Cremona, Nougat, and Violins in a Day

Cremona is a little sleepy provincial citty in Lombardy, yet charming. Especially noted for its musical history and traditions, including some of the earliest and most renowned luthiers, such as Giuseppe GuarneriAntonio StradivariFrancesco RugeriVincenzo Rugeri, and several members of the Amati family ( as I mentioned already Stradivari Forests are Gone ) 

In 1441 the city hosted the marriage of Francesco I Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti in the temple built by the Benedictines, which today is the church of Saint Sigismund. For that occasion a new sweet was devised, which evolved into the famous torrone (or Nougat).

This tower is called “torrazzo”, it is believed that’s where the name “torrone” came.

This charming town can easily be visited in a day, as most turists attractions are within walking distance. While walking to Piazza del Comune, it is possible to take a peak inside the numerous Palazzi lined along the main avenues.

Piazza del Comune

The Piazza del Comune is the piazza at the heart of Cremona. The Cattedrale di Cremona, Torrazzo, Loggia dei Milliti, Palazzo Communale, and Battisterio create the magical open space of this piazza. The construction the piazza began in the 12th century with the Cathedral. The precise yet soft tones of the colors, balanced proportions, and rich artistic details of this space make it a masterpiece of Medieval urban design.

Cremona Cathedral

The Cattedrale di Cremona, a stunning building on the Piazza del Comune, displays a variety of architectural styles including Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. Completed between 1160 and 1170, the building houses important 14th, 15th, and 16th century frescoes and other religious art. Many consider the facade of the cathedral, with its rose window, portico, and series of small loggias, to be a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture.

Do not pass a visit inside the Cathedral, as you shall be up for a surprise. This cathedral is much bigger than what it already looks on the outside. There are in fact three facades, and the interior houses important works of art.

The oldest are the frescoes of the Stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph in the southern and northern transept vaults (late 14th-early 15th century). 

The panel is in wood, not marble

The most important figurative complex of the cathedral is the fresco decoration on the side walls of the nave (early 16th century), portraying the Life of Mary and Christ. Different painters collaborated to its execution: the first was Boccaccio Boccaccino (with Annunciation to Joachim and Jesus with the Doctors). He was succeeded by Giovan Francesco Bembo (Epiphany and Presentation at the Temple) and Altobello Melone (Flight to Egypt, Massacre of the Innocents and the first four panels of the Passion of Christ), who both adopted a less classicist style. Next came Girolamo Romanino, author of the scenes from Jesus before Pilatus to Ecce Homo, who painted some of his masterworks here.

The last scenes of the Passion were executed by Il Pordenone, who was also responsible of the large Crucifixion (1521), the Deposition (1521, counterfaçade) and the Schizzi Altarpiece (before 1523, on the first altar in the right aisles), the latter inspired by Giorgione‘s style. The complex was completed by Bernardino Gatti with the Resurrection (1529).

The Deposition by “Il Pordenone”

Torrazzo (Bell Tower)

Over 112 meters (31.3 ft) tall, the Torrazzo di Cremona, a bell tower completed in 1309, reaches skyward from the Piazza del Comune. An intricate astronomical clock installed in 1583 with magnificent astrological depictions of stars and various signs of the zodiac graces its front. A climb to the top of the bell tower, although quite an effort, rewards those who persevere with amazing views of the city and surrounding countryside.

Loggia dei Militi

The Loggia dei Militi, a rectangular Gothic building completed in 1292, stands on the opposite side of the Piazza del Comune from the Cathedral. The city’s militia originally met and conducted business in the building. 

Town Hall or Palazzo Comunale

Construction began on the Palazzo Comunale, or Town Hall, in 1206 and continued in various stages until the 19th century. This building’s beautiful frescos span from the 13th century to the Renaissance. 

The Battistero di Cremona, or Baptistery

The Battistero di Cremona, or Baptistery, rises elegantly from a corner of the Palzzo del Comune. Originally constructed in 1167, this unique octagonal structure combines elements of Romanesque and Gothic-Lombard architecture. Later renovations added marble to the outside of the building to better match its the appearance with that of the cathedral.

While wandering around Piazza Del Comune you can stroll down Via Solferino 25, and visit the Sperlari store. This delicatessen antique store (dates 1836) offers the best among the tradition Torrone, Mostarda, jams and marmalades, candies, along with prestigious wines and liquors.

You should not miss the “tramezzini” by Ugo GrillVia Gramsci Antonio 13, for your mid-day break. This place is known to serve the best “tramezzini” (triangular or square white bread sandwiches with many choices of filling).

Museo del Violino

Museo del Violino, Piazza Marconi.  Ask about recital dates and concerts in the auditorium. Entrance, 10 euros, or about $11 at $1.11 to the euro.

Learn about violin making through the ages at this innovative museum. The Museo del Violino offer concerts and live performances on historical violins. The museum also has galleries displaying violins crafted by famous Cremona violin makers including Andrea Amati, Nicolo Amati, Giuseppe Guarneri, and Antonio Stradivari.

There are still more than 140 liutaii in the city. While wandering the narrow streets around the Piazza del Comune, you can admire violinmakers skills through their storefront windows while they work at their noble trade.

Church Sant’Abbondio (Piazza Sant’Abbondio, 2)

These two last churches were the last pleasant surprise for me.

San Michele (Piazza S. Michele)

In the 11th century a new basilica was built. In the 13th century it received a new campanile (belfry), and the naves were vaulted with pointed arches. In the crypt are elements dating to the early Middle Ages crypt, one of which attributed to the Lombard age. 

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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