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Discovering Brescia


By Natasha Blair | Category: Travel destinations

Discovering the different regions of

Italy is always a voyage of discovery
with no two areas the same. The jewel
in the crown of the Lombardy Region
has to be
Lake Como , which is
surrounded by the pre-Alps, and
considered the most romantic of the
Italian lakes.
At its southern tip, the prosperous city
of Como dates back to the Roman
Lake Como in Lombardy
period with walls surrounding the old
town except for where it faces onto the lake. The green dome of its cathedral
is the first thing you see from the lake. Elegant villas surround the lake with
gardens stretching down to the water where, we are told the owners moor
their boats. Before taking a trip, its worth asking the tourist board for a book
they produce on the history of the individual villas. There is one too for the
numerous scenes from films that have been shot here including James Bonds
Casino Royale . We took one of the many hire boats that offer guided tours.
The left bank a short distance from the Swiss border, because of the suns
position, is considered the best location. This is where the Villa dEste, the
ultra-luxurious five star hotel favoured by the rich and famous, is sited as is
the villa owned by George Clooney. A palatial building owned by Richard
Branson, we are told, is available to rent although no price is mentioned!
Around the lake, which stretches over sixty kilometres, are small villages.
Fishing is allowed and perch risotto, and laverello, a freshwater white fish are
dishes to look out for. The lake has three branches and those who enjoy water
sports are advised to head to the windy north. Lovers of Italian silk will be
delighted to learn that ninety percent of the fabric is produced locally with an
outlet at Mantero. For wonderful views, providing the weather is clear, a ride
in the vehicular will take you to the top of the mountain.
Roman villas may be common place in
Italy but what is so special in Brescia
is that Santa Giulia, the citys museum,
which is on the UNESCO World
Heritage List, is built on ruins from
several different periods. The complex
includes Roman town houses, the
medieval church of San Salvatore and
its crypt, the Romanesque Santa Maria
in Solario, the Nuns choir, the
George Clooneys villa which guides happily
sixteenth century church of Santa
point out
Giulia and the monastery cloisters. As
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Brescia is built on a hill, discoveries over the centuries include the remains of
buildings that have been built on top of each other, some with mosaic floors


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in Solario, the Nuns choir, the

sixteenth century church of Santa
Giulia and the monastery cloisters. As
Brescia is built on a hill, discoveries over the centuries include the remains of
buildings that have been built on top of each other, some with mosaic floors
that have retained their colours. What I found the most fascinating was that
archaeologists have been able to reconstruct some of the houses so that we
were able to see, in a film, how they would probably have originally looked.
George Clooneys villa which guides happily
point out

During the Roman period the Piazza del Foro was the centre of political,
religious and commercial life. Around the piazza stood the Capitoline Temple,
the ancient courthouse with two colonnades lined with shops. Although much
of the temple has been destroyed, in 1939 it was renovated and can be seen
by walking along the same road as the museum. The temple was originally
covered in marble, from nearby Botticino, which had been removed over time.


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On top of the Cidneo hill, the Castle of

Brescia is one of the largest and most
well preserved fortresses in Northern
Italy. Its monumental gateway is
topped by the Lion of St. Mark, a
symbol of the Venetian Republic that
dominated the city for four centuries.
Wine lovers might also like to
investigate the Lombard Hills wine
route that starts in Brescia. The route
takes in the Brescian pre-Alps and the
plains to the South East of the city.

some of the Roman ruins in Santa Giula


Within the province of Brescia Lake Garda, Italys biggest lake is known in the
south for its natural thermal springs at Sirmione. Built on a narrow peninsula,
visitors enter the tiny village through a gate that is part of the twelfth century
Scaliger Castle. Little winding, cobbled streets take you uphill past the villa
once lived in during the nineteen-fifties by the world famous opera singer,
Maria Callas. At the far end of the peninsula at the entrance to the Grotto of
Catullus, which isnt a grotto but the remains of a Roman villa from around
150AD is a small museum. Our hotel, the Sirmione e Promessi Sposi has spa
facilities, and although it was freezing outside, we were there in the winter, we
were able to swim in the open-air swimming pool filled with water from the
mineral rich hot-water springs. Sirmione is worth visiting if just for its glorious
sunsets with the added bonus that the thermal springs help respiratory and
rheumatic problems.
This area, because of its mild
microclimate, is ideal for olive trees
and vineyards. Lugana wines are
produced here mainly from the
Trebbiano grape, with the main
production being white. Grappa, the
traditional Italian after dinner grapebased brandy is also produced here.
We enjoyed a wine tasting at the
nearby Provenza winery, which
produces CMaiol wines and extra
Scaliger Castle
virgin olive oil. Visitors are welcome
at their showroom for a tasting if booked in advance.
Pasta is always on an Italian menu, usually served as a small second course.
In this region you are likely to be served polenta, a golden-yellow cornmeal
made from dried corn, with the main course.
Milan is the capital of Lombardy and while it makes a good starting point, it is
worth bearing in mind that millions of people are expected to attend

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made from dried corn, with the main course.

Milan is the capital of Lombardy and while it makes a good starting point, it is
worth bearing in mind that millions of people are expected to attend
2015 between May 1 and October 31, 2015. If you are planning a visit it is
definitely worth considering getting away from the crowds and exploring
other parts of the region.
The Gatwick Express is a fast direct service from Victoria to Gatwick Airport.
Southern Railways takes longer as it makes several stops on the way, but is
considerably cheaper.

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