Total Pageviews


Saturday, 9 May 2015

A Birthday Trip (Cities, Islands and Music) – Part One: Cremona


Our personal tradition is to visit a city or an island to celebrate our birthdays. In 2015 we have done both on the same trip. Not one, but TWO cities, and not an island, but the Venetian group of islands. And the whole is tied up with the common thread of music.

We started off in Cremona, known worldwide for its violin makers (Stradivari, Guarneri, Amati etc.), but rich in many other treasures as well. First and foremost its gorgeous Cathedral square, Piazza Duomo, a wide quadrangle around which stand three impressive landmarks: the Duomo, Torrazzo and the Baptistery.

The Duomo has a magnificent pink and white marble façade in exquisite Romanesque style; construction began in the early 12th c. and continued till the end of the century. Later additions were made in various periods – Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Two large stylised lions are crouching on either side of the narthex (lobby). They attract in particular children, who enjoy straddling them, and people taking selfies.

To the left of the cathedral rises the “Torrazzo” bell tower. It is the tallest and oldest bell tower made of brickwork still standing. The building dates from the 13th c. and is approximately 112 m high. It is possible to climb the 504 steps to the top for a fee. On the front of Torrazzo is a large astronomical clock representing the constellations built in the 16th c. (I have found it impossible to tell the time or even the date…).

The third important architectural gem is the Baptistery, to the right of the cathedral. It is built on an octagonal plan and some of its eight sides are bare brick whilst the others are covered in pinkish-white marble, just like the nearby Duomo.

The piazza, like most of the historical town centre, is a pedestrian precinct, but it fills up with visitors on weekends, making it very lively.


Cremona is famous throughout the world for being the cradle of violin making, the best known historical makers being Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati; indeed there are scores of luthier workshops in town, many of whom with foreign names, and all the shop windows are fascinating.


As you would expect, there is also a Violin Museum , a large structure with thousands of priceless exhibits, interactive displays, an auditorium and a number of seminars being held all year round. You have the opportunity to hear the voices of some of the most precious pieces being played by great artists. The museum features not only violins, but violas, cellos and contrabasses as well. Bizarrely, this wonderful structure is housed in one of Cremona’s least appealing, but most functional, buildings, with a modern sculpture park in front.

Beside musicians and art historians, Cremona is a pole of attraction for gourmets as well. The gastronomy in the Po valley is an important form of culture based on a rich, sophisticated cuisine, with dishes of filled pastas covered in creamy sauces, fantastic air-cured hams, tasty mature cheeses and mouth watering desserts.

Two of Cremona’s best known specialties are “mostarda”, a brightly coloured sweet and sour fruit pickle, and “torrone”, an almond and honey nougat that can be plain or covered in plain, milk or white chocolate, often violin-shaped. There are dozens of excellent restaurants, and we were lucky enough to try one of the best, called – would you ever guess – Il Violino.

(Continues to Part Two: Venice)

9th May 2015

No comments: