What to see in Brescia, Italy part 2
When visiting Brescia, Italy the Santa Giulia Museum Complex is a must-see!
The monastery of San Salvatore, also known as the monastery of San Giulia, is truly a magnificent highlight of the city. The monastery includes a museum and there is a specific route you are guided through for the entire visit. Keep in mind that this sight takes a good portion of the day to see, either an entire morning or an entire afternoon.
The directed path through the complex leads to one of the first marvels, the Santa Maria in Solario, which is a Romanesque chapel built in the mid-12th century. The top floor, accessible via a narrow staircase is one of the jewels of the complex. The domed ceiling is a brilliant blue with gold stars and the walls are covered in 16th century frecos, while at the center of the room is the 9th century Cross of King Desiderius.
Desiderius, the last Lombard King, founded the monastery in 753. The complex was built atop the ruins of a Roman town which you can see parts of in the City Museum. The Roman ruins are impressive with vast areas of mosaic floors and the exhibition explains how they had lead pipes for water, central heating, running water and more!
The City Museum, which is part of the monastery route, has Roman portraits, bronze sculptures, frescos, ornaments and about 11,000 objects to view that date from the medieval period to the 18th century. One of the prized pieces in the City Museum is the winged Victory statue (notice the wings were added on, probably making the original statue a Venus). The winged victory is also the symbol of the city of Brescia.
From the City Museum you make your way around the 16th century church of Santa Giulia and the cloisters. From the museum you scale another set of stairs and enter the Nun’s choir, which is covered in frecos. The choir was where the nuns held religious functions; it was hidden from view, and only open to the public since 2002 after restoration. The frecos date to the 15th and 16th centuries and depict a theme of salvation and show a great amount of detail.
From the Nun’s choir you can see down into the church of San Salvatore, which is the next and final stop through the complex. The church is a culmination of different centuries: the Roman domus (1st to 4th centuries), the bell tower from 1300, and the side chapel from the 14th century. Notice the rows of columns on either side as some were re-used from Roman buildings and a couple are from the 6th century. You can see fragments of drawings from the 9th century and there is a crypt, built in the late 700’s! The last rooms you see in the complex are equally breathtaking and the range of centuries represented within the complex is astounding!
Ticket prices and hours for Santa Giulia Museum Complex (as of summer 2013):
-Adult ticket price is 10 Euros, Students/Seniors are 5.50 Euros, with various group prices
-Close on non-holiday Mondays and December 24, 25, and 31
-Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30am to 5:30pm (from October to June 15th)
-Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30am to 7:00pm (from June 16th to September)
Other churches to visit in Brescia, Italy
The city of Brescia is home to numerous churches that are worth visiting, especially for art history and architecture lovers, and if you have time these are a few to add to your list of things to see:
–Church of San Francesco d’Assisi was completed in 1265 and has a rather stark interior, however if you look closely you will find medieval frecos in the dark shadows and a lovely little 14th century cloister at the back.
–Church of Santa Maria del Carmine is a mid 15th century church with a unique brick façade. This church also has three adjoining cloisters!
–Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie has a lovely Renaissance interior with Baroque frecos. There is small rectangular cloister next to the church and off to the left is a most remarkable, and a real find for art enthusiasts, a Sanctuary dedicated to Santa Maria. The Sanctuary of Santa Maria is a neo-gothic style with a central altar bordered by elaborate choir stalls, arches, and beautiful paintings. This sanctuary was my favorite find in Brescia and one of the prettiest I have seen!
How to Get to Brescia, Italy
Brescia is between Milan and Venice.
-Train – From Milan only takes 46 minutes to be exact! And if you are coming from Venice, Brescia is just an hour and a half train ride away.
From the train station to the historic old center, I would recommend taking a taxi, which you can find right outside the station. The ride to the old city center is about 10 minutes.