From Cremona to Como

Our plan today was to visit the medieval towns of Cremona and Mantua. By the time we got hold of the rented car, made it out of the city, trying to evade zooming bicycles and pedestrians crossing the streets at whim completely oblivious to the cars (worse than New York), and battled the highway traffic, we arrived in Cremona just before noon. Our plan was to spend a couple hours in this small town and then head on to Mantua, but we fell in love and stayed until 5.
Cremona is all an Italian city should be – architecturally stunning houses painted in an array of terracotta colors and topped with tiled roofs, crooked streets, darling little shops and cafes, and flowers in the windows.
The main square has a de rigueur duomo adorned with one of the most magnificent facades you can imagine and flanked by the tallest bell tower in Italy. Two mythical lion-like creatures are guarding the entrance to the church and the top of the tower is lace in brick. Across the street, there is a former palazzo serving as a town hall.
This town was once home to Antonio Stradivari, and we found several bronze Stradivaris around. This was also home to Amati and Guarneri and to many more less illustrious violin makers. Apparently, there are still many workshops producing violins and other string instruments by hand, using the same method as the old masters. I enriched my vocabulary learning that these people are not called violin-makers, but luthiers.
This small town still honors the tradition of closing up for a siesta. At 1 pm the stores lowered their shutters and the streets emptied of people. We had no choice but to seek out a place to eat and joined the locals on one of the side streets in a down-to-earth trattoria for home-made gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce and ravioli stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and spinach. The food is great but I am getting tired of the same menu and would really love to supplement my diet with lemongrass soup.
But I should not complain. If worse comes to worst, I’ll subsist on coffe and gelato.
Anyways, after lunch we left the old town and went to the newer, still lovely town to visit the violin museum. The museum is housed in another grand palazzo and boasts a mediocre art collection along with violins, violas, and cellos, 3 stradivaris and a few amatis and guarneris. It was cool to see them, but only psychologically. With the exception of several ornate pieces, most of them looked like plain old violins. It is amazing though that 4 strings can produce such magnificent sound!
The best thing about the museum was the view from the 3rd floor window. Museum attendants here are quite lackadaisical, unlike their Russian counterparts, and don’t watch the rare visitors to the museum like hawks. So I snuck behind a shade covering one of the windows and beheld a sight of tiled roofs in many shades of orange and brown over yellow walls surrounded by luscious greenery, situated at different levels and angles – a feast for the eye, although I am not sure it is worth the price of admission.
We finally had to go as we had a dinner reservation at our next hotel on Lake Como.
We arrived at the city of Como and set out on the road winding along its shores to our hotel in Tremezzo. Wow!!!! The lake is gorgeous, the road is stunning, the mountains are magnificent, and the towns we passed are most charming! There were so many 18th century villas in succulent colors, church towers, houses hanging off the cliffs, I was oohing and aahing all the way to the hotel.
This hotel is also on a cliff but we could not get a room with a view – they are all booked until October, so we are overlooking the road, but the restaurant is right over the water, and we had yet another Italian meal here (I’ll even settle for hot-n-sour soup, ladies and gentlemen).

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