Cremona is a city in Southern Lombardy in the Po valley of Italy, with a population of 71,000 in 2021. It has a wonderful preserved medieval centre, with the cathedral and town hall ranged around the main piazza. In the 17th century it became famous for its violins, especially those made by Stradivarius. It was also the birthplace of the composer Claudio Monteverdi, best known for his opera L'Orfeo.
Cremona stands beside the River Po, which carves a broad valley across northern Italy. Rome expanded its power into the valley from 200 BC and built Cremona into a substantial city, but in 40 BC it backed Brutus against Caesar Augustus, and the poet Virgil had his farm confiscated in reprisals when this turned out to be a wrong call. It was smashed up in later internecine Roman conflicts and fell into obscurity until the 11th to 12th century. It was then riven by conflicts between the Guelphs (pro-Pope) and Ghibellines (pro-Holy Roman Emperor), but its major buildings such as the cathedral were started in this era. It developed into a typical medieval city of fine buildings and quarrelsome inhabitants, for a time under the rule of Venice, Spain and Austria.
In early modern times Cremona became a centre for music, and especially for violin-making by a series of masters. The most renowned of these was Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737): his name has become synonymous with the very finest violins, and original specimens (mostly but not necessarily authentic) fetch squillions at auction.
Infopoint is the tourist office, in a corner of Town Hall on Piazza del Comune. It's open daily 10:00-16:30.
Fast trains run every two hours from Milan Centrale to Cremona (70 min) and Mantova (another 50 min). Regional trains also trundle hourly from Milan, taking two hours either direct or changing at Treviglio. An hourly train from Brescia takes one hour.
The 1 railway station is 1 km north of city centre.
By road Cremona is along E70 / A21 Piacenza - Brescia autostrada. Inter-city buses mostly stay on the autostrada and bypass Cremona. Flixbus runs twice a day from Milan (3 hr) and continues to Modena. SETA Bus E57 runs once a day from Piacenza.
The bus station in Cremona is 200 m east of the railway station.
Most places of interest are within a 10-min walk of the centre.
Take Bus L for the farmhouse museum and Bus D or G for St Sigismund.
- Piazza del Comune is the wonderful medieval square at the heart of Cremona. Symbolically, religious buildings are on the east side (Duomo, Baptistry and Torrazzo) and secular buildings such as Town Hall are on the west.
- 1 Duomo (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta), Piazza del Comune, ☏ +39 0372 406391. Daily 08:00-12:00, 15:30-19:00. Grand cathedral begun in 1107: the main facade (circa 1300) is Romanesque. The interior is richly decorated with frescoes and major works of art. The octagonal Baptistry was added in 1167. The composer Monteverdi (1567-1643) was probably a choir-boy here; he was born in Cremona but made his name in Mantova and Venice.
- Torrazzo. Tu-Su 10:00-13:00, 14:30-18:00. This is the free-standing cathedral bell tower, a 112.5-m brickwork giant built 1230-1309 that defines the city landscape. The astronomical clock on the fourth storey, 8.2 m in diameter, was installed in 1588. Adult €5.
- Palazzo del Comune is the town hall, on the west flank of the cathedral. It was built in 1206.
- Loggia dei Militi next to town hall was built in 1292. It was the meeting place of the "Society of Soldiers" and housed the civic regalia.
- 2 Museo del Violino, Palazzo dell’Arte, Piazza Marconi 5, ☏ +39 0372 801801. W-F 11:00-17:00, Sa Su 10:00- 18:00. Wonderful exhibition of violins and their construction by Stradivarius, Amati, Guarneri and other masters. They have regular recitals. Adult €12, concessions €8.
- 3 Chiesa di Sant' Agostino was built in the 1340s in Gothic, but much modified in the Baroque era. It used to be an Augustine monastery. The frescoes in Cappello Cavalcabò (third chapel on the right) are especially fine.
- 4 Museo Archeologico San Lorenzo, Via S Lorenzo 4, ☏ +39 0366 667 3881. Tu-Th 09:00-13:00, F-Su 10:00-17:00. Display of Roman and earlier findings, in a disused 14th-century church. Adult €3.
- Palazzo Fodri at Corso Giacomo Matteotti 17 is Renaissance, built in the 1490s as the Convent of the Nuns of Valverde. You may be able to look in at the elegant cloisters.
- 5 Museo Civico Ala Ponzone, Via Dati Ugolani 4, ☏ +39 0372 407770. Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. The main city museum, with rich artefacts and artwork. The historic violins have relocated to their own museum (above). Adult €10, concessions €8.
- Natural History Museum is next to Museo Civico, open Tu-Su, free.
- 6 Il Cambonino Vecchio (Farmhouse Museum), Viale Cambonino 22 (jcn SP415 and ring-road, Bus L), ☏ +39 0372 360025. Sep-May: Tu-Sa 08:00-13:00. Restored farmhouse exhibiting Lombardy country life. Free.
- 7 Chiesa di San Sigismondo is 2 km east of city centre. It was the core of a monastery founded in 1463, and in 1447 saw a dynastic marriage between the Sforza and Visconti tribes.
- Other churches: better pace yourself. There are dozens more charming medieval churches, any of which in a modern city would rank as a major attraction. The best plan is simply to wander the streets and just look in on any that appear interesting.
- Teatro Ponchielli is the theatre, concert and opera house, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 52, 500 m west of the cathedral, and named for the composer Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-86). He's best known for La Gioconda, with its catchy and much parodied "Dance of the Hours": da da dah-dah, da da dah-dah, da da da da da da da da da da-daah plonk plonk!
- Monteverdi Festival is hosted by Teatro Ponchielli in June. The next is 17-26 June 2022.
- Football: US Cremonese were promoted in 2022 and now play soccer in Serie A, Italy's top tier. Their home ground is Stadio Giovanni Zini (capacity 20,600) 1 km east of the railway station.
- Supermarkets are edge of town by the ring road, such as Carrefour at Via Rosario (north near junction with Via Brescia), open daily 07:00-22:00.
- Several violin and musical shops in town, caveat emptor. Einstein, serenaded on one such, may have mused that these things are all relative.
- La Sosta, Via Sicardo Vescovo 9 (50 m south of cathedral), ☏ +39 0372 456656. Tu-Sa 12:15-14:00, 19:30-22:00, Su 12:15-14:00. Good central osteria for Lombard food.
- Hosteria 700, Piazza Alessandro Gallina (opposite Museo Civico), ☏ +39 0372 36175. Daily 12:00-14:45, 19:00-23:00. Plain exterior but great Lombard cuisine within.
- Sushi: not that you'll admit to wanting a change from Italian, but sneak 500 m west to Kandoo on Piazza Luigi Cardona, open Tu-Su 10:30-14:30, 18:00-23:00.
- Nougat (torrone) is a local specialty. Festa del Torrone in autumn is a promotional razzamatazz, with the next on 12-20 Nov 2022.
- Bars cluster in the little streets west of the cathedral. Choose any of Bar Rio, La Hacienda, Dream Bar, Hobos and Centro.
- This is a wine-growing region, lots of good stuff from the district and Po valley.
- Hotel Duomo, Via dei Gonfalonieri 13 (next to Loggia dei Militi), ☏ +90 0372 35242. Simple central hotel. B&B double €100.
- Hotel Impero, Piazza della Pace (100 m west of cathedral), ☏ +90 0372 413013. Clean and friendly, the main drawback is street noise. B&B double €120.
- Hotel Astoria, Via Domenico Bordigallo (50 m north of cathedral), ☏ +90 0372 461616. Pleasant central hotel, again the problem is street noise. B&B double €100.
- Dellearti Design Hotel, Via Geremia Bonomelli 8 (100 m east of cathedral), ☏ +90 0372 23131. Stylish central place, limited parking. B&B double €130.
As of June 2022, Cremona has 4G from Iliad, Tim and Vodafone, and 5G from Wind Tre.
- Piacenza is a fine old city southwest - it was bombed to bits in World War II but lovingly restored.
- Brescia to the north has an ancient Castello and the monastery of Santa Giulia.
- Milan is the buzzing city west, modern yet full of antiquities.
- Bologna the red city is a must-see for its old centre.