Why Cremona? As we are getting ready to leave Cremona, Italy and spend several weeks on the road in Europe, we are all coming to terms with the bittersweet combination of embarking on a new adventure while departing a place that has become our home albeit temporarily. For the past weeks our home has been a quaint apartment in central Cremona Italy. Cremona is a small and ancient city in the Lombardy region of Italy on the Po River. Many people have asked us “Why Cremona?” Of all the places in the world and all the towns in Italy why did you choose to spend several weeks in Cremona, Italy? The answer is, Cremona was a homecoming for me. My family and I have a history with this town (and a wonderful family in it) that made coming here a natural choice. Even if we hadn’t, Cremona would have been an excellent pick.
In the summer of 1979, my parents were part of a group of about 250 folks from my hometown, Owensboro, KY, that participated in a foreign exchange program with Cremona. Mom and Dad visited Cremona and were hosted in the home of Giovanni and Maria DalMonte. The DalMonte’s had two young boys, Luca and Sandro. I was 10 years old at the time. My parents already had a fondness for Italy, and all things Italian, as they had lived not far away in Vicenza, Italy for 4 years while my father served in the US Army JAG Corps. My younger brother and I were born on the military base there. To make a long story short, a friendship was born that summer. My parents quickly became enamored with Gianni and Maria and remained in contact with them. A few years later, their eldest son, Luca, who had a great passion for America – arrived in Owensboro to spend a year residing with our family in Daviess County. He graduated from Apollo High School and enrolled at the University of Kentucky. Before he finished at UK, his parents returned the favor and hosted me (in 1984 at age 15) for a memorable summer in Cremona. Amazingly, 29 years passed before I managed to return. Luca and Sandro are grown men, and established professionals, working in Milan and Modena. Gianni and Maria have aged – but have done so gracefully and have maintained the charm and warmth that I remember from my last visit here. And Cremona has retained its charms as well.
Cremona is centrally located and makes for easy travel to many surrounding villages, towns, and cities. An hour south of Milan – we have used it as the base of our exploration of Italy and have visited Verona, Venice, Bergamo, Brescia, Lake Garda, Modena, Maranello, Pisa, and Rome. More importantly, Cremona is a delightful destination in its own right. Home to Antonio Stradivarius, the violinmaker, Cremona houses many of his creations. It is a musical town where one can expect to hear violins, accordions, flutes and other musical instruments echoing off the ancient city buildings and carrying down the narrow streets. A “small town” atmosphere exists in Cremona and one can expect friendly faces at the many stores and restaurants in town. A walkable city, Cremona allows one to wander from a football (soccer) game back into town, peeking into specialty shops to procure an assortment of meats, cheeses and wines before enjoying a glass of wine while outside and before returning home to prepare a meal of antipasto and fresh pasta with local sauce. The hospitality of the DalMonte’s has continued throughout our recent visit and I only hope we can again return the favor to them. Meals, day trips, and personal tours are only the beginning of the things they have done for us while we have been here and their kindness will make leaving Italy, and Cremona, especially hard. I trust it will not take me 29 years to make it back.