Violins and more in Cremona

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Perhaps the reason Cremona, Italy, is less touristy and more “off the beaten path” is because it’s not on a major train line. I stayed there three nights, May 8-10, 2011, which was just right.

My main purpose in visiting was to hear the Raccolta dei Violini, the “exercising” of the priceless violins displayed in the Sala dei Violini in the loggia of Cremona’s town hall, Palazzo Comunale, located off Piazza del Comune, the main square.

Before the music, I visited, under guard, the small locked sala (room) containing the Stradivari and several other rare violins made in the late 17th century. Then, in a 15-minute presentation, a violinist masterfully played two pieces.

You should reserve tickets for this in advance, which I did a couple of weeks before I left the US by phoning the ticket office/bookshop of the Palazzo Comunale (phone 011 39 0372 803 618). Once in Cremona, when I picked up my ticket I paid the senior rate of €6 (near $8.30).

Another ticket (€3), also from the bookshop, got me into the 16th-century palazzo (several blocks away) that houses the Museo Civico “Ala Ponzone” pinocoteca (picture gallery) and the Museo Stradivariano (Via Ugolani Dati, 4, Cremona).

The Museo Stradivariano contains a large collection of stringed instruments plus many of Antonio Stradivari’s notes, drawings, blueprints, handcrafted tools and models of his creations.

Today, there are still about 100 violinmakers working in tiny shops scattered throughout Cremona. Most of these shops have large windows, so you can stand and watch a craftsman at work.

I stayed at Hotel Impero (Piazza della Pace, 21, 26100 Cremona, Italia; phone +39 0372 413013, fax 457295), found on www.booking.com. Its location was excellent. Including taxes and breakfast, the price of €69 (near $98) per night was very reasonable, I felt.

I asked for a “quiet location,” and room No. 312 faced an interior courtyard. The room was a bit dark but spacious, with high ceilings and a double bed. The bathroom came with the tub I had requested.

Breakfasts were good, with a large selection, and marred only by tour groups who took over both the food and table space during two of the three mornings I was there — no problem after 8 a.m.

After settling in, I walked a half block to the Old Town and, upon entering the square, discovered the Auditorium della Camera di Commercio (Via Baldesio 10, 26100 Cremona). I was able to catch the end of a Beethoven program by Trio per Archi (violin, viola and cello).

Another day, I happened upon a recital there. The students were, I think, ages seven to 14, and the expression and ability with which they played was astonishing. I have never heard such talented youths.

Near my hotel were two excellent restaurants. Ristorante il Violinio (via Sicardo 3, Cremona; phone 0372 46 1010) was both casual and elegant. At lunch, I felt very pampered, even though I ordered only a simple pureed pumpkin risotto (€12) and a glass of Sangiovese (€5).

In addition, I was given a taste of champagne, two small canapés, a warm puff pastry appetizer, a basket of bread, a pitcher of water and, for dessert, cookies — all complimentary! The meal price included tax and cover charge.

La Sosta — osteria con cucina (via Sicardo 9, Cremona; phone 0372 456 656), less formal, also was most enjoyable. Oddly enough, it was more expensive, though usually the term “ristorante” is at the top of the scale, with“trattoria” in the middle and “osteria” at the bottom.

For lunch, I ordered Tortelli di Erbetta e Ricotta for a reasonable €10. It came with the most unusual pasta forms I had ever seen, called spiga. They were braided into a design that looked like scales and curved in a fish-like shape — amazing, as was the dish, itself. However, the “cover” was €3, water €2.50, a side dish €4.50 and desserts €7, making the total bill €27 ($37).

MARILYN HILL
Portland, OR

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Perhaps the reason Cremona, Italy, is less touristy and more “off the beaten path” is because it’s not on a major train line. I stayed there three nights, May 8-10, 2011, which was just right.

My main purpose in visiting was to hear the Raccolta dei Violini, the “exercising” of the priceless violins displayed in the Sala dei Violini in the loggia of Cremona’s town hall, Palazzo Comunale, located off Piazza del Comune, the main square.

Before the music, I visited, under guard, the small locked sala (room) containing the Stradivari and several other rare violins made in the late 17th century. Then, in a 15-minute presentation, a violinist masterfully played two pieces.

You should reserve tickets for this in advance, which I did a couple of weeks before I left the US by phoning the ticket office/bookshop of the Palazzo Comunale (phone 011 39 0372 803 618). Once in Cremona, when I picked up my ticket I paid the senior rate of €6 (near $8.30).

Another ticket (€3), also from the bookshop, got me into the 16th-century palazzo (several blocks away) that houses the Museo Civico “Ala Ponzone” pinocoteca (picture gallery) and the Museo Stradivariano (Via Ugolani Dati, 4, Cremona).

The Museo Stradivariano contains a large collection of stringed instruments plus many of Antonio Stradivari’s notes, drawings, blueprints, handcrafted tools and models of his creations.

Today, there are still about 100 violinmakers working in tiny shops scattered throughout Cremona. Most of these shops have large windows, so you can stand and watch a craftsman at work.

I stayed at Hotel Impero (Piazza della Pace, 21, 26100 Cremona, Italia; phone +39 0372 413013, fax 457295), found on www.booking.com. Its location was excellent. Including taxes and breakfast, the price of €69 (near $98) per night was very reasonable, I felt.

I asked for a “quiet location,” and room No. 312 faced an interior courtyard. The room was a bit dark but spacious, with high ceilings and a double bed. The bathroom came with the tub I had requested.

Breakfasts were good, with a large selection, and marred only by tour groups who took over both the food and table space during two of the three mornings I was there — no problem after 8 a.m.

After settling in, I walked a half block to the Old Town and, upon entering the square, discovered the Auditorium della Camera di Commercio (Via Baldesio 10, 26100 Cremona). I was able to catch the end of a Beethoven program by Trio per Archi (violin, viola and cello).

Another day, I happened upon a recital there. The students were, I think, ages seven to 14, and the expression and ability with which they played was astonishing. I have never heard such talented youths.

Near my hotel were two excellent restaurants. Ristorante il Violinio (via Sicardo 3, Cremona; phone 0372 46 1010) was both casual and elegant. At lunch, I felt very pampered, even though I ordered only a simple pureed pumpkin risotto (€12) and a glass of Sangiovese (€5).

In addition, I was given a taste of champagne, two small canapés, a warm puff pastry appetizer, a basket of bread, a pitcher of water and, for dessert, cookies — all complimentary! The meal price included tax and cover charge.

La Sosta — osteria con cucina (via Sicardo 9, Cremona; phone 0372 456 656), less formal, also was most enjoyable. Oddly enough, it was more expensive, though usually the term “ristorante” is at the top of the scale, with“trattoria” in the middle and “osteria” at the bottom.

For lunch, I ordered Tortelli di Erbetta e Ricotta for a reasonable €10. It came with the most unusual pasta forms I had ever seen, called spiga. They were braided into a design that looked like scales and curved in a fish-like shape — amazing, as was the dish, itself. However, the “cover” was €3, water €2.50, a side dish €4.50 and desserts €7, making the total bill €27 ($37).

MARILYN HILL
Portland, OR