Bergamo and Brescia Capital of Culture 2023: 13 experiences not to be missed if you are in the city for work
13 February 2023
What to see in Brescia: between art, history and living the good life
1. Explore the magnificent squares: Piazza Paolo VI and Piazza della Loggia
There are many squares and all are wonderful. Starting with Piazza Paolo VI, also called Piazza dei Due Duomi because it houses the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Duomo Vecchio.
It forms the heart of the city, a perfect example of medieval architecture. Stroll about to admire the ancient buildings that overlook it, and maybe enter the two churches, rich in works of art. Finally, move to Piazza della Loggia and continue towards the nearby Victory Square and Market Square.
2. Feast your eyes on the artwork in the churches
In the winter co-cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, also known as the old cathedral, admire the sepulchral monument dedicated to Berardo Maggi, bishop of the city in the 200s, all in red marble, and the altarpiece by Pietro Marone.
In the Church of Sant'Agata, linger over the sixteenth-century altarpiece of the main altar, a masterpiece by Francesco Prata da Caravaggio. In the Church of Santi Nazaro e Celso the polyptych by Titian is truly emotive, while in The Church of St Francis head towards the two magnificently frescoed chapels.
3. Marvel at Brixia, an archaeological park in the center
You could come across it almost by chance because it is incorporated in the historic center. But note that the Archaeological Park is a recognized World Heritage Site by UNESCO, together with the monastic complex of San Salvatore - Santa Giulia, and is one of the best preserved in Italy.
Here, you can explore Brixia, the ancient name of Brescia, and stroll peacefully along ruins of an ancient sanctuary and a Roman theater dating from the 1st century BC. onwards.
4. Visit the Museum of Santa Giulia
It’s a special place and if you are often in Brescia on business trips you can take the opportunity to visit it several times. The Museum of Santa Giulia is immense and expertly set up, in a monastic complex of Lombard origin. It ranges from Roman-era living spaces to the Basilica of San Salvatore, and the Nuns' Choir to the Romanesque Oratory of Santa Maria in Solario; once you reach the latter, sit on the purposely places benches and breathe. A special object will leave you breathless, the Cross of Desire, adorned with 212 gems, a rare masterpiece of sacred goldsmithing.
Enjoy a stroll through the cloisters and vegetable gardens, immersed in a peaceful atmosphere with a flavor of history.
5. Climb up to Brescia Castle
Massive bastions, a portal and the keep on the top of the hill, in pure medieval defensive style. To dive into a piece of history, in a verdant setting. Brescia Castle is a place to visit if you arrive in the city as a tourist, even if only for a few days, but if you’re here for work it could be your ideal spot for relaxation.
Stroll in the park surrounding the castle, or go jogging, with your eyes fixed on the fort. History and nature merged in one place produce a regenerating effect.
6. Have a meal in the liveliest neighborhoods
If you are wondering where to have an aperitif in Brescia, sit in one of the bars in the area of Piazza Arnaldo and the former Grain Market and order a Pirlo, the typical Brescian aperitif noted by the New York Times: a mix of still white wine , Campari and carbonated water topped with a slice of orange, the local version of its cousin Spritz. They will serve it to you with olives and a “salumi” cold cuts platter.
For dinner choose one of the taverns in the Carmine area and as a first course try the casoncelli, followed by beef in oil with polenta.
7. Take part in one of the events scheduled for Bergamo Brescia Capital of Culture 2023
Among the many events scheduled for the nomination, one above all is not to be missed: the great exhibition Lotto, Romanino, Moretto, Ceruti. The champions of painting in Brescia and Bergamo, at Palazzo Martinengo, the Pinacoteca di Brescia, until the 11th of June 2023. Also check the concert season program at the Teatro Grande, this year more glittering than ever.
What to see in Bergamo: the charm of the high Town
1. On the cable car towards the ancient walls of Bergamo
An artistic spectacle surrounded by greenery: the Town of Alta Bergamo, an ideal day trip from Milan because it can be easily reached in an hour by train. The station is in the Lower Town, then from there you can fly up on the cable car to appreciate the naturalistic scenery of the hill.
See the ancient walls that enclose the town, built in the 16th century by the Venetians and listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The walls can also be visited inside, while outside you can enjoy a walk in the gardens, which at sunset offers spectacular views.
2. Discover the Old Square
Lose yourself in the alleys of the Alta Bergamo and arrive in Piazza Vecchia, built on an ancient Roman forum. Wander in the pedestrian area and observe the Palazzo della Ragione, the eighteenth-century fountain and the Civic Tower.
3. Enter majestic churches
The Cathedral, in the square, is an imposing example of Baroque architecture and is dedicated to Sant'Alessandro, patron saint of the city. Inside, enjoy the masterpieces of art: the 7 choir stalls and the seventeenth-century central altarpiece.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore enchants with its Romanesque facade, decorated by the Porta dei Leoni Rossi, while inside there are frescoes and sculptures by medieval and Renaissance artists.
4. Treat yourself to an excursion into nature at the Parco dei Colli
The Parco dei Colli nature reserve also includes Alta Bergamo, and extends to the surrounding area over an area of 5,000 hectares. Breathe in the fresh air along the 40-kilometer route, stroll through the woods and chestnut groves or try some authentic trekking, or cycle along the cycle paths. It will be a reinvigorating break from work and a chance to discover the territory.
5. Listen to sublime music at the Donizetti theater
On April 28th, the inaugural concert of the International Piano Festival will be held at the Donizetti Theater, dedicated this year to the theme of post-Covid rebirth.
Conductor Pier Carlo Orizio will guide solo pianist Mikhail Pletnev, one of the most famous in the world. A play of lights and images will accompany the music, creating an immersive experience. After this date, a busy schedule follows.
6. Taste the typical specialties of Bergamo cuisine
Buy some bitto and quartirolo to try at home, while for a gourmet break you can choose a farmhouse in the area or a restaurant in Alta Bergamo. Menu in hand, concentrate on one of the dishes based on polenta taragna, made with cornmeal and buckwheat. With rabbit it’s superb. Don't leave the city without having tried the Torta Donizetti, a delicious donut cake.