Just as Bergamo has its Venetian walls and Brescia has its Roman ruins, Cremona has its own defining feature – violins. Its love affair with the fiddle dates back to the early 18th century and the travails of the legendary Antonio Stradivari, who crafted over 1000 stringed instruments in an 80-year career. But once you’ve rosined your bow in the Museo del Violino and nosed in the windows of the specialist luthiers' workshops that still crowd Cremona’s old quarter, there’s plenty more to see.
A wealthy, independent city-state for centuries, Cremona is the custodian of some fine medieval architecture. The giant, repeatedly enlarged cathedral is weighty even by Italian standards, while the adjacent Torrazzo was the Burj Khalifa of its day and remains the third tallest brick bell tower in the world.