Brescia, the second most populous city in Lombardy, has a long history, beginning with Ligurians and Gauls, then as a Roman colony and afterwards a Lombard dukedom; after tumultuous centuries of various rulers it passed, along with Bergamo, to Venice. The historic center comprises a vast pedestrian zone with welcoming squares, elegant shops, cafes and restaurants. The 11th century Duomo Vecchio is a wonderful medieval round church built over a fifth century Roman basilica. The brilliant Museo di Santa Giulia, housed in an 8th century Benedictine monastery, recounts the story of Brescia from prehistoric times to the present and includes wonderful Roman mosaics and medieval frescoes. This morning you’ll have free time to explore, to wander and to lunch in the lovely Piazza Paolo Sesto.
Mid afternoon departure for Mantova. Our lodging for three nights is the Hotel Casa Poli located in a 19th century structure, a 10 minute walk from the historic center.
Mantova was founded by Etruscan peoples around the 6th century BC and in 214 BC became a Roman colony. In the 12thcentury, as an independent commune, a system of defense was created by deviating the waters of the River Mincio to form four lakes around the city thereby transforming Mantova into an island. Two bridges, still existing, consented entrance or exit. Later the city was divided in two by the construction of a canal to connect two of the lakes.
Today it is still surrounded on three sides giving the magical appearance of a town arisen from the waters.
Before arriving to our hotel we’ll have a guided walk through the city including a visit to the Teatro Scientifico Bibiena. The theater was opened in 1769 and officially inaugurated by the 14 year old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is a unique masterpiece constructed in the shape of a bell with gorgeous arched box seats.
In their four centuries of rule (1328- 1707) the Gonzaga family created a period of political and economic stability and changed Mantova into an artistic and architectural jewel, the city reaching its maximum splendor in the 15th and 16thcenturies.
The enormous Palazzo Ducale, the abode of the Gonzagas, has some 500 rooms displaying frescoes by the most important artists of their day including Mantegna, Tintoretto, Ruebens and Pisanello.
The construction of Palazzo Te began in 1527 as a guest palace for the duke’s mistress. The architect Giulio Romano created a Renaissance masterpiece blending incredible structures with marvelous frescoes.
Evening on your own