Over 2,500 years of history
Brescia is a very ancient city, with more than 2,500 years of history, that’s the reason why walking around its city centre is possible to admire the evidences of all its past, from the age of its own first inhabitants the Cenomani Gauls till 20th and 21st Century: every age left its signs.
Brixia and the Roman Empire
After many years of war between Gauls and Rome, the Cenomani surrounded, in 89 b.C. Brixia (the ancient name of Brescia) became a Roman Municipality and in 49 b.C. Its inhabitants obtained the Roman citizenship: that’s was the beginning of the romanization of Brescia. At this age the main Roman monuments were built: Capitolium, the thermal baths, the Roman theatre, the Roman Basilica and the splendid Winged Victory one of the symbols of the city.
Due to the proximity to the marble caves of Botticino, Brescia has numerous lapidary remains around the city and in the museum such as the collection placed in the splendid Capitolium.
Middle-Ages: Longobards, Charlemagne and Venice
At the fall of the Western Roman Empire Brescia experienced many raids from barbarian peoples, that hard situation contributed to a fast social break-up and impoverishment, the structures of the Roman Forum are devastated, occupied and reused as houses, this happened mostly during the early Longobards invasion. However the Longobards’ arrival marked a time of limited calm, the occupying people, as all the other barbarian peoples, were charmed by the Roman culture and past and quickly they adapted themselves to the Roman conventions.
King Desiderius, beforehand duke of Brescia, in 753 found with his wife Ansa, alongside the Decumanus Maximus (nowadays Via Musei) the convent of San Salvatore, the early form of that one that will be one of the richest and most famous of the whole peninsula, until it was closed and converted in barracks by the French Army in 1798: 1045 years of history that became a museum in 1882 (nowadays Museo di Santa Giulia).
A new era began after the fall of the Kingdom of Longobards and its annexation to the Empire of Charlemagne. As many other Italian cities around the year 1000 Brescia began a free Commune, this choice produced many big disagreements with the Empire and the passage from contrast to war was quite fast.
At the 13th Century the famous Pallata Tower was built, the same tower that welcomes the visitors arriving from Via Milano.
It came centuries of wars and disorders afterwards and Brescia fell under several conquerors, of which the most famous was the family Visconti, who built a fortress known as the Visconti citadel. It was placed more or less in the same area of the current Broletto, today there are only some ruins. This hard situation lasted till 20th November 1426, when Brescia asked to become part of the Republic of Venice: with the annexation to Venice the Renaissance arrived in the city.
The Venetian peace
With the exception of French sack of 1512, the presence of Venice meant peace and a long stability that lasted until the French Army occupation of 1797.
During these centuries of peace the most part of the churches of Brescia were built: suche as San Giuseppe, Santa Maria della Carità, Santa Maria delle Grazie, moreover Palazzo Loggia (the guildhall of the city), Queriniana Library and the walls and the ramparts were realised during the Venetian age. The beginning of the works of the new cathedral (Duomo Nuovo) dated back to 17th Century and lasted until 1825.
Napoleon, the Habsburgs and finally the National Unity: from 1797 till 1861
In 1797 the General Bonaparte arrived in Brescia, the French occupation lasted till Napoleon’s fall in 1815: during that time the Italians began thinking about the idea of Italy as united, free and independent country, with the riots of years 1820s and 30s began the fight against the Austrian occupation (the Risorgimento).
The National Unity arrived in 1861 after two wars against Austria, since that moment many things changed in Brescia: like the destruction of the Venetian city walls (1907-1911) and the beginning of the industrialization of the city and its province.
Since 1861 our city has followed the history of Italy, in particular during the Great War in which Brescia was particularly involved because of its position close to the Austrian-Hungarian border.
During the fascist regime (1922-1943) in Brescia arrived one of the most famous architect of that time: Marcello Piacentini. He had a project that obtain Mussolini’s approval with which a huge part of the city centre had to be destroyed to build new spaces, the most famous was Piazza della Vittoria. The square, built in the years 1927-1932, hosts the first skyscraper of Italy and since 2013 one of the station of the city underground.
In the years 1943-1945 Brescia suffered the German occupation and many hard bombings that causes a lot of damage to the historical and architectural heritage of the city.
After the Second World War Brescia became one of the most industrialized city of Italy and the richness of its citizens considerably increased. Since the 90s of the 20th Century Brescia has gradually discovered its historical heritage and has focused its economy on tourism.