centro paolo vi : brescia

We’re not religious people by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like a bit of Italian theatrics when it comes to things of a holy nature. I also like a hotel which is a little bit different, and if it comes with free, secure parking – as we’re never without a bootful of goodies on our travels – then this is a winner. And Centro Paolo VI, in the heart of Brescia, delivers on all of these.

Located a short distance from the Roman Forum, the hotel is housed in a beautiful 17th-century building with original features including elaborate frescoes, grand sweeping staircases, parquet flooring, enormous chandeliers and baroque ceilings.

The hotel itself now houses a conference centre, so certain parts of it do have quite a “business” feel, but it was also a thriving convent. And, one of the more unusual elements of this hotel, is that an order of nuns do still live here. Not that you’d particularly notice, if you weren’t aware – they presumably live away from the public part of the hotel, but with a church on-site, you may well catch a glimpse of a nun, on her way to early morning mass. The cloisters now form part of the hotel corridors and run alongside the beautiful internal walled garden, and its not hard to imagine huddles of nuns, in their habits, scurrying out of the convent and into the gardens, on their way to pray in the church. It’s definitely a bit out of the ordinary to stay here, but the religious aspects are not in-your-face, so you can certainly avoid them if all you want is a place, at a very reasonable price, close to all of the amenities in Brescia centro.

The rooms aren’t boutique, by any stretch of the imagination. Because of its location, we’ve stayed here three or four times now, so have seen different rooms, and all have been clean and quite comfortable, but pretty functional. Dark wooden furniture – don’t be thinking old, vintage, mis-matched, more 1970s dark-stained beds, wardrobes and desks – and mulberry coloured curtains and bedding, can feel a little bit oppressive in the smaller rooms, but higher up, the rooms are larger and some have large terraces. These are the ones we tend to choose, even just for a stop over, because the feeling of space is much better and the terraces do overlook the beautiful gardens, and there are glimpses of Brescia. You also get to see cracking sunsets from these rooms. So, the upshot is, you wouldn’t necessarily stay here because of the rooms, more the experience. And the gardens are very lovely, with towering trees, which would probably be perfect to give shade in the summer.

The hotel also offers free parking – you can’t reserve a space, but because it also has conference facilities, there are a good few spaces available, and it is very safe and secure as it inside the walled courtyard. Located on a very quiet street, behind high walls, the hotel offers real peace and quiet, but in under five minutes, you can be in the centre of the historical part of Brescia, with its fabulous piazzas and Roman ruins and colonnaded walkways, as well as very brutalist architectural buildings and amazing Piazza del Vittoria. This square is linked inextricably with Mussolini who in 1932, during the ceremony of inauguration of the square, which coincided with the tenth anniversary of the birth of fascism, was present and gave a speech to a huge crowd. Today, it is a square where people go more to passagiata than fawn over a dictator, and there are some lovely bars and restaurants around the square.

So, would we recommend Centro Paolo VI as a place to stay in Brescia? Yes, we would – but with a word of caution. It is NOT a boutique hotel. It could be described in places as being a bit austere. Certainly in the rooms and breakfast area, there’s little panache or anything to elevate it beyond a functional place to stay. However, the overall experience is worth it, even if just to admire the beauty of the oldest parts of the building and grounds. But, with easy access into Brescia and secure parking, plus a very good price point, I think you’d struggle to find anywhere really comparable in a historic Italian city centre.


Published on 8th February 2024