Cremona is set on the plains of southern Lombardy, to the south-east of Milan and on the left bank of the Po river, between the Adda and Oglio rivers.
The land has a rich soil, which has long made the region a first-class agricultural centre although Cremona is better known worldwide as the place where the best violins were produced, including the renowned violins by Stradivarius and Guarneri.
At first glance Cremona seems to be less rich in works of art than other Lombardy cities, but this is deceptive and a thorough look at Cremona reveals the presence of many art treasures and an illustrious history and culture.
Start your visit to Cremona in Piazza del Comune in the centre of the city, where you can see the Clock Tower, called the Torrazzo.
As well as the monumental form of the tower itself be sure to admire the 16th century clock, which is an incomparable work of art and marks not only the hours, but also the days, constellations, moon phases and even the eclipses. Pay attention as well to the 14th century platform with its three arches, and adorned with statues by Gano.
Just opposite the Cathedral you can see the 13th century Palace of the Municipality, once the headquarters of the Ghibelline Podestà and extensively renovated in subsequent centuries.
The cathedral is the most important monument on this Piazza. Before entering take a look at the facade and its artistic doorway: this is called the 'Portico of the Bertazzola' and was made by Lorenzo Trotti in 1439.
Entering Cremona cathedral you are immediately greeted by the powerful art of the Renaisaance. Several artists of considerable merit contributed to the decor...but before admiring the artworks themselves look at the overall architectural appearance of the cathedral.
Erected in the 12th century on the site of an earlier basilica, the cathedral has three aisles divided by round pillars with various archs and ogival vaults. The romanesque sculptures near the main cathedral door are those of the Prophets.
The Cathedral was beautifully frescoed between the 15th and 17th century. The frescoes include 'Jesus in front of Caiaphas' (the fresco below the womens gallery) in the Venetian style and by the painter Girolamo Romanino.
In the same Venetian style is the 'Crucifixion' by Giovanni Antonio da Pordenone while other beautiful frescoes in Cremona cathedral include those by painter Gian Francesco Bembo with the 'Adoration of the Magi' and the 'Mary Nativity' by Boccaccio Boccaccino (much influenced by Albrecht Dürer).
The frescoes by Altobello Meloni, including the 'Escape to Egypt', are also very beautiful.
Leaving the Piazza del Comune you can visit the nearby Piazza Roma, which is more recent and very different in character to Piazza del Comune with its numerous shops and very elegant buildings.
Cremona Palaces and the Civic Museum
The highlight of your visit to Cremona are the many palaces that can be seen. Among the most important are the renaissance style Fodri Palace, rich in sculptures and with a garden; the Stanga Palace, built in the 18th century in the baroque style; the 15th century Raimondi-Belloni Palace; the Cavalcabò Palace; and the Affaitati Palace, built in 1561 by Giuseppe, with its magnificent grand staircase added later.
Affaitati Palace is also home to the Civic Museum, which contains many Roman artefacts, and also a violin by the famous Antonio Stradivari which still maintains its original varnish. You can see artworks by many important painters here such as Bonifacio Bembo, Camillo Boccaccino, Galeazzo and Giulio Campi and other members of the family Campi (all were painters), and many others.
Many of the churches in Cremona are also exceptional works of art. Among the highlights are:
- the Church of San Luca, with a 15th century façade;
- the 11th century Church of San Michele;
- the 14th century Church of St. Augustine;
- the 13th century Church of San Vincenzo;
- the 12th century Church of San Sigismondo - historically an exceptional and magnificent cathedral in the Romanesque style.
Cremona: a musical tradition
Cremona is known around the world for its association with Stradivarius, the violin maker (the violin was invented in Cremona) and also for its other famous musical son, Montiverdi, the composer. This musical tradition is carried on with frequent concerts in Cremona - try to attend if there is one on during your visit.
You can also visit the violin museum, called the Civica Collezione di Violino, based on items from the Stradivarius workshop.
A pause to taste some typical products of the area is of course a necessity for tourists visiting Cremona, as well as a pleasure!
The history of the cuisine of Cremona is sometimes intermingled with the history of the city: the famous Torrone (a kind of nougat) is said to have been born in 1441 at the wedding of Bianca Maria Visconti and Francesco Sforza. The Italian name "Torrone" was given to the sweet because its shape is like that of the Tower of Cremona.
Among the typical local starter dishes try Tortelli, born from a peasant tradition and stuffed with flour, macaroons, raisins, nutmeg and grated cheese; and also the local variety of risotto. While visiting Cremona be sure to also try the Provolone cheese, just one of several cheeses local to the region.
Related article: see the history of Cremona for how the city developed.
Selected places to visit near Cremona, Italy
See the Lombardy guide for more travel ideas...