A quiet city that taught the world how to make noise and continues, in it's simple and understated manner, to quietly supply the world with the finest noise of all.
I'm talking about the city "famous for its quiet, pious belief in commerce and order."
I'm talking about the birthplace of Antonio Stradivari. The city so steeped in music, so entrenched with artistry and excellence that the very cobblestones sing out, serenaded by the chorus of 169 violin workshops that fill the world with glorious sound.
Cremona, 70,000 inhabitants, many famous artisans, novelty nougat and a collection of 2,000 baroque and renaissance artworks. Cremona, a city synonymous with violins.
Cremona is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. All of it! In the words of UNESCO, "Cremonese craftsmanship is renowned for the construction and restoration of violins, violas, cellos and double basses. Every craftsman builds between three and six instruments a year, shaping and assembling by hand more than 70 pieces of wood around a frame according to the varying acoustic responses of each individual piece. No two violins are identical and every part of the instrument is made with a specific type of wood, carefully selected and naturally seasoned."
The Cremona method dates back to Amati, the father of violins, from whom a young Stradivari first learned the trade. The Cremona violins are unlike any others in the world and if you ask nicely, a trader may let you into their workshop to see how the time consuming craft is performed.
Speaking to the New York Times, Philippe Devanneaux, the violin maker who came to Cremona from Paris 34 years ago, explained his passion. "This is an antique job. Nothing has changed for centuries. Of course, you can make a violin with a machine or a computer, but you can't put your heart inside of it."
Visit any one of the violin workshops that litter the city and of course, make sure to visit the violin museum and realise that Antonio Stradivari is a shining jewel, but he is just the crowning glory in a magnificent diadem of musical mastery. Walk in the footsteps and learn the life stories of Andrea Amati, then with Andrea Guarneri del Gesù and other masters. Wonder at the beautiful collection of old violas, violins, cellos and double basses. Learn the secrets of the most refined craft techniques. If you're lucky, you'll even catch one of their frequent live performances of historic instruments.
Walk the cobblestones where roman architecture takes a backseat to the craftsmen's studios where instruments are being carefully crafted for orchestras and the finest musicians in the world.
Is there more to Cremona than violins?
Walk from the violin museum to the main square and after passing the statue of Antonio Stradivari you will find the other delights that Cremona has to offer. View the Piazza del Comune, the porticoes of Cremona Cathedral, a Romanesque church with 16th century frescoes, and the ancient Palazzo del Comune. Walk up to the Torrazzo, the 13th century bell tower that lives in a piazza that is described as the best in Northern Italy, an example of beautiful architecture at its finest with 12 streets converging on the piazza and the bell tower.
Keep going and soon you will see the great gothic church with its fantastic 15th century frescoes. Finally, you will arrive at a treasure trove in the form of the city's art collect. Over 2,000 pieces housed in a 16th century palace but displayed in a modern gallery. You will delight over renaissance paintings, baroque art, historic carving, ancient instruments of historical importance and then walk by the famous garden of Giuseppe Arcimboldoand Saint Francis in Prayer by Caravaggio.
Last, but most certainly not least, is the food. Oh the food. Cremona, for starters, is famous for her nougat. And with good reason, the terrone is a speciality dish that takes its eaters to heaven - if they were not already there after sampling the tramezzini or the pumpkin tortelli. Cremona may be full of churches, but good food is the religion and there are plenty of eateries ready to treat your soul.
Cremona is off the beaten track. Only a short bus ride from Milan, it is a fantastic trip and something a little different. A hidden gem that pulses with life, music and beauty.
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