Brescia – ‘The Lioness of Italy’ was our second stop. Named so because of their ferocity fighting off their Austrian conquerors, even though they were ultimately defeated (Think ‘Remember the Alamo’). Through the ages, Brescia had many invaders including Constantine, the Visigoths, the Venetians and Napoleon. Heck, even Attila the Hun stopped by during the ages.
Though not on the usual tourist trail, it was the second largest city in Lombardy after Milan. For those in the know, it has some magnificent Roman remains, including the Capitoline Tempo, the forum and a Roman theatre – all built during the first Century. With its 3200 year history, it was easy to find places to visit and things to see.
We stayed in a hotel called the Centro Pastorale Paolo VI. It is located within the walls of the Palace of Centro Paolo VI and was originally built in the 16th century. It formerly housed a monastery and there are remnants of its past throughout the building. There are some very nice rooms and there are some very humble rooms.
We ended up with a humble room that was quite austere. It was smallish in size, but had all the essentials – the bare essentials. Since we used the room to sleep and not for partying, we kept the room. The bed was comfortable and we had a big window that opened over the courtyard. There was plenty of hot water in the shower and it was quiet.
The hotel location couldn’t have been better. We had an easy walk to all of the historic sites, as well as the restaurant area. Did I mention it was a ‘dry’ hotel?
We were both still tired from yesterday’s train ordeal, so we decided to take it easy today. After eating a hearty breakfast, we stayed close to the hotel area. The grounds are tranquil and beautiful and there is a lovely courtyard to relax in. We did take a short walk to get the lay of the land, but reserving a table for dinner was our premier event.
For our first night’s dinner, we went to the Antica Osteria La Grotto. It was a charming restaurant just a short walk from the hotel and we were impressed by the menu and reviews.
We were welcomed as if we were from the neighborhood. Indoor or outdoor seating was available – we chose indoor since it was a tad humid. Our servers loved that we requested the menu in Italian and we only stumbled a couple times and they helped us – smiling the entire time.
We started with Prosecco that was cold and crisp. For our meals, we both started with the regional specialty – casoncelli. They are thin pasta sheets, like a ravioli, with a small filling of beef, pork, bread crumbs and cheese. They are served having been pan-warmed in butter and sage. Not low-cal, but definitely high on the taste meter.
For our second courses, Sue had a veal cutlet and I had the grilled lamb chops. They were served with grilled mixed vegetables and oven roasted potatoes. We also had a bottle of a local red wine – Barone Pizzini San Carlo – that was very good. We finished off a wonderful meal by sharing a tiramisu.
The next morning, we both woke up refreshed and back to our regular level of energy. Stop laughing!
We headed over to the archeological area to check out the ancient ruins. There are remnants of the Capitoline and a Roman theater, plus a temperature-controlled museum for some additional artifacts. The walk over took about fifteen minutes and gave us a chance to look around a bit. Brescia is really nice, but I wouldn’t want to drive there, nor would I want to try and park – yikes!
One last turn and the columns of the Capitoline come into view. Must have been quite a sight when at its height to ride up in your chariot.
To the right of the Capitoline was the theater.
The finale was a look in the Museo at the items being preserved. They keep the rooms temperature and humidity controlled to preserve the items. For Sue, this was the best part as she got her first senior discount on the ticket price. Gloat, gloat, gloat – luckily I had good supply of sarcasm to bring her back to earth.
What a great look at history – 3000 year old history. We really enjoyed our visit.
Strolling back to the hotel, we came upon Piazza Arnaldo. A piazza dedicated to the people and to the remembrance of the struggles during the war. The piazza is lined with restaurants and looks like the place to be.
We were thirsty, so we stopped to get some water. The waitress showed us a menu and we noticed that they had Prosecco, so we ordered a glass of that too. Since our thirst was not quite quenched, we ordered a second glass and our waitress suggested a little prosciutto crudo to go along. Such a nice girl she was…
She was actually a real sweetheart, helping us with our Italian grammar as we ordered. We have only found people who are very happy to have us trying to speak Italian and helping us when we stumble. Nobody laughs or is impatient with us. It really makes us happy since we put in many hours trying to learn more before the trip.
For our last dinner in Brescia, we chose to go back to the Piazza Arnaldo and picked a restaurant called ‘Autentiko’. They have brought authentic Napoli pizza to Brescia and are quite popular. We had our usual Prosecco to start, then ordered a bottle of Chianti with our pizzas. Sue’s pizza had Roma tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, mine had fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto and ricotta.
Both were outstanding. Sorry Bocce, these were two of the best pizzas we’ve ever eaten. At the end of the meal, the manager sent over a bucket with limoncello, pistachio liqueur and melon liqueur. We enjoyed the limoncello and I liked the melon liqueur.
Back to the hotel afterwards to relax before checking out in the morning.
We woke up early and grabbed a quick bite for breakfast before checking out. The hotel called for a taxi and ten minutes later we were headed to the train station.
Bergamo, here we come!