The fortification complex occupies an area of about 75,000 square meters, being one of the largest in Italy.
The first settlements on the Cidneo Hill date back to the Bronze Age, but the first real construction was a small temple dedicated to the Celtic god Bergimus, built in the 7th century BC. At the end of the 1st century BC, the Romans included the hill inside the city walls, and in the 1st century AD, they built a monumental temple here.
With the passing of the centuries and the advent of Christianity, the hill was considered a sacred area. An early Christian martyrium was built here, then replaced by a large basilica, demolished in the 18th century. Today, only one of the two towers of the basilica still stands, the one known as the Mirabella Tower.
In the first half of the 14th century, during the Visconti domination, the keep (mastio), a structure with a rectangular base and crenellated walls, was built. The keep was surrounded by a defensive system consisting of six towers, covered passages and drawbridges. The Soccorso road was traced, and widened later, in the 16th century, as an escape route to the north.
In 1426, Brescia passed under the domination of the Republic of Venice, which renovated the city fortifications. In 1509, the French army defeated the Venetians and took possession of the city and its castle. During this period, new works were undertaken to enlarge and reinforce the walls.
In the second half of the 16th century, with the return of the Venetians, further improvements were made to the castle. The monumental bastions and the surrounding walls were built, together with the entrance gate.
In the 17th century, the Cidneo Hill started to lose its strategic role. Beginning with the Napoleonic age and under the Austrians, the castle was used as a prison and barracks for the troops. After 1861, with the birth of the Kingdom of Italy, the castle lost its military functions.
Today, the castle houses the Museum of the Resurgence (Museo del Risorgimento), and the Luigi Marzoli Arms Museum, containing armor and weapons from the medieval period.
The castle is accessed through an imposing 16th-century monumental gate, attributed to Giulio Savorgnan, adorned with a large Lion of San Marco and the coats of arms of the Venetians.
After the gate, following the path to the right, you reach the Bastion of San Pietro, also meeting a 16th-century well, with two stone lions by the sculptor Domenico Ghidoni.
Following the path on the left, however, you first notice the bell tower of the former Sanctuary of Santo Stefano Nuovo, then go along the Haynau building, so called because from here, in 1849, the Habsburg marshal Julius Jacob von Haynau directed the military operations against the insurrection of Brescia.
On the large square above the San Faustino Bastion, there is a characteristic steam locomotive, one of the symbols of the Castle, which at the beginning of the 20th century traveled from Brescia to Edolo.
On the right, near the long officer’s building, there is the entrance to the Soccorso road. Next, you will find the buildings of Piccolo Miglio, now an exhibition venue, and Grande Miglio, where the Museum of the Resurgence is housed. Here is also the entrance to the covered passage that leads to the 15th-century Coltrina Tower.
Going up the ramp, you reach the 14th-century keep, with an entrance equipped with a double drawbridge. On the right, rises the Tower of the Prisoners. Proceeding to the left, you go along the keep, where you can still see traces of Ghibelline battlements.
Finally, we reach the northern gardens, with the top of the Coltrina Tower on the left, the Martyrs’ Pit in the center, and the Tower of the French on the right. From the 14th-century drawbridge, you can reach the top of the fortress with the Mirabella Tower, where you can also find the Luigi Marzoli Arms Museum.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Castle of Brescia is located about 2 kilometers away from the Brescia railway station. The closest Metro station is San Faustino, located about 350 meters away. The closest bus stop is in Via Fossa Bagni, at the base of the Cidneo Hill, on the bus Lines 2, 6, 10, 11, 17 and 18.