Famous for its violin-making tradition, elegant piazzas and delicious torrone (as well as for being the birthplace of fashion blogger Chiara Ferragni), Cremona makes for a great day trip from nearby Milan without the hoards of tourists you would normally find elsewhere in Italy.
The charming town of Cremona is only a couple of hours away from Milan, at the borders with the Emilia Romagna region. It is one of those places that don’t receive a lot of attention, but can make you stand in awe. Here’s what you can see and do.
Learn the art of violin-making
Cremona is a music lover’s paradise, being the center of an ancient violin making tradition that became part of the Unesco Heritage list in 2012. World-renowned violin maker Antonio Stradivari was born here and some of his masterpieces can be found at the Violin Museum, one of Cremona’s main attractions.
The streets of Cremona are dotted with the workshops where local luthiers still realize violins completely by hand. It’s truly fascinating to watch them at work with such skill and passion.
Visit the “Sistine Chapel of the north”
Overlooking Piazza del Comune, Cremona’s Cathedral is a magnificent building dating back to the XII century. Its facade is richly decorated with statues and sculptures, but the real surprise is inside, with a series of amazing frescoes and paintings that have earned it the nickname of “Sistine Chapel of the north”
The adjacent bell tower, the Torrazzo, is the symbol of Cremona as well as one of the tallest brickwork bell towers in the world. Reaching the top is quite a climb (502 steps) but the view is really impressive! On the side overlooking the piazza there is an amazing astronomical clock depicting the zodiac constellation and you can get a closer look at its inner mechanism when you climb the tower.
The Baptistery to the right of the Cathedral is another impressive building boasting both Roman and Gothic architectural elements.
Explore beautiful palaces and ancient churches
Take the time to stroll around the quiet streets of Cremona, punctuated by elegant buildings like Palazzo Cittanova and Palazzo Trecchi. These used to be the home of local noble families and the seat of the local council.
Cremona is home to some interesting churches, like the Church of S. Agostino, featuring frescoes by Bonifacio Bembo and a splendid Perugino panel, and the tiny Church of S. Omobono, named after the patron saint of the town.
Enjoy a fantastic culinary experience
Foodies will be spoilt for choice in Cremona, with a mouthwatering selection of unique regional foods. Don’t leave without trying a gran bollito (a dish made with different kinds of boiled meats) served with some mostarda cremonese, a special spicy-sweet condiment consisting of a mix of fruits and essential mustard oil. Other local delicatessen include Salame Cremona IGP (a particular type of salami seasoned with crushed garlic and spices) and tasty cheeses such as Provolone Valpadana and Salva Cremasco.
The most famous sweet in town (and a traditional Christmas treat in Italy) is torrone, a nougat made of toasted almonds and honey that Cremona celebrates with a special festival every year in November. If you are a chocolate lover, then you should try some pan cremona, a spongy cake with a sweet almond flavour covered with dark chocolate.
I managed to see all the main sites in one day. However, I suggest to stay overnight to check out other interesting tourist attractions that are a little out of the town center, such as the Monastery of S. Sigismondo and the park along the shores of the Po river.
- Cremona can be easily reached either by train and car. There is plenty of parking throughout the town, and I found it very handy to use the free parking space at the train station (“Parking Ex Tranvie”); from there it’s only a 10-minute walk to the town center
- Your first stop should be the tourist office located in Piazza del Comune, where you can grab a map and get information about guided tours and combined entrance tickets for discounted admissions
- The Violin Museum often organizes concerts and special event, check out its website before your visit
- Join one of the tours organized by the Consortium of Violinmakers “Antonio Stradivari” to visit a selection of artisan workshops
Until next time,