Cremona. Cremona is synonymous with so many beautiful things. We could begin with the violin, or perhaps the torrone dessert, or maybe even, the Torrazzo- the highest belltower in Italy. And yet, when you type in “Cremona” in the search engine, it might actually auto-suggest the phrase, “Is Cremona worth visiting?”
Is Cremona worth visiting? That’s like asking if coffee is really all it’s cracked up to be or any other number of extremely rhetorical questions. Cremona is only about an hour by train from Milan, yet it gets very little attention from tourists. In this brief article, we’ll explore the highlights of this fantastic city.
- Cuisine and Culture
- The Outdoors
History: Stradivari and Cremona’s Violins
In my opinion, being a lover of music of all kinds, Cremona’s most beautiful contribution to humanity has been its violins. I would go as far as to argue that, if played correctly, there isn’t a more beautiful, man-made sound in the entire world.
In the 1600s, the Amati family began creating violins in Cremona, and soon, pupils like Antonio Stradivari began making their own as well. Stradivari made revolutionary changes to the violin that would forever change music. These contributions to world heritage were so important that “Cremonese traditional violin craftsmanship” was actually declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. Visiting the Museo del Violino is an absolute must while in Cremona. There is even a consortium of luthiers (violin-makers) that hold workshops on the violin-making process.
Art and Architecture
Piazza del Comune
One of the most photographed and stunning piazzas in all of Italy, if not all of Europe, is Piazza del Comune. Everything a city holds dear can usually be found in its central piazza and this is true in the case of Cremona. Its Duomo and Baptistry in their blinding, white marble set against the red brick along with the Torrazzo are some of the most striking you’ll see anywhere in Italy.
The Cathedral dates back to 1107, although the facade as seen today probably dates to the 14th century. It’s considered one of the finest Romanesque churches in Italy. Its octagonal Baptistry also dates to the 12th century. Since the year 1309, Cremona’s Torrazzo has proudly stood as one of the tallest brick towers in the world. At 112 meters, it is the absolute symbol of the city. The clock dating to 1583 is the largest astronomical clock in the entire world! Also located here are the Loggia dei Militi and the Palazzo Comunale.
San Sigismondo Monastery
If you enjoy finding hidden “jewels” when you travel then you must make a slight effort to get to the Monastery of San Sigismondo. This is a monumentally important church for many reasons. One, it was where the marriage of Biancamaria Visconti and Francesco Sforza took place in 1463. A big deal? Yes, when you consider that this union united the Visconti- Sforza families giving rise to the Sforza family’s rule in Milan. The nave is completely covered in frescoes and is one of the best examples of Lombard Mannerism.
For more art and even musical instruments, you can visit the Civic Museum of Cremona “Ala Ponzone” which holds more than 2,000 pieces of beautiful art.
Cuisine and Culture
And now for all of you gluttons out there, what kind of Italian city would Cremona be without its signature dish? In this case, it’s known as Torrone. It was invented here for none other than the above-mentioned wedding of Biancamaria and Francesco and created in the likeness of the famous Torrazzo. By 1911, it had made its way to America via the Sperlari family who is still making it today.
The cuisine here is a luscious combination of the regions of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna with dishes like marubini (similar to tortellini) and cheeses like Grana and Provolone.
Events of course celebrate Cremona’s two most important aspects of its heritage: the Stradivari Music Festival (held in September and October) and Torrone Festival (held in November).
Just outside of Cremona, you’ll find the Adda Sud Regional Park where you can enjoy the outdoors in the right season. Cycling paths and hiking trails include one called the “Dragonfly Trail” for the presence of the colorful winged insects, and the “Rainbow Bike Trail” color-coded using the seven colors of the rainbow.
Being a major city, Cremona is easily reachable by railway from Milan, Florence, and Bologna among others. The tourist office is located in Piazza del Comune so stop here first and pick up a handy map and get information about tours, especially violin-making workshops.