Hidden Mosaics in Italy – Aquileia

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Hidden Mosaics in Italy

I have written this many times, Italy is my favorite place to visit and every time I do, I discover a new place!

The other summer, I visited the lovely city of Trieste which sits on the Adriatic Sea at the top of Italy. To read more about what to see in Trieste, click here for part one of the three-part travel series.

On the way to Trieste, I stopped at Aquileia, a small area that has an abundance of Roman ruins and a basilica with a recently revealed mosaic floor!

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What is the Story?

The Basilica of Aquileia sits in the center of this ancient Roman city which once held a population of one-hundred-thousand and was one of the largest cities in the 2nd century! Now you see Roman ruins that evoke that once grandiose city with remnants of streets, houses, walls, an amphitheater and more. The town and Patriarch is a UNESCO site and listed as one of the “greatest archaeological reserve[s] of its kind.”

The Basilica of Aquileia is the jewel of this city. The site of the church dates back to 313 AD while the current structure is a Romanesque-Gothic style, the real treasure is the floor! The entire floor of the Basilica is a 4th century mosaic, one of the largest Paleo-Christian mosaics in the western world!

The mosaic was covered for years and only recently discovered and unearthed between 1909 and 1912. The scenes on the floor are rich in color and charming in their depictions of man and animal. You will see a fishing scene, portraits of benefactors of the basilica, biblical stories and more. There is also a crypt, entered from the side of the main entrance, that surrounds the bell tower. The crypt has three levels of mosaics from the 1st, 3rd, and 4th centuries!

For archeology enthusiasts, those interested in Roman ruins and art history lovers, this is an ideal site. The range of history and art represented in the church covers one-thousand years! Don’t miss it on your next trip to Italy!

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Where is Aquileia & How to Get There

Aquileia is a main archeological site in Northern Italy, about 10 kilmoeters from the Adriatic. The town does not have a train station, so it is best reached by car. From Trieste it is about 40-45 minutes by car. The closest train station is in the town of Cervignano which is 35 minutes from Trieste or 1.5 hours from Venice. From Cervignano you could reach Aquileia by car, taxi or bus.

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To see more photos, click here for my travel photography of Trieste and Aquileia.

Read about what to see and do in Trieste, Italy (which is less than an hour from Aquileia) by clicking here for part one of my travel blog on Trieste.

To read more about the official UNESCO site, click here.

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What to see in Brescia, Italy part 2

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What to see in Brescia, Italy part 2

When visiting Brescia, Italy the Santa Giulia Museum Complex is a must-see!

*For more photographs of Brescia, Italy click here for Monica Goslin Photography

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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.

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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!

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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)

*For more information about the Santa Giulia Museum Complex click here for the official website

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READ more about Brescia, Italy by visiting the official tourism website by clicking here

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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!

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*For more photographs of Brescia, Italy click here for Monica Goslin Photography

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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.

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Visiting Brescia, Italy

Italy-Brescia-Travel-Blog-MonicaGoslin

Visiting Brescia, Italy

If you like to go off the beaten path, Brescia is one of the “must see places” for you. Brescia, Italy has a long history dating back to the Bronze Age and you will find Roman ruins, an amazing collection of churches from different centuries, a castle, plazas, ancient fountains and more. The amount of things to see in Brescia requires at least two full days if not three!

Brescia is well equipped with tourist information with signs at major sights, well-illustrated maps, and a wealth of information to help you navigate the city.

*For more photographs of Brescia, Italy click here for Monica Goslin Photography

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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.

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Main Sights to see in Brescia, Italy

The main place to start is Piazza del Duomo, which is a long rectangular square bordered by the Town Hall and the old and new cathedrals. (The Square is also known as Piazza Paolo VI, named after Giovanni Battista Montini who became Pope Paolo VI). The Town Hall (the Broletto) dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries and you can still see the original city towers, walk through the courtyard and admire this Medieval building. The old town hall, the Broletto, was the seat of political life from the 15th to 18th century and now houses the offices and police station.

The Old Cathedral (Duomo Vecchio) is a small round building at one end of the plaza and right next to the tall white “new cathedral.” The Old Cathedral was built in between the 11th and 12th centuries and the outside does not lend any hints to the treasures of mosaics and paintings you will find inside. When you enter the old Cathedral there is a large red marble tomb of Bishop Berardo Maggi of Brescia, which dates back to 1308. There are stairs leading down into main section and another pair of stairs leads to the crypt. The New Cathedral (Duomo Nouvo) was built between the 17th and early 19th centuries.

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Piazza della Loggia is a lovely square with many interesting details and dates back to 1433. You will see the current Town Hall building at one end with its unusual silver dome-like roof; this building was built in the late 15th century. The center of the plaza is full of tables and umbrellas in the evening; and is a nice place to rest and admire the views and architecture. Opposite the Town Hall, at the other end of the square, is the 16th century Clock Tower with two figures that strike the bell.

The Capitolium are the Roman ruins between the Piazza del Duomo and the Santa Giulia Museum Complex. The Captilolium was built as a temple with a Roman city surrounding it, and therefore most of the streets you walk on are on top of this old city.

Tickets start at 4 Euros for adults and 3 Euros for groups/students. Note that if you visit the Museum of Santa Giulia, that ticket can be used for the Capitolium – reservations are needed to visit the Capitolium and can be made at the Museum of Santa Giulia. For hours for the Capitolium click here

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Castle above Brescia, Italy

Climb up to the castle above Brescia for panoramic views of the city and to visit one of the largest castles in Italy. The castle was built on Roman ruins; the walls were built in 1588. The main castle was constructed between the 14th and 15thcenturies under the Viscontis. Note the Lion of Saint Mark at the entrance, which represents the power of Venice, which ruled over the area for more than four centuries.

You can visit the museum of ancient weapons, the Luigi Marzoli Arms Museum, at the top inner courtyard, and see over 1000 items from the 15th to 18th centuries.  The Risorgimento Museum houses temporary exhibitions.

>Castle ticket prices and opening hours:

Tickets for the castle include both museums and are 5 Euros for adults and 4 Euros for students (as of 2013).  Castle hours in the summer are from 10:30am to 6pm and in the winter from 9:30am to 5pm (closed on Mondays).

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READ more about Brescia, Italy by visiting the official tourism website by clicking here

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