The scholar trained at the Italian Archaeological School of Athens, focusing on the classical and protohistoric archaeology of Sicily, in particular of the Aeolian Islands. This is also where he also directed the archaeological museum of Lipari for many years.
A precursor of stratigraphy, a method applied in the excavation of the Arene Candide in Finale Ligure, he also contributed with this research to the typological definition of the Neolithic cultural facies of Italy and the Mediterranean. For thirty years he directed the Superintendence of Antiquities of Eastern Sicily, and is credited with defining the temporal correlations between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean civilisations. His work can be attributed to two archaeological excavations: one in Liguria near the cave of the Arene Candide and the other on the acropolis of Lipari; both revealed such a complete stratigraphic succession of the ground that they allowed various connections with other Mediterranean archaeological sites.
Among the other feats of Bernabò Brea, besides the reconstruction of the Archaeological Superintendence of Eastern Sicily after the Second World War, are countless publications and the creation, with active collaboration from Madeleine Cavalier, of the Regional Archaeological Museum of Lipari. In 1999 it was named after the great scholar and its extensive collections represent one of the most important Archaeological Museums in Italy and the Mediterranean.