Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Cremona, song of a great (small) city

Someone recently and memorably wrote that if the world came to an end, things would continue in Italy much as they always have. With the last days of Berlusconi looking increasingly like something from Gibbon, it was extraordinary to spend even a short time in Cremona and experience life which in some ways may have not changed so much since the Duomo was built in the 13th century or the Amati, Stradivari, Guarneri and Bergonzi interacted with one another in friendly rivalry and collaboration. This is still a town of Luthiers by the way.

Starting with unchecked entrance to the traffic-free Centro Storico in order to get near our hotel, we parked illegally if discretely around the corner, remaining there unmolested for the duration of our stay. If this wasn't proof of a higher civilization, the enthusiasm with which the lady who owned our hotel, the Locanda Torriani (together with her chef-husband) specially opened a bottle of Bonarda just to provide us with a glass which was otherwise not listed as available in this way immediately demonstrated a generosity of spirit increasingly rare in our ever more regulated world.

After our delicious lunch (the hotel is really a restaurant with rooms - always proof of good priorities), we took a stroll to the Teatro Ponchielli where we were to see 'Rigoletto', another glory of Italian culture. Without time to stop we clocked an incredible variety of wines at a small stand including a locally grown Marsanne of all things, a choice of Ortrugos, Barbera, Gutturnio and more Bonarda which we love.

After the matinee performance we made our way back to the hotel and found the market still in full swing with all kinds of local specialities on offer. Where else might you find a market open at 6.00pm?

That evening, unable to get into our restaurant of choice, we settled on what looked like an expensive clip joint. This turned out to be nothing of the kind and in spite of an over-ornate decor, chilly atmosphere and barely another inhabitant, we ate extremely well and were enchanted to find an excellent if slightly bowdlerised Ortrugo. Even the complimentary glass of Prosecco was unusually fine, the whole experience humanised by charming and efficient service.

The next morning, we saw all kinds of local cheese and pasta specialities in the windows of the many gastronomie to be found in this great small city.

The brand of tinned Tuna offered in one was 'Vaticano' no less.

In a large supermarket there were shelves of more Bonarda than you could shake a stick at

and even a selection of Gutturnio.

An amused Isaiah Berlin wrote about seeing two priests walking arm in arm across a piazza eating ice-creams in a similar town shortly after the war. The same spirit still exists. Long may it last!

1 comment:

Yuval said...

Great post, have a good time reading it. I'm from Israel and I'm enjoying the blogs of others who live overseas. If you are interesting, look in my blog as well - . You'll see the word English on the right hand side. I'll continue reading, great stuff. Yuval