Cremona

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Cremona

Cremona Photo © Mauro Manmano

Cremona is a reference point for the art of violin-making in the world and boasts some of the greatest monuments of the past, like the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the splendid Town Hall square.

The museums not only testify the archeological importance of the town and the famous art of the Renaissance painters, but also the history of the famous violin-makers, among which the Amati, Guarneri del Gesù and the great Antonio Stradivari: the theatres celebrate the music of Monteverdi and Ponchielli.

The relationship of the town of Cremona with the river Po is direct, energetic and instinctive.

Cremona

Cremona – Photo © Mauro Manmano

The territory of Cremona extends itself to Casalasco, rich in villas and castles and a valuable collection of art in the churches and palaces, the venetian walls of Crema, the castles of Pandino and Soncino and the fortified remains of Pizzighettone.

The region has such a variety of landscapes, no city can fully encapsulate all that Lombardy is. Yet Cremona is a special place that embodies many of its region’s values: purposeful hard work, quiet solidity, piousness, and belief in commerce, love of culture, and art.

Amati's violin, 1574

Amati’s violin, 1574 Photo orgs.usd.edu

Although opera reaches its zenith at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, the first great opera composer, Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) was from Cremona. So too is Mina, Italy’s foremost popular singer, whose status as a living legend is comparable to that of Barbra Streisand in the United States.

Cremona has a distinguished musical history. The 12th century cathedral was probably the focus of organized musical activity in the region in the late Middle Ages. By the 16th century the town had become a famous musical center.

Nowadays there are important ensembles for Renaissance and Baroque music, i.e. Choir & Consort Costanzo Porta, and festivals which maintain Cremona as one of the most important town in Italy for music. Composer Marc Antonio Ingegneri taught there; Claudio Monteverdi was his most famous student, before leaving for Venice in 1591.

The bishop of Cremona, Nicolo’ Sfondrato, a fervent supporter of the Counter-Reformation, became Pope Gregory XIV in 1590. Since he was an equally fervent patron of music, the renown of the town as a musical destination grew accordingly.

For anyone who loves the violin, Cremona is Mecca. This is where Antonio Stradivari (I644-I737), maker of the finest stringed instruments ever crafted, was born and worked. He was the inventor of the cello (violoncello). Other fine violin makers in Cremona were Amati and Guarneri. In the city hall are several of these violins, which are played every day to keep  them in tune. Be sure to visit the violin collection in the Palazzo d’Arte.

Cremonese cuisine

I suspect that the creativity of the cremonesi is in part a product of their substantial cuisine. Most agricultural statistics indicate that the farms in the province of Cremona are the most productive in Italy. This is in the middle of Padania, the fertile plain of the Po River valley.

There are beef cows and dairy cows. The former wind up as the secondo at many cremonese meals. The latter produce rivers of milk, used to make several wonderful cheeses plus butter and cream.

A special flavor here is mostarda, which gives a special tang and sweetness to many of the dishes in cremonese cuisine, including tortelli di zucca and bollito misto.

The food of Cremona surely is not light, but it is more subtle than one would expect from a place that relies on the cow for much of its sustenance.

Cremona also vies with Benevento in Campania and a few other towns as the home of the popular torrone. Where it was created is a matter of debate, but there is no doubt that the version made in Cremona is the most famous.

Mostarda di Cremona

Mostarda di Cremona – Photo © www.finedininglovers.com

Mostarda

An unusual specialty typically identified with Cremona, in the Lombardia region of Italy, traditional Mostarda is a mixture of whole fruits preserved in simple syrup and mustard oil. Mostarda’s origin goes back to the honey, mustard, oil and vinegar condiments of the Roman Empire.

The word mostarda derives from the French, moutarde, which in turn derives from mout ardent-a fiery condiment made by adding essence of mustard to unfermented grape must and cooking it down.

It also derives from the traditional cugna of Piedmonte. This is a jam made from boiled down grape must which is spiced with ground mustard and mixed with fruit. During the Renaissance, sweeteners were difficult and expensive to obtain, so mostarda was enjoyed primarily by the aristocracy.

Most modern visitors to Italy recall seeing mostarda served with bollito misto, the famous boiled meat dish of the North.

Where to stay in Cremona

There are hotels, apartments, condo hotels and B&Bs available, check it out and make a reservation here.