BRESCIA, Italy — Wearing a toga, the woman points out the top attractions of one of Italy’s more underrated cities: Look! Here’s the ancient Capitoline Temple. Over here you have the Renaissance-era piazza. And you simply must check out the side-by-side old and new cathedrals.
Then the tour guide performs a neat trick that would make Ovid proud: She metamorphoses into an winged statue, while a young girl looking on mouths: “Wow.”
The commercial, seen on national TV, encourages Italians to take in the sights of Brescia, an industrious northern city midway between Milan and Verona that is bypassed by most international visitors and whose considerable charms most Italians need reminding of, too.
The city is known for an ancient Roman sculpture that for nearly 200 years has been a symbol of Brescia’s resilience in times of trouble. And the artwork’s return to public viewing, after a lengthy restoration, couldn’t have come at a more apt time for a city, and a region, devastated by the coronavirus.
“The ‘Winged Victory’ is back, and Brescia is flying once again,” the commercial proclaims.
In 2020, Italy was the first country in Europe to have a major outbreak of the coronavirus, and cities in the Lombardy region — especially Brescia and Bergamo, its neighbor 20 miles to the west — became early warnings to the world of just how catastrophic the pandemic would be.
Thousands died here, and few Italians will forget the image of army trucks transporting coffins from Bergamo to remote cremation sites or cemeteries when the city’s morgues were overwhelmed just weeks into the outbreak. At one point that
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