Cremona: walled cities
On a visit among castles and fortified citadels in the province of Cremona. Artistic beauties and historical curiosities
The Duchy of Milan to the west. Venice to the right. In between? Cremona. A war-torn area between opposing sides: first Visconti and Sforza against La Serenissima, then Spanish against French, French against Austrians… Eight centuries of battles, conquests, dominations and signorie.
Today, the province of Cremona is home to several fortified citadels, whose stories are just waiting to be discovered: a visit to these places is like travelling back through time. So where are the must-visit spots for a weekend trip?
There’s Castello Visconteo in Pandino for starters. Commissioned as a hunting residence by Bernabò Visconti in 1355, the outside of the castle is characterised by imposing defence towers, with the inside featuring stunning medieval decorations in near-perfect condition.
In Pizzighettone – which is surrounded by a full two kilometres of fully intact, fortified city walls – you can discover a veritable “city of war”. Every Saturday and Sunday, the Volunteers of the Wall will take you on guided tours of the city perimeter, which features casemates, a moat, an entrance gate, towers and prison cells, which have now become a museum.
Last but certainly not least, don’t miss the walled city of Soncino, dominated by the Rocca Sforzesca castle built in 1473. The walls conceal a medieval village considered one of the most beautiful in Italy: as you walk through its narrow streets, you can visit churches packed with works of art and a printing museum featuring collections of vintage machinery. The castle in Soncino – the perfect theatre of war – was used as a set for Ermanno Olmi’s film The Profession of Arms.
If you’re still hungry for something new, the nearby Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie is a splendid haven of peace, complete with 16th-century frescoes by Francesco Scanzi and Giulio Campi.