Surrounded by 2 km of walls dating back to the 13th and 15th century, and with a long history, Soncino is a lovely town east of Crema. It is especially famous for its impressive castle, the "Rocca Sforzesca", rebuilt by Galeazzo Sforza in the 15th century and still well preserved.
The original castle dates back to the early middle Ages and was a Guelph stronghold in the war between Guelphs, supporting the Pope, and Ghibellines, supporting the Holy Roman Emperor. At the battle of Cassano in 1259 the Ghibellines were defeated and their leader, Ezzelino da Romano, imprisoned in the castle, where he died of his wounds.
Restored in 1886 by Luca Beltrami, the castle vaunts four towers, one at each corner of the building: the keep, with a kitchen and a bedroom, the large round tower and two twin towers.
There are two drawbridges, one for pedestrians and one for carriages and a well in the middle of the courtyard, which allowed residents to have a independent water supply in case of a siege.
Tip: today the castle houses the archaeological museum and the museum of Risorgimento (Italian Independence movement), both of which are open for visits.
Soncino has five watermills, one of which is still functioning and a 13th century drainage system. An interesting Silk Museum (alas only open on Sunday) provides information about the ancient craft of silk production.
The old city has a typical medieval layout with narrow streets and towers where the wide main street (Strada Granda) has noble palaces such as 15th century Palazzo Azzanelli, with terracotta decorations.
In the main square, centre of medieval political life, you can find the town hall and the Torre Civica. Not far away is the Casa degli Stampatori, a medieval house standing on the site of the first printing works set up by a Jewish family in 1480. Today, it houses the Museum of Printing.
Interesting religious buildings are the Pieve of Santa Maria Assunta, built in the 17th century on the site of a much older church, and the 12th century church of San Giacomo, which has a peculiar seven-sided tower dating back to 1350 and a nearby cloister built in 1428. On the outskirts of the town is the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, begun in 1492 and wonderfully decorated with terracotta friezes and frescoes.
Soncino, also called the "museum town" because of the many historical sites that can be found, is well worth a visit and should not be missed.
Tips: Various events and fairs attract tourists all year round: visit during Carnival or on the 25th April for the "Soncino Fantasy". There's a Spring Fair in May, medieval nights in summer, historical re-enactments in October and even Halloween at the castle! Special "magical tours" of the castle and the dungeons are organized in the summer months.
Several restaurants and B&Bs offer delicious food and peaceful accommodation. Soncino can also be visited by bicycle, joining one of the many tours organized by local operators.
If you are in the CremA AREA and longing for something sweet besides the popular torrone, there is one cake you should make sure to try before leaving.
A soft, fruity cake made with ripe uva fragola (fox grape), Torta Bertolina is typical of the city of Crema and the neighbouring towns.
Although the origins of this cake date back no further than the late 18th century - early 19th century (this variety of grape was imported to Italy from the States as it was resistant to some of the most common vine diseases), Torta Bertolina quickly became a staple delicacy of the Cremascan culinary culture.
With a strong and distinctive scent of berries, this cake is known to be a favourite of children.
Grape being its central ingredient, Torta Bertolina is typically an autumn cake. However, in particularly hot summers the scent of Torta Bertolina begins to whiff out of Cremascan homes and pasticcerie (bakeries) as early as the beginning of August.
Being a recipe that has its roots in the countryside's peasant tradition, most families have their own version of Torta Bertolina, handed down generation after generation.
In September, the town of Crema holds an annual fair dedicated to this grape-filled cake.
During the fair, various stalls offer different recipes to taste. If you're curious to see what all the fuss is about, be sure not to miss out on a slice of Torta Bertolina!Any suggestions?
With its Proximity to Cremona, the ‘City of Strings’, one might not expect there to be space for any other musical culture near the town of Crema.
However, the Fabbrica d’Organi Giovanni Tamburini proves this belief to be unfounded. The Tamburini Family, now in its fourth-generation of Organ-making, continues to produce organs with passion, precision and a great respect for tradition.
Tamburini organs can be found in some of the most important churches in Italy and abroad, including St. Peter’s church in the Vatican and the duomo of Milan.
The Fabbrica was originally founded by Giovanni Tamburini, who opened his laboratory in 1983 and ran it until his death 50 years later. In 1942, his daughter Cecilia and husband Umberto – a former organ designer in Giovanni’s shop – took over the family business.
In their hands, the Fabbrica d’Organi thrived.
Umberto was a passionate craftsman and would become famous for personally selecting the wood he used to make his instruments. It was under Cecilia and Umberto’s joint guidance that the workshop successfully overcame the hard years of the war.
After their death, their son, Franco, became the leading figure of the laboratory, contributing his great knowledge of music and various instruments. Today, the Fabbrica is run by Franco’s own son, Saverio and the family workshop is in Via Costituzione 7, Pianengo (CR).Any suggestions?
This historic palace located in Via Civerchi, CREMA, was constructed upon the request of Count Nicholas Maria Bondenti in 1698. The project was initially entrusted to architect Giuseppe Cozzi, but would eventually be passed on to Andrea Nono.
Palazzo Bondenti is rather well-known for the extreme slowness of its construction process and as a matter of fact, construction would come to a halt in 1737.
Some say that the incomplete building is an expression of the tastes of the time and a plaque in the entrance hall tells the story of the building: “An unfinished work designed by Giuseppe Cozzi of Piacenza”.
A pleasant discovery and an exquisite example of baroque architecture: the wrought iron work used on the balconies with all their beautiful details, invite the visitor inside to discover even more.
Its terra cotta moldings that decorate openings, gables, and cornices on the main floor represent one a particular use of oriental influence.
The palace, albeit incomplete consists of two main wings connected by a central “body” in the rear.In addition there is a garden which features a porch supported by two double columns. These columns are especially unique when you get close and discover that the names of the different owners of Palazzo Bondenti as well as its many distinguished guests who sojourned there (King Vittorio Emanuele II and the Prince of Piedmont) have been inscribed on them.
Some of the most notable features of the palace are the allegorical statues that decorate the walls connecting the two wings of the building.
Along the walls you can see the representations of wisdom (a woman with a book), prosperity (a woman with a cornucopia of flowers), and generosity (a woman with a child in her arms). The last statue is a woman holding fleece and this is a clear reference to the Bondenti family who made their fortune thanks to the wool trade.
All of the rooms are not open to visitors, but the frescoes on the ground floor have been restored and in addition to the small details you can observe from the outside as well as what visible inside, Palazzo Bondenti is well worth a visit. It is an expression of not only the elegance and grandeur of the palace itself, but also to the wealth and prestige of its owners.Any suggestions?
In Italy, every region has a pasta dish they call their own. The recipe will vary from town to town and from home to home, and everyone will debate which one is the original. However, when it comes to tortelli cremaschi, the rules begin to change.
Tortelli cremaschi are one of Italy’s most unique pastas because there truly is nothing similar.
The recipe seems to have come about during Venice’s long domination of the Lombardy region and there is good reason to believe the theory: tortelli cremaschi are a dish found exclusively in the area of Crema and the list of ingredients includes spices and dried fruits which only had the possibility to enter Italy via Venice’s eastern trading monopoly.
So what exactly are tortelli cremaschi and what makes them so particular? Delicate half-moons of pasta filled with a long list of ingredients to create a filling that, when combined, produce a harmony of both sweet and spicy flavours; this is one of the reasons why although some variations in the proportions according to personal taste may be tolerated, experts tend to raise an eyebrow at anything that doesn’t stick with tradition.
The only true accepted form for tortelli is the classic half-moon with its 5 characteristic “crests” at the top and the filling which includes amaretti cookies (true aficionados swear by and insist on the brand Gallina), nutmeg, candied citron, mint, and sultanas.
By the list of ingredients it’s easy to see why the proportions are so important: too much of any one fruit or spice would easily create a cacophony instead of a symphony.
Tortelli cremaschi are a dish most often served during special celebrations such as weddings, family celebrations, and local feast days and they’re always served with lightly browned butter, sage and a dusting of parmigiano cheese.
This brings us to La Tortellata. It should come as no surprise that there is a festival to celebrate Crema’s local excellence. In 1981 a group of friends who were spending their summer holiday in the city decided to create an event as an experiment. Held during the beloved Italian holiday of Ferragosto (August 15th), La Tortellata celebrates this local treasure. Despite starting as an experiment, the event was an almost immediate success thanks largely in part to the press and publicity from the tourism boards of the region.
If you’re in the area on Ferragosto be sure not to miss out on this opportunity to taste Crema’s famous specialty!Any suggestions?
The small town of Soncino, located about 20 minutes from Crema, is particularly notable for its great importance to the Jewish community.
The name ‘Soncino’ derives from a wild herb which grows in the surrounding fields. It was this name that was given to an influential Jewish family, ‘the Soncinos’, who owned a printing house for texts in Hebrew.
The family’s house and laboratory, located in via Lanfranco, is easily recognisable thanks to its peculiar tower structure and today hosts the Museo della Stampa Soncino.
The museum has numerous typographical machinery and printing equipment on display, all relating to the various phases of printing with movable characters.
Pictures on the walls trace what a normal day would have been like at the print-house in 1480, each describing a different step of the printing process. The picture illustrations, as well as the interactive part of the museum, are also particularly interesting for kids, who may not have the patience to listen to audio-guides.
If the museum alone makes you wonder whether it's worth the trip (and it is), keep in mind that Soncino is considered to be one of Italy’s most beautiful towns. In addition, Crema’s countryside harbours an impressive number of these hidden gems, so if you wish to visit a few borgos in a single trip you can probably get around to visiting two or three in one day.Any suggestions?
The decision to create the Civic Museum of Crema and the Cremasco was made in 1959 thanks to the city council’s astute decision to gather and preserve the rich history of the area. Inaugurated in 1960, the museum found its home in a place already sacred and historical: the former S. Agostino convent, now dedicated to guarding the precious testimony to Crema’s history.
The museum represents a vital institution to the area, not only in terms of preservation through its different exhibitions and cultural events, but also because of its didactic purpose with educational programs for museum goers of all ages and all interests.
Without revealing all of the things visitors can discover (it would be a shame to spoil the surprises), the museum offers a look into Crema and the surrounding area through its different exhibits: the art section features an outstanding array of local artists and their work throughout the centuries with many frescoes coming from Crema’s famous San Domenico church.
The archaeological exhibit features artefacts from the Paleolithic era and explains the influence of the Roman Empire, also documenting the Celtic influence in the area. In 2010 a new area was dedicated to the archaeological history between the Adda and Oglio rivers; this part also features an interactive multi-media carpet for state-of-the-art learning.
The museum presents an overview of Crema’s history from the 15th to the 19th century and owns an amazing collection of photos, documents, maps, and objects.
Another must-see is the Casa Cremasca: a reconstruction of a typical lord’s manor house on local farmhouse during the late 1800s to early 1900s. Through its collection of objects and representation of daily life, Casa Cremasca tells the story of the city’s social hierarchy and life at the time.
Another special exhibit definitely worth mentioning is the exhibition of typewriters once belonging to Lodovico Tinelli.
Much more than a simple exhibit of typewriters, the collection (which was acquired in 2005) is a study of the technical and conceptual innovations in Italy, most notably the local Cremascan company, Serio-Everest. This special collection not only preserves the history of Crema’s industrial prestige, but it also offers a golden opportunity to future generations of Italian entrepreneurs, industrialists, and innovators to discover what Italian excellence and Made in Italy truly mean.
The Civic Museum can be easily reached by car or on foot since it’s not far from the central train station. If you’re a summertime visitor, be sure to note the museum’s hours, especially in August.Any suggestions?
originally from Crema, Spongarda gets its name from the soft and spongy texture of the original 16th century recipe. In the 18th century, the recipe was revised to include honey and almonds as a filling and this is the Spongarda the inhabitants of Crema know and love today.
This filling also gives the Spongarda the appearance of a savory cake with a fruity centre.
Today recipes vary, but the most common fillings include apples, honey, raisins and spices. It is most commonly a winter cake, served in place of panettone, but it can be found all year round in any of the shops which have come together as the Congrega della Spongarda (‘brotherhood of the Spongarda cake’).
These five cake shops are all located in Crema:
Located in Piazza del Duomo, the Duomo di Crema (the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta) was rebuilt after the destruction of the city in 1160. Reconstruction would halt in 1212 and when it resumed in 1284 the Duomo took on a very Gothic style. Since the first reconstruction, the church has undergone continual changes and various restorations.
Although there is no known information about the original structure legendarily known as Santa Maria Della Mossa, during the restoration from 1952-1959, architect Amos Edallo was able to hypothetically reconstruct the building prior to the destruction in 1160. Edallo’s hypothesis had a major influence on the current structure.
The cathedral features three naves divided into five bays using massive cylindrical columns. The walls of the nave display beautiful mullioned windows at the top which serve to flood the church with natural light.
The face of the entrance boasts many decorative elements including a loggia with marble columns and is supported by arches that divide the façade. The most significant element of the Duomo, the façade displays a marble rosone and this combination of marble and other architectural elements next to brick masonry represents the typical contrast seen in medieval Lombardian buildings. The central area opens to a marble portal and the architrave above the door features the faces of five saints sculpted into the stone. The lunette above the entrance features three statues: the Virgin and Child, St. Pantaleone, and St. John the Baptist.
Although the past restorations destroyed most (fortunately some traces remain) of the vast 4th and 5th century decorations, the Duomo is certainly not devoid of works of art. One of these is located in the Chapel of the Crucifix which is located in the main altar and has a principally 18th century decorative scheme. The walls feature two 19th century works by Sante Legnani depicting the crucifix set on fire and the supplication of the crucified.
However, the most notable element of this area is the highly venerated wooden crucifix sculpted around 1250.
The face of Christ features an intense and painful expression that seems to contrast rather starkly with the rest of his body which was sculpted in a much more primitive manner. The restoration, which took place in 1999, eliminated the dirt and uncovered the burnt spots it suffered during the fire in 1448.
It seems almost impossible to give a just description to all of the details and architectural wonders of the Duomo di Crema; in 1992 Pope John Paul II made a visit and this assuredly attests to its relevance not only in the region, but in Italy as well. The most recent renovations were finished in 2014 and with all the work that has been done to preserve the church and maintain its symbolic presence in Crema, it certainly deserves a visit.Any suggestions?
Crema's Sanctuary, otherwise known as Santuario di Santa Maria della Croce, is a stunning basilica.
The site of the church was chosen for the miracle that allegedly took place there during the 15th century.
Caterina degli Uberti, a noblewoman from Crema, was attacked and grievously wounded by her husband in the nearby woods.
Her wounds were fatal and she knew death was imminent, so she prayed to the Virgin Mary to grant her the Grace of God. Moments later a woman dressed in simple clothes appeared, presenting herself to Caterina as ‘the one you have called’.
Caterina’s wounds ceased their bleeding and the woman carried her to a nearby peasant house.
She survived the night, but died the following morning within the city walls of Crema, where she was given the Last Rites. A plain wooden cross was laid on the place of her murder, but miracles continued to happen on the same spot to such an extent that a sanctuary was built where her cross lay.
Today, the sanctuary still preserves the sword that killed Caterina, broken in half by the ferocious attack.
Ph. Credits: Max010Any suggestions?
Both etymology and legend compete to explain the origin of the name of this pristine village situated not far from the town of Crema. Language history connects the name Gradella to the Germanic words ''gard'' (fortified area) and ''ell'' (''alod'' meaning possession), so the meaning of the place would be “possession of a fortified place”. Here, the presence of an early medieval castle is in fact documented but it seems that the building was destroyed during the 13th century. According to a less scientific but more romantic theory the name Gradella derives from Graziella, an ancient princess captured by a dragon and later saved by a valiant knight.
Neither description is accurate to today's picture-perfect rural village, with its yellow painted houses with red brick and lovely courtyards. Strict building regulations provide for the conservation of these traditional houses, so that all details including doors, windows, roofs and colours must be chosen accordingly.
The village dates back to the 8th century and developed further during the Middle Ages. In 1558 it became part of the estate of the Maggi family, which held properties in the area until 1982, when Countess Camilla, widow of the last Count of Aymo Maggi, sold her entire estate to a private investor. Villa Maggi, built in the 17th century, can be found just outside the village. Its current aspect is the result of the renovations carried out during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Parish Church of the Santissima Trinità (Holy Trinity) and Saint Bassiano, built in 1895, stands in the centre of the hamlet.
The best way to visit this charming little gem is by gently strolling along its quiet and colourful streets. Don't be surprised if you spot some deer amongst cows and horses. This unusual presence is the result of Countess Camilla's passion for these gentle animals.
Not far from the charming Gradella is the castle of Pandino. This interesting building, erected in 1355 by Bernabò Visconti as a hunting retreat, has a typical square structure with four towers.
During a period of fierce struggle for power, which lasted approximately two centuries, the castle became the property of notable families such as the Sforza, the Sanseverino and the d'Adda family, who acquired the estate in 1552. It was the heirs of the d'Adda family who sold the dilapidated castle to the town of Pandino in 1947, after it had been rented to farmers, used as a spinning factory and was virtually abandoned.
The town of Pandino restructured the castle and today it houses the municipal offices and the local library. Guided tours and visits with audio guides can be booked through the Pandino tourist office. The castle is open Saturdays and Sundays and admission is 4€.Any suggestions?
A cheese typical of CREMA and the surrounding countryside, Salva Cremasco is perhaps one of the most easily distinguishable cheeses of the Italian peninsula.
What sets Salva Cremasco apart from all others, aside from its delicious taste, is its shape: Salva Cremasco is... a cube of cheese!
But what is the history behind this peculiar delicacy? The name Salva Cremasco gives clear reference to its origins: salva meaning ‘save’ and Cremasco indicating its geographical location – when there was milk in abundance in the area, this cheese would be made so as to prevent it spoiling and going to waste.
The texture of the Salva Cremasco changes notably from the edges to the centre due to its thickness: the centre is usually creamy, with a defined but subtle taste, whereas the outer parts tend to be more crumbly, with strong, earthy aromas.
Every block is branded with the cheese's characteristic letters, ensuring Salva Cremasco's quality and protecting it from imitations!Any suggestions?
Abbadia Cerreto is a tiny village east of Lodi counting a little less than three hundred inhabitants. The sleepy hamlet developed around a flourishing Benedictine monastery, the more famous Abbazia di Cerreto, from which it also got its name. They Abbey itself is named after "cerro", a variety of oak present in the area.
The abbazia of Saint Peter and Paul was founded in a swampy and insalubrious region by Benedictine monks in 1084. In 1134, it was given to the Order of the Cistercians, who continued to reclaim and work the land following the traditional values of monastic life based on manual labour and self-sufficiency.
The building was severely damaged during the 13th and 14th centuries, as a consequence of the recurrent wars for power characteristic of the Middle Ages. Almost abandoned and in a state of decay the monastery was finally suppressed by Napoleon in 1798, when all monasteries were banned.
Today only the church still stands and, as a parish church, it is the religious centre for the small community. Although the structure of the building is unchanged, little remains of the original abbey. Extensive renovations carried out in 1893 and 1944 removed some of the Baroque elements added by earlier restorations, intending to bring the church to its original aspect.
Today the abbey has a fine exterior with a brick Romanesque facade while the interior, consisting of a wide main nave and two side naves, has an interesting altarpiece by Callisto Piazza and simple frescoes on the walls.
Tip: as the church is part of the River Adda Natural Park, it makes for the perfect stop when hiking or cycling in the area!Any suggestions?