Off the Beaten Path in Cremona, Lodi, and Piedmont
19 November 2016
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Cremona & Lodi
The wall belt, built between 1488 and 1508, strongly influenced the city structure. The only traces of the walls surviving today are some small wall sections and the 13th century Torre Civica (City Tower), now part of the Palazzo Comunale, the city’s town hall.
The Soncino old town centre is completely enclosed within a wall belt, two kilometres long, reinforced with towers and a moat, that connects with the 15th century Rocca Sforzesca, regarded as one of the most important military fortifications of Lombardy, built to defend the river Oglio.
The residential area of Pizzighettone too is enclosed within a system of fortifications, widely regarded as one of the best preserved of Northern Italy. Pizzighettone stands beside the river Adda and its walls have a perimeter of more than 5 km. The visit to the fortifications includes a visit to the casemates, a series of large buildings covered by vaults and a walk along all of the perimeter with the doors, the ravelling, the remains of the stronghold and the prisons. The Torre del Guado tower is particularly important because there, in 1525, the King of France, Francis I was imprisoned.
The three towns, Crema, Soncino and Pizzighettone are connected by a cycling track which runs almost entirely across protected natural areas.
The majestic castle Castello Visconteo in Pandino, whose building was ordered by Bernabò Visconti still today impresses the visitors with its amazing “fortified palace” look. The building is square, with strong, massive defence towers but in the inside it has airy and elegant porticos, still massively decorated with 14th century paintings. It is one of the many castle-mansions that decorate the landscape and many of the towns on the Northwest/Southeast axis in the Cremona Province with their massive presence.
In the centre of the town of S. Giovanni in Croce stands the massive Villa Medici del Vascello, built in 1407 as a defence stronghold by Cabrino Fondulo, lord of Cremona, and later transformed in an elegant mansion by Cecilia Gallerani, the well known Lady with an Ermine painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.
A bit further away, in Casteldidone, Villa Mina della Scala, now renamed Villa Douglas Scotti, is a peculiar noble mansion shaped like a towered castle, was built at the end of the 16th century and expanded later on.
In Romprezzagno, a hamlet of Tornata, the tiny residential area develops around Cascina Bellotti, a building of medieval origin, rebuilt in the shape of a castle in 1465 and later on transformed in a building for agricultural purposes. This building is a token of the power that the family of local lord could exercise because of the massive extent of the estate they owned.
Other areas of the Cremona territory feature a type of quite common fortification built for centuries to defend water-rich and very fertile lands. This is the case for the area around Castelverde, where many buildings devoted to residential and agricultural use still bear the sings of the original fortification: Villa Schinchinelli in Cavallara, Villa Sommi Picenardi in Licengo and Villa Vernazzi in Ossalengo. In addition to these areas there is also the castle in Breda de’ Bugni, with two fortified towers and a spacious, airy 17th century courtyard.
The Cascina Mancapane in S. Martino in Beliseto features a facade built at the beginning of the 19th century with a late medieval Spanish style, in tune with the medieval revival trend quite common in the Cremona area at that times, a revival that led to the building, thanks to the work of Luigi Voghera, of Villa Sommi Picenardi in Torre Picenardi and of the Castle, one of the most important examples of eclectic architecture, in S. Lorenzo Picenardi.
You say ‘Via Lattea’ and you are not thinking of the stars, but rather of the 400 km of the 212 bright white slopes accessible from the 69 lifts at Sauze d’Oulx, Cesana-Sansicario, Clavière and Sestriere, the highest municipality in Italy and where this year the 2016-2017 Piedmont season on the snow will open with a bang: the first Italian stage of the World Cup will take place on 10 and 11 December. The strongest downhill women skiers in the world ranking will face a giant slalom and a super-G on the legendary Kandahar Giovanni A. Agnelli. Plans include a tribune for 600 people, live Mondovision transmission, hospitality area for accredited athletes’ fan clubs, ski schools and ski clubs, sponsor village open to the public, tourist packages and free tickets. Theme aperitifs, après-ski, torch-light processions, music and all-night parties will enliven Sestriere during these 3 days dedicated to the Alpine Skiing World Cup.
Just a stone’s throw to Bardonecchia Ski, the passion of downhillers and snowboarders with 100 km of slopes and the fantastic Snowpark. The whole Val di Susa is easy to reach by train or car – only 90 km from Turin.
Altogether, the region totals over 1300 km of slopes for all levels of preparation, 300 lift plants, 14 snow parks, excellent accommodations, cutting edge lift technology and a well-equipped network of shelters. These are all diffused through four districts, sport and nature, alpine foothill atmospheres and flavours, ready for slow or adrenaline rush mode discovery in magnificent scenarios surrounded by peaks, ready for fun and wellness: NeveAzzurra – snowboard, freestyle & lifestyle in the seven resorts at the foot of Monte Rosa and the Mottarone, in Verbano, with Macugnaga, Devero and Domobianca and the Walser culture, Monteriosa Ski, in Valsesia – the free-ride paradise, an unlimited skiable domain at the foot of Monte Rosa between Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta, with Alagna and Mera, Alpi Winter Resort – the mega snow park with the slopes and the lifts of the 2006 Turin Olympics and Mondolè Ski – Riserva Bianca, in the province of Cuneo – the place for crazy parties on the snow with cocktails, music and barbecues, with Limone, Artesina and Prato Nevoso among others.
Near the Olympic Mountains, the small well-equipped resorts in the Canavese and Lanza valleys are particularly apt for those who want a vacation characterised by sport, calm and immaculate environment (Balme; Ceresole Reale and Palit, in sunny, panoramic positions).
On the Prealps in the province of Biella, in the Oasis Zegna natural park, Bielmont offers special days on the snow for experts and beginners with special attention to the needs of families and children for a perfect vacation on 20 km of downhill slopes, 9 lifts and 20 km of trails for cross-country.
Not far away, you can get into the Val Grande national park, the largest wilderness area in Europe that has surprises in store even in the winter, starting with Zilpline: it will be hard to resist the challenge of launching yourself at 120 km/h hanging from the cable that links Pian d’Arla to Alpe Segletta (functions on the weekend and during Xmas holidays for the winter season).
When that crisp air whets the appetite, then the age old intermingling of the Piedmont Terre Alte traditions with the Occitan, Walser and Waldensian traditions turns up at the table in scrumptious Alpine dishes based on steaming polenta with an aromatic repertory of salted specialities of pork and other meats, and Alpine cheeses, happily accompanied by one of the 18 mountain labels of DOC Alto Piemonte, heroic wines from the ancient terracing in the Susa valley or the Ossolane valleys.