Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Hey Cremona, ohhhh Cremona!"

Cremona is a city in northern Italy famous for its production of high-quality violins. We had decided that Cremona would be a good destination for a day trip for two reasons; its travel time from Milan was under my prerequisite of 1 and a half hours, and Cremona rhymes with Mona. Sounds like a silly reason?  Not really since I have had  "Hey Mona" sang by Craig McLachlan (ex-Neighbours actor) stuck in my head all week. http://youtu.be/e2ZW_uTlhEQ  So luckily for my family the entire car trip to Cremona went with me singing a little like this....
"Hey Cremona, ohhhhh Cremona, hey Cremona, ohhhh Cremona,
Tell you Cremona, what I'm going to do, (add air guitar and Billy Idol lip raise here)
I'm going to take my family and come visit you, (add air guitar and Billy Idol lip raise here)
We'll eat gelati and drink your wine, (add air guitar and Billy Idol lip raise here)
Climb a big tower and have a great time, (add air guitar and Billy Idol lip raise here)
Hey Cremona, ohhhhh Cremona, hey Cremona, ohhhh Cremona!"

My husband will have you believe otherwise, but his humming turned into singing, and we had more than 4 verses to our song by the time we arrived.

Beautiful buildings
 We are still finding hidden treasures in Italy, I thought it would not be possible to find anymore great destinations.  Seriously, I'm like Christopher Columbus on a good day.  Cremona is a modest sort of place that has some fine Renaissance and medieval buildings, and its cobbled streets make for some pleasurable wandering.  We were greeted by markets spread out over two large piazzas and in several streets; this is a great start to the day for me, I think markets always create a friendly atmosphere. It offered the same general fare we are accustomed to, with clothes, bags, underwear, fruit and vege, with the occassional odds and ends stall. 

Cremona has a picturesque historic center with most sights clustered around the main square, Piazza del Comune. It was interesting to see how quickly this space was transformed from a busy market place, to an outdoor eating area for the local bars.


Markets


nuts, olives, dried fruits


Delicious grilled prawn and squid
Once again we had a lovely lunch in a restaurant found down a little alley, but still retaining the duomo as the backdrop.  I am silently starting to panic that these weekend lunches are coming to an end.  Children seem to be in rhythm and routine; toys out, dispersed between two, extra cushion requested for kneeling on the chair, and juice ordered; next, scout nearby patrons for some attention.  On this particular occassion there was a little boy behind us, so he unknowingly provided entertainment, and it proved to be a successful meal with only 3 toilet trips.

Our lunch stop

The Torrazzo houses the world's
 largest astronomical clock.

The Cathedral bell tower, (Torrazzo), is the second tallest brick tower in Europe and Europe's oldest surviving tower over 100 meters tall. It was completed in 1309 and is 112.7 meters.  The tower was going to be a challenge.  Foolishly I have been running the stairs in our apartment for the last few mornings as well as a few gym sessions, feeling fragile would be an understatement.   Truth be told my calfs and thighs quiver even trying to get on and off the toilet at the moment. There is an impressive 500 stairs to be climbed to reach the top of the tower  for magnificent views of the city and countryside, (I get in early and register interest in the lighter child for when their legs decide not to work).  Needless to say my children are warriors.  500 stairs unassisted.  "Oh yeh, go baby!"  (imagine me double pumping like Beyonce right now).  We had to be extremeley quiet as to not scare the dragon away, but what ever works right?  Parenting has had me doing some bizarre things, like waving goodbye to bodily functions, and eating air cake, (which apparently I took a bite too big the other day), so an imaginary dragon hunt between tourists is not so embarassing really. We had to help a little with the last few steps which were cramped and spiral; and vertigo was setting in for me, it would of been nice to have my husband carry me also.  (Am I expecting too much out of our marriage?)  The view was worth the effort. Town planning intrigues me in Europe how things appeared centred around the church, then neatly cobwebs out from there.  Princess and Prince had a quick little run, (about 1 minutes worth).  "We are ready to go now!"  What goes up, must come down, only with half the man power.  The children are carried the entire way down, but I am not bothered as I am proud of there 'up' efforts, (and I had already reserved the light weight).


500 stairs and over 100 meters tall

"I do it!"


Amazing views
The duomo was closed for lunch break, yes even the devout need some downtime.  We filled in some time with gelati on the steps and a game of chase around some statues.  The early 12th century cathedral, or duomo, is Romanesque in style with Gothic and Baroque elements that were added later. The facade holds many sculptures and inside the Cathedral are 14th to 16th century frescoes and other important artworks.  I thought it was beautiful.  I told hubby that it may even be the most beautiful duomo we have visited.  He responds by letting me know that apparently I say this everytime we leave a church.  I must really start paying a bit more attention to myself.
Duomo and tower

Baptistry


Every bowl was out of holy water? Alot of weekend visitors.  This particular one had a lizard at its base.


Every wall was covered in frescos, marble or gold trimmings



Ummmm, pretty sure the priests cloak room and computer was supposed to be out of bounds.


Floor to ceiling, just amazing!

Quick play before going inside


Always time for gelati
 The Palazzo Comunale, or town hall, was constructed in the early 13th century. 13th century frescoes can be seen under the portico while other frescoes are from the Renaissance period. Inside there are decorated rooms of the palazzo and an exhibit of string instruments, (we did not enter the violin museum as my son is currently obsessed with "rocking out on his guitar", I had a vision of him smashing a violin on any platform he may find).

Town Hall



Also on the main square, the Loggia dei Militi dates from the 13th century and is a good example of Lombard-Gothic architecture. Under the portico you'll see Hercules holding the city emblem as according to legend, Hercules founded the city.

Cremona has been a famous music center since the 16th century and is still known for its artisan workshops producing high-quality stringed instruments. Antonio Stradivari was a famous luthier, producing over 1100 violins and his violins are some of the best in the world. Today there is a a luthier school and many small workshops producing stringed instruments.  They even have a large violin on the roundabout as you enter the town, I guess similar to the Big Banana and Big Pineapple.  Small towns love to glorify themselves with big things.


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