At the exit (or before the main entrance) of the Castle, there is a bar which name I really don't know, but I bring it just to tell you that it has a very nice terrace and it's a good place for a drink or a snack after visiting the Castle. Great place to relax.
Tower houses (tall, square structures up to 7 or 8 storeys high, sometimes more) were all the rage in northern Italy during the 1100s. they were a way of showing your neighbours just how wealthy and powerful your family was.
I'm fascinated by them...fascinated by their construction at a time when technology was so limited, and fascinated by the way so many of them still survive (although mostly with their top storeys removed) and are still lived-in.
The Torre d'Ercole is one the corner of Piazza del Foro, at the extreme right with the temples behind you. It lies on Via Laura Cereto.
It caught my eye not only because it was the only tower house I came across in Brescia (though they may be more, and were certainly plenty in the 11/1200s) but also because its base is made up from many, many chunks of Roman masonry obviously scavenged from the remains of the Forum and temples.
All Brescia's tower-houses were reduced in size in 1258, when the Ghibelliines took over the area..the order was given by one Ezzelino d Romano, to make sure that his power over local wealthy families was very clearly displayed. At that time the Torre d'Ercole may have belonged to the Palazzi family.
Again, somewhere I came across entirely unexpectedly.
I wandered along Via dei Musei on my way to see the roman temples and theatre. A sign the 16th/17th century Palazzo Martinengro (now used as fuction rooms and suchlike) invited me in Italian to visit the archaeological excavations, free.
So of course I did so!
It is absolutely fascinating. The excavations, carried out during the 1990s as part of repair work to the palazzo, go down through layers of Medieval Brescia to Roman and then to the earliest settlement, from the Iron Age (pre-Roman, maybe 3000 years ago). Of course what you see if fragmentary and, if you have no archaeological knowledge, may be difficult to understand...but there are volunteer guides at hand and I was lucky enough to have one whose English was absolutely excellent. If your guide hasn't got such good English there is an excellent (and free) written guide available.
As well as fantastic stratigraphy, which shows you *exactly* how the layers were built on top of each other over the millennia (it really does show you how much higher modern surfaces are!) there are also smaller bits of excavation, showing mosaics and wells, drains and tiles.
A small collections of artefacts found on the site is displayed in cases.
Little of Roman Brescia remains visible, so this place really is a gem...and it really does help you to understand how settlements grow and change over the centuries.
A definite must-see, imo, so make sure you go in if that sign is outside the Palazzo when you pass by!
The sign says the excavations are open Monday> Friday, from 0900 to 1300, but whether that means all year round I do not know.
I came across this place quite unexpectedly, by walking under the Porta Bruciata (a Medieval tower-gate to the north-east of Piazza della Loggia) and then taking one of the narrow side-streets...Vicolo San Giuseppe. My eye was first caught by the lovely fresco, apparently painted on wood, which is on the convent exterior (see photo 5) and it was when I walked down the narrow street to see it more clearly that I came across the convent and church.
The church of San Giuseppe dates from the early 1500s and it gradually expanded to include 3 sets of cloisters (I saw two) as
The huge wooden door was open, and through it I caught a glimpse of cloisters. So I went in...
The cloisters are lovely, shady and green. Their arcade walls are covered with frescoes, some of which seem to show many other monasteries and convents around Brescia. They are fascinating, almost photographic, glimpses into how these various buildings appeared during the 1500s.
The ex-convent now houses the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art and, I think, a specialised library as well.
I couldn't visit the church itself: it was closed. But wandering the cloisters alone makes seeking out San Giuseppe well worthwhile.
This church was built between 1.429 and 1.479. Don't miss the beautiful marble portal, decorated with bas-reliefs
Via Musei, 41
How to get there:
Either from Piazza Loggia or Piazza Paolo VI, take Via Musei; it's on the left side of the street.
According to tradition, there has been a church on this site ever since 402. The building was first altered in the 16th century when the Holy Sacrament Chapel was built.
Contrada S. Giovanni, 12
How to get there:
From Piazza Loggia, take Corso Mameli until you find Contrada S. Giovanni on your right.
Romanesque style, it was finished in 1,265, has a gabled façade with a magnificent rose window in the centre. The church has a nave and two aisles, divided by pointed arches supported by cylindrical pilasters.
Via San Francesco
How to get there:
From the railway station, walk along Vial Stazione until you reac Piazzale della Repubblica. Once there, take Corso Martiri della Libertá and after some meters, on your left, you will find a street (I can't remember the name, soryy) and ths church is at the end of it.
The small church of San Marco is almost hidden by the toller houses in its surroundings and not easy to find. It is situated in the immediate vicinity of the Torre d'Ercole, just a few meters in direction of south.
The thirtheen century San Marco is an interesting example of late Romanesque architecture. It has simple plan in its interiors, which preserves valuable 14th century frescoes.
The twelve century Torre d'Ercole is the best preserved example of tower-house, a medieval form of private dwelling of the Palazzi family. The tower takes its name from the ancient place "Vicus Herculis".
Ezzelino da Romano had its top chopped of in 1258, as a tengible sign of the Ghibelline conquest.
The ruins of the Roman Theatre, still under the excavation works, stands next to the Capitolium. According to its proportions, the town of Brescia was important settlement in the Roman times.
Unfortunately, I couldn't seen any progress in the reconstruction works since my last visit of the site which was more then a year ago.