Brescia Castle on the rocky hill is the ancient part of Brixia, Roman city established in the 1st century BCE. The castle is called the 'Falcon of Italy' because of its position on the summit of the hill, where it overlooks the city from above. It is one of the largest fortified complexes in Italy with 75,000 square metres enclosed within its surrounding walls. The old Venetian-Visconti stronghold dominates the city and its well preserved buildings illustrate the evolution in military techniques that over time have rendered the defensive system impregnable and made it a perfect instrument to control the city for the various 'dominators' who succeeded one another in Brescia.
Walking along the path that leads from the entrance up to the top of the hill, the visitor travels through history: from 16th century military buildings (the time when Venetian domination began) to 19th century ones (the period of Austrian occupation) and then back in time again to the innermost surrounding walls built by the Visconti in medieval times.
The Castle and hill together have always been an integral part of the city. Yet, nowadays, going 'up to the Castle' means not only visiting the massive fortifications of the stronghold but also strolling in the spacious gardens within the walls or along the shady roads leading to the top of Cidneo hill.
The natural characteristics of the site were used for defensive purposes right from the time of the first settlements but have over time changed their function. The slopes of the hill, which were barren originally and covered in stones to make it easier to sight the enemy, are quite different nowadays; since the end of the 19th century they have been completely changed: tree-lined avenues have been created and monuments and stelae put up; so that the Castle has taken on a public role that is both recreational and educational.
The Visconti Keep houses the Luigi Marzoli Arms Museum, one of the most important of its kind in Europe because of the wealth of 15th and 16th century arms and armour and guns in its collections. The exhibits, of great historical and artistic interest, are set out in various sections according to type and period. there are about six hundred items on display offering significant examples of both Milanese arms production and that of Brescia, which boasts a centuries-old tradition in the sector.
The Museum of the Risorgimento is housed in the Grande Miglio (corn store), and has many interesting objects on display: documents, pictures, period prints, and historic relics. It is laid out in two sections which are devoted to the most important figures and happenings of the period ranging from the revolutionary years at the end of the 18th century to the late 19th century.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.