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Trento and Brescia, December 2013

A week's sightseeing in the Trentino-Alto Adige autonomous region and Brescia in Lombardy


You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Castello di Brescia

We've been over the Simplon Pass, made our way up along the river Adige to Trento, and taken in lots of the local attractions of the region. Now we've moved on to Brescia, and we're hustling up towards the castle, breathless and flushed with anticipation.

Up the Colle Cidneo we scurry, towards the castle. Brescia played an important role in all of the medieval northern Italian turmoils, being granted the status of a free commune in 1183 following the war with Friedrich Barbarossa, and it survived sieges by the Emperor Frederick II "Stupor Mundi" in 1238 and by Emperor Henry VII in 1311 -- the treacheries of the Guelph and Ghibelline factional battles played out in 13th and 14th century Brescia nastily as throughout all the northern Italy cities.

-- Pace yourself, Kristin. Every Italian warlord and mercenary condottiere of the 15th century got a piece of the action here, the della Scalas of Verona, Visconti of Milan, Malatestas, and Francesco Sforza hired to lead a Venetian army, and after 1439 Brescia was mainly a possession of the Venetian Republic.

There was a fortified place up here overlooking the city for Yonks! for obvious reasons, but except for the Visconti keep at the top, the Venetians seem to have been responsible for most of the present Castello di Brescia.

There was a brief interlude when a French army under the Wunderkind Gaston de Foix (funeral statue in the Sforza Castle in Milan), casually referred to as "The Thunderbolt of Italy" who was then storming across northern Italy at the age of 21, wrested Brescia from the Venetians from 1512 to 1520. (Bold Young Gaston did not live to see all that, as he led an impetuous cavalry charge at the Battle of Ravenna in 1512 and got himself listed as one of what we'd call the "Fallen Heroes".)

After the Napoleonic experiments with various fancy new "kingdoms", Brescia was annexed by the Austrians, but the citizens took up arms (or scythes, screwdrivers, and Swiss army knives) frequently to express their dissatisfactions. In 1849 the good people revolted against the Austrian garrison, and General Haynau ("the hyena of Brescia") retreated to this 16th century building within the fortress from which to monitor the brutal street-to-street recapture of the city known as the Ten Days of Brescia.

From the Colle Cidneo looking northward. In any case, in 1859 Brescia joined the new Kingdom of Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II; so hooray! all ends well; except for fascism.

Looking westward

And smoggily southward over the medieval city

A worthy role model (now there's a Mussolini look)

A nation of cycling fanatics

Most of the defensive works around the fortress are Venetian, more or less, but the "Prisoners' Tower" so-called dates from the Visconti dukes of Milan -- it was square, but the Venetians made it round in the late 15th century.

Kristin on the approach to the keep. Charge!

The drawbridge

The drawbridge and the Prisoners' Tower (also called the 'Burnt Tower')

The drawbridge from the home team's side

The hilltop Visconti Keep was built by the dukes of Milan in the 14th century, on top of a Roman temple from the 1st century AD. The Luigi Marzoli Weapons Museum is in there now, and I'm eager to leap in amongst it though Kristin is affecting a profound boredom.

One can scarcely restrain oneself -- medieval weapons!

The Visconti tower Mirabella

Oh my, weapons everywhere, and defensive armor, and fake horses, how exciting.

Representations of guys who, in the old days, had to make a living walking around like this.

A 15th century SWAT team, prepared to batter in your apartment door and check if you've got any medical marijuana

It's hard to imagine carrying one of these halberds or 4-metre pikes around all day, let alone swinging a two-handled sword at somebody, or stumbling half a mile in one of these suits of armor. What a life.

Fascinating! Rooms full of very repetitive daggers, swords, pikes and more guys on fake horses. But wait. Kristin's already left.

On the way out the drawbridge

The Castle defenses in late afternoon sunlight

The Risorgimento Museum, within the castle, is fine if you're interested in the newspaper clippings and old uniforms, but this stunning and unsettling bronze, "The Emigrants", by Domenico Ghidoni, 1893, stands out.

Kristin on the battlements

A last look at the Burnt Tower looming

Kristin in the Lion's Mouth, #48

The Duomo Nuovo from up the Cidneo hill

The Duomo Nuovo and the Broletto tower

The Castello di Brescia. Some more views of Brescia follow.

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