Тhe travel blog of Michael

5 reasons to visit the birthplace of the violin

Cremona is a small city in northern Italy and is famous as the number one center of violin makers in the world. This art has been handed down through the centuries and lives on to this day. Built on the banks of Italy's most important river, it's relevance in trade and commerce led to it's great significance in the development of the world of art and music.

The Museum of Violins

This modern museum showcases the history of the violin and the intricate art of it's making. Up to date technology and intricate displays, all accompanied by wonderful music, immerse you into this captivating world. The museum houses a large collection of string instruments including some very priceless pieces. A daily concert featuring one of these famous violins being played by a skilled violinist is an important part of the tour.

The Violin Academy

This international violin making school was first established in 1938 and now represents this important Italian artisanal craft in the world. In this 16th century Palazzo, the old masters of violin making take it upon themselves to pass on this intricate art to the new generations from all over the world. The courses last four years and every step is done by hand and as close to the traditional procedures as possible. It is wonderful to realize that in this age of technology, we still have young people with such enthusiasm for an ancient craft.

The violin workshops

Getting lost amidst the ancient streets of Cremona will lead you into the daily world of the violin. You may walk down a quite lane and hear the music of the violins around you as they are being tested in one of the many workshops dotted around the city. In these shops the violins are being made or restored, and the sound and scents of their presence are part of the daily life of the city.

The big tower

Il Torrazzo, symbol of Cremona, is the third tallest brickwork bell tower in the world. The large clock is unusually positioned towards the base of the tower and is the largest astronomical clock in the world. Even from it's famous symbol, the city is immersed in the sound of celestial music when the seven bells are rung.


During a visit to Cremona one cannot but indulge in tasting their famous "torrone". Originally made in the shape of their famous bell tower, now it is made in all shapes and sizes. This remarkable nougat can be white or chocolate, with roasted nuts kept together by a sweet paste made with honey, sugar and meringue. Passed down through the ages, it is an explosion of pleasure for your taste buds.

Anna Moggia is Owner of Boutique Hotel Zenana.

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Special feature Hazel Brow, Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales, UK

Situated in the village of Low Row in Swaledale, Hazel Brow - seen here in the centre of the photograph - is a beautiful property with period features and lots of character. It was built by a local landowner in 1860 andtoday sleeps up to 15 people on a self-catering basis, making it perfect for family re-unions, birthday celebrations, special anniversaries and trips away with friends, whether it be for a short break or something longer.

Perched halfway up the north-western side of the valley, the property enjoys fabulous views across picture-postcard Yorkshire Dales scenery.

Inside, on the ground floor, there is a lounge to the right with comfy sofas, a TV and an open fire (kindling and firewood is provided)...

...and an elegant dining room to the left. Both of these rooms enjoy the same great view across Swaledale.

Also on the ground floor is a well-equipped kitchen with an Aga, stove, coffee maker and more...

...and, just off from that, is a small pantry where we found a thoughtful welcome basket with a variety of complimentary local goodies, from Yorkshire tea and Taylors of Harrogate coffee to Swaledale cheese and homemade loganberry and rhubarb jam.

Downstairs there is also a snug with a piano, fireplace and another TV, and beyond it a boot room (equipped with awashing machineand tumble dryer) and shower which is perfect for hosing down your dog after a muddy walk. Pets are welcome at Hazel Brow but are kindly asked to stay on the east side of the ground floor.

Upstairs there are two further floors where a variety of bedrooms and bathrooms can be found, including one four poster...

...and a bath with a view!

A great deal of thought has clearly been put into the dcor and all the bedrooms are furnished in keeping with the various period details of the property.


There are 8 bedrooms in total - there is just one single room on the top floor but all the others are doubles or twins.

Outside, a lockable garage is available should you wish to store anything such as bicycles securely.

The owner, Cath Calvert, has clearly put a lot of work into ensuringthe property is kept beautifully presented and, despite its various nooks and crannies, meticulously cleaned. Not only is it inviting, but Cath also lives locally which can be re-assuring should you find you ever need anything. She also keeps three alpacas (Larch, Apollo and Aramis) in the field overlooked by the property- for a walk with a difference, we recommend that you ask her if you can go on an alpaca trek... you will not regret the experience with these lovely creatures!


A patio and barbecue area offers an ideal space to contemplate and take in the local area.

On top of the other side of the valley are three trees known locally as ‘The Three Sisters'.

The River Swale - England's fastest flowing river - is on the vallely bottom a short stroll away, and our boys enjoyed trying out their remote-controlled boat in gentler-flowing eddies.

There are lots of walks you can enjoy directly from the property or from the villages nearby. On one occasion we headed up Gunnerside Gill which would have been frequented by hundreds of workers from the lead mines in years gone by.

For those who prefer to get around on two wheels rather than by foot, the Dales Bike Centre at Reeth is worth a visit (if only for the cake!).And for local pubs, we'd recommend the Punchbowl Inn at Low Row, within walking distance of the accommodation, for its food.

Itis excellent by pub grub standards -the specials at the time of our visit included braised beef tenderloin with herb dumpling, celeriac and kale; cornfed chicken with butternut squash, spinach and chorizo (pictured); and local shank of lamb with dauphinoise potato, kale and lamb jus.

Other - perhaps more traditional - pubs can be found at Gunnerside (The Kings Head) and Reeth (various). We found the Kings Arms in Reeth to be particularly dog friendly, with our Springer enjoying all manner of treats, including biscuits and even some left-over ham from the kitchen.

For those wishing to go further afield, the likes of Leyburn and Hawes are both less than 15 miles away. Also within easy reach is England's highest pub (Tan Hill Inn), highest railway station (Dent) and highest waterfall (Hawdraw).In short, there is no shortage of things to do but, at the same time, this is alsoa place where it isvery easy to simply relax and do very little. The charm of thelandscape and location is such that it has probably changed very little over the years and will probably remain much the same for many years to come. If you are getting away to unwind and do nothing, just bring a good book, curl up by the fire and enjoy the fact that you are out of mobile signal!

Disclosure: Our stay was courtesy of Hazel Brow.

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