars of the porch; in the pronaos you can see the ‘Pietà’ by Sante Cattaneo and ‘St. Benedict between SS. Cosma and Damian’ by Paolo da Caylina il Giovane (Access to the church of SS. Cosma e Damiano from the small door in the cloister of “La Residenza” (5 cm step). Connection to the nave of the pronaos by a quite steep ramp.). In the chapel to the right of the presbytery there is a wooden Crucifix of Lombard school of the XVth century and in the chapel to the left there is the Sarcophagus of St. Titian, exquisite work of the local school of the early sixteenth century, under which there is still the medieval well whose water was considered miraculous. The large fifteenth-century cloister, part of the original Benedectine monastery, is at present an integrant part of the old people's home. Notwithstanding the many rearrangements, the cloister is very elegant, with eyebrowed arches and, over the porch, an open gallery that, doubling the number of the arches, gives a peculiar lightness to the complex.


From Piazzale Garibaldi to Via Pace

Going past “La Residenza” we shall proceed along Via dei Mille until we reach Piazzale Garibaldi,(The junction with Via dei Mille has level pavement) nowadays busy crossroads and once ancient gate to the town. It was called gate of S. Giovanni and it gave access to the town for the people coming from Milan. The present square was realized in 1929 covering the torrent Garza and moving the tollhouses by Donegani to the entrance of the Vantiniano Cemetery, in the nearby Via Milano. The equestrian monument of Garibaldi by Maccagnani (1889) is placed in the middle of the square as it was through this gate that he entered the town in 1859.

Corso Garibaldi starts from the square(Corso Garibaldi has smooth paving without pavement),  it was named after the hero of the two worlds in 1862, but its origins are very old as shown by the name ‘corso’, once given to the streets where the traditional races were held, like the Assumption race, for horses, donkeys and prostitutes which used to be played in the XVth century from Porta S. Giovanni to the Porta Bruciata, near Piazza Loggia.

When we reach the blind alley to the right (once called “scua loc”= sweep place) we discover a curious vestige of the past fixed into the wall of the house at n. 45: a grindstone, evidence of the many waterways once present in town.

At the junction with Via delle Grazie we can see the picturesque “Santella delle Cantinelle”(Via delle Grazie has level, quite uneven pavement), named after the ancient name of this stretch of street, probably due to the presence of small cellars along the way. At n. 18 there is Palazzo Maffei, once Fenaroli, then Antonini (second half of the XVIIth century), with a sumptuous facade enclosed between two great pilasters over which the beautiful rusticated portal stands out, with arms trophies and masks. And the masks actually characterize the rich and original decoration of the building, being present also in the centre of the pediments with tympanum, under the windowsills of the first floor windows  and in the eaves, alternate with mermaids. The nice small balconies with railing made of wrought iron on the last floor are as much original though.

In front of the palace there is a little square where the medieval thirteenth-century church of S. Mattia stands (it was changed into a gymnasium halfway through the XIXth century), it has simple Romanesque features with terracotta small arches below the roof.

A little ahead we find the ancient Basilica of S. Maria delle Grazie (From the door on the left of the church of Santa Maria delle Gr zie, you enter the Renaissance small cloister: at the end, on the left, you gain access to the Sanctuary with level threshold; on the right a steep ramp gives access to the church), started in 1522 by the Gerolamini brothers, in the same place where, in the thirteenth 

century, the church of the Padri Umiliati di Palazzolo stood. Of the Renaissance original building only the very plain front remains whose magnificent stone portal with two wood wings is decorated according to the refined and imaginative taste of the fifteenth-century Lombard sculpture, with two small Romanesque lions of red marble at the sides and, in the lunette on the top, a bas-relief representing the Virgin with Child between SS. Jerome and John and the two donors. The interior with one nave and two aisles has lost most of its original Renaissance elegance due to the rearrangements of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, proved by the great profusion of decorations (350 frescoes placed in the vaults, in the cupolas and in the arches) of stuccoes, gold and statues, works of the major artists of the period and that represent a unique example of the splendour and wealth achieved by the baroque in Brescia. Among the Renaissance vestiges still present in the Basilica, remarkable is the painting 'Virgin between SS. Sebastian, Martin and Rocco' by Moretto, of impact for its impressive light and shade effects, placed in the chapel at the end of the right aisle, while in the left one there is the 'Crucifix with the Virgin and S. Carlo Borromeo', wooden work by the local school of the early sixteenth century. At the beginning of the presbytery there is the monument to Cardinal Uberto Gambara (1560), while on the high altar there is a copy of the 'Adoration of the Child' by Moretto, whose original is kept in the Tosio Martinengo picture gallery. Finally, along the left aisle, you can admire 'St. Anna and St. Joachim' by Bagnadore (fourth altar) and the great painting by Paolo da Caylina il Giovane 'Madonna  of the Graces and Saints' of 1543 (first altar). To the left of the church there is the Sanctuary completely rebuilt in 1876 by architect Tagliaferri, imitating the fifteenth century style; on the altar there is the 'Nativity', original fresco by the school of Foppa. Between the church and the Sanctuary there is a nice Renaissance small cloister, restructured in 1951, with precious ex-voto on the walls. Remarkable the little fountain in the middle, enriched in the eighteenth century with a bronze statue of the ‘Madonna’ by Calegari. (Guide book on sale in the sacristy)

In front of the church, at the corner with Via Capriolo, we see the ancient Palazzo Caprioli, dating back perhaps to the XIVth century and built by one of the most distinguished local families. From this family came the historian Elia Capriolo, author of the “Cronaca  de rebus Brixianorum”. Transformed between the end of the XVIth and the beginning of the XVIIth century, the palace shows, on its front, interesting remains of the impressive decoration by Marone (1591) with great figures which stand out on architectural backgrounds of great chromatic range, as well as traces of previous decorations dating back to the first half of the sixteenth century. Of the XVth century, instead,  is the beautiful arched two-coloured window of alternate brick and stone, over the corner with Via Grazie. The portal, flanked by pilasters with lion heads, surmounted by modillions supporting the above stone balcony with banisters, is of the XVIIth century.

Now let's go back to Corso Garibaldi where, at n. 16, we find a beautiful neoclassical palace of the early nineteenth century, in pure Vantini style, as testified by the rustication of the ground floor, framing the portal and the windows and, closed by the side bodies, the spacious portico on the first floor, with three passages divided by high marble columns and a close balusters banister. Next to the palace, at n. 14, there is a beautiful medieval residence, at present seat of the Banca Popolare di Vicenza, built between the XIVth and the Xvth century (except for the corner balcony of wrought iron added in the nineteenth century), as proved by the different styles present in the two  parts of the front: the part at the corner with Via Marsala is more ancient, with its round arch windows  with brick cornices, divided by an external flue decorated with a coat of arms, while the three windows to the west look some decades more recent, with lancet arches (on the first floor) and round arches (on the second floor) framed by fresco friezes.

The stately Torre della Pallata is silhouetted against the background of the Corso. It was built in 1248 on the third circle of the town walls using salvaged material from roman remains. This building was probably named after a fence built around it either as a fortification or because of the marshland. The tower, 31.10 metres high, square planned (10.60 metres each side), has a massive scarp basement; the wall is rusticated, interrupted by slits and edges protected by pilasters and it ends with terracotta merlons and a bell-tower with a zinc-coated dome, added during a restoration between 1476 and 1481. On the north side there is an interesting bas-relief with the bust of a saint and the capital with small head and flower bearing the date 1253. On the west side there is a Romanesque panel of Bishop S. Apollonio with mitre and pastoral staff and the dial of the clock. In 1596 the fountain was made, sculpted by Antonio Carra and Bonesini, designed by Bagnadore; a triton, Brescia in arms, and the rivers Mella and Garza are represented there.

Now we take Via Pace ( Via Pace has pavement with differences in level next to the driveways) where, at n. 10, we can see Palazzo Colleoni (then Martinengo della Pallata), nowadays the seat of the parish recreation centre of S. Maria della Pace. Of the original imposing building, commissioned by the famous general of the Venetian Republic Bartolomeo Colleoni in the middle fifteenth century, few traces still remain, like the wonderful entrance portal, once at n. 12, now in Via Cairoli. Entering the present centre, we go along the only part left of the original inner arcade: with lancet arches and the capitals of the columns bearing the coat of arms of the Colleoni, the porch opens onto the small inner courtyard where there is a little fountain with the copy of the “Madonna” by Calegari (the original is kept in the sacristy). The ceiling is remarkable, Renaissance Lombard style, the wood beams showing with small boards painted with animals, flowers and portraits, alternated with coats of arms. To the left there is the ancient porch, which once gave onto the garden (nowadays transformed into a courtyard), made up by ten lancet arches supported by marble columns with the captain's coats of arms in the capitals. Through the small door to the south of the courtyard you can enter the church of S. Maria della Pace, (Access to the church of Santa Maria della Pace from the porter’s lodge of the ‘parish recreation centre’ at n. 10 Via Pace;

from the inner courtyard (15 cm. step) on the left you get to the small door (80 cm. wide) that gives access to the sacristy. From the door at the end (15 cm. Step) you reach the place in front
of the high altar and, climbing a 15 cm. step, you reach the nave) considerable and important example of an eighteenth-century church in Brescia. Built between 1720 and 1746, the very high dome overhanging, it is completely decorated inside with the harmonious ochre frescoes by Monti and Zanardi. On the high altar we particularly point out the 'Presentation to the Temple' by Pompeo Batoni from Lecco (1738), brightly colourful and harmonious and, by the same artist, the painting on the second altar to the left, 'St. John Nepomuceno before the Virgin’ (1746), interesting for the sweet shaping and the light that reminds us of Correggio. The altar is embellished with two remarkable sculptures by Antonio Calegari, ‘Fortitude’ and ‘Temperance’; by the same artist, on the second altar to the right, 'St. John Evangelist and St. James'. (Guide-book available in the sacristy)
Coming out of the recreation centre, quite in front of the incomplete front of the church, with a great neoclassical portal, at n. 17 we find Palazzo Uggeri (now Fenaroli), imposing building of the middle eighteenth century, with a raised central body, attributed to architect Marchetti. On the elegant facade the portal stands out, with high columns on both sides and a stone balcony above, with shaped small columns on which the central window opens, framed by two fluted columns with Corinthian capitals and a pediment with shield above. From the large porch-hall you can admire the picturesque backdrop of the courtyard, closed, at the bottom, by a stone wall with a fountain in the middle and a seventeenth-century sculpture of Tobia and the Angel; above there is the terraced garden, created on the embankment of the old medieval city walls, where you can catch sight of an unusual small dome with silver flat roof tiles.
Finally let's go back along Via Dante and return to Piazza della Vittoria.


From the guide "Brescia Possibile" by SLOWtime
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