This is an extract from my book "Britcellist Abroad" - an account of my 10-month personal sabbatical to Great Britain, Italy and Budapest. September 2014-July 2015. www.britcellistabroad.weebly.com
Jan. 6/7 2015. Cremona.
The first leg of the journey was from Florence to Bologna on the highspeed train. Great ride, but unfortunately the outlet on the train for the iPhone charger was not working. This had severe repercussions later. At Bologna I had to change to Fidenza (different from Florence - Firenze, the Italian spelling) on a local commuter train that stopped at many stations. By this time it was dark and the stations' names were not easily visible. As I had no idea how long it took to get to Fidenza, I was on tenterhooks as to when I should get off. I did understand an announcement saying the train was 30 minutes late. The other passengers were mostly Italians, non-English speaking, and oddly enough, didn't seem to know where Fidenza was. Of course by then my trusty iPhone with Google maps was out of power, so I couldn't check it! However a friendly male passenger did have a phone with a maps app and showed me that I was on the right train and going toward Fidenza. A huge relief. We stopped at Parma and Modena and then some smaller stations, with me asking every time "is this Fidenza?" Finally while waiting at the doors, some young people came through, and amongst them was a young woman who spoke English. An angel from heaven! Her name is Alessandra, and she is a musicology student at the University of Cremona on her way back there after the holidays! Her English was so good because she had spent 6 months at a language school in Bristol. When I told her I lived near Salisbury she was so excited, having visited the town when in England and absolutely loved it. She was so friendly and helpful. We got off at Fidenza and caught the train to Cremona. So easy with her to guide me. She insisted on ringing for a taxi to take me to the hotel, and wouldn't let me drop her off at her apartment which was just around the corner. She also offered to show me around the town the next morning before her class, so I invited her to have breakfast with me before going sightseeing.
The hotel, Duomo Della Musica was just a few feet away from the Duomo Square, and was a perfect choice for me. Small and cosy with lots of posters and music memorabilia, and beautifully etched violin designs on the glass windows. In spite of me showing up after 10pm, the friendly receptionist was very welcoming. The room was warm and comfortable with a good shower, and after a cup of tea, I had a good night's sleep.
Early the next morning Alessandra came on her bicycle which had been her mother's bicycle when she was at university, and after coffee and some breakfast we walked through the streets to see the statues of Stradivarius, one in the market square, another one in a little park, and one of Monteverdi. The center of Cremona is not very large and we walked to the Museum of Violin where I said goodbye to Alessandra as she had to go to her University class. What a kind young woman she was, taking her time to show me around. The museum is phenomenal and all string players should have the opportunity to visit it. What a find! There are 7 galleries with different aspects of the violin family. The Cremona Gallery has the Stradivaries, Amatis, del Gesu, quite breathtaking and overwhelming to see so many of them together. I especially liked the feature of being able to scan an icon on selected instruments, and to see and hear the instrument being played. My favorite of course, was a Stradivarius cello. Other instruments were set up with audio links to listen to. There is so much to take in at the Museum, it would take another book to delve into all aspects of it, but here's a taste of it. https://youtu.be/AU9LlcZu94Q. There are many more videos of the Museum on YouTube, so you can get a great idea of the place.
Outside it was market day, there were lots of stalls and I bought a pair of warm slippers for England. Just off the main square there are number of violin luthier shops opposite the house where Stradivarius lived with his first wife. There were some beautiful looking instruments in the window display. There wasn’t time to go into the Duomo itself, but I did get to admire the great clock.
The Torrazzo is the bell tower of the Cathedral of Cremona, Lombardy, in northern Italy. At 112.7 metres (343 ft 6 in), it is the third tallest brickwork bell tower in the world, the first being the tower of St. Martin's Church in Landshut, Bavaria, and the second at the Church of Our Lady in Bruges, Belgium. However the Torrazzo (completed in 1309) is older than the Landshut tower (completed in 1500) and the Bruges tower (completed in 1465), and it is the oldest brick structure taller than 100 m that is still standing.
According to popular tradition, construction on the tower began in 754. In reality, it was built in four phases: a first dating back to the 1230s, up to the third dripstone, a second, between 1250 and 1267, up to the dripstone under the quadriphore, a third around 1284, and the completion of the marble spire in 1309. Its height is announced by a plaque embedded in the wall at the base of the Torrazzo itself, stating 250 arms and 2 ounces, which in the ancient measuring system of the Lombard towns translates to approximately 111 metres. The seven bells are tuned in the scale of A major, and date back to the 18th century.
Archaeological excavations made in the 1980s have discovered the presence of underlying structures which are supposed to be the remains of a more ancient churchyard (or a cemetery associated to it), or even previous Roman buildings.
After a cappuccino in the Duomo Square, I went back to the hotel to pick up my bags and take a taxi to the station. For years I had wanted to visit Cremona and am so glad I was able to finally do so on this trip to Italy.
The journey back to Bologna was easier in the daylight, and the highspeed train to Rome zipped along at 239 km an hour. And this time, the outlet for the phone charger worked.