The name of Cremona is closely linked to that of Antonio Stradivari, a violinmaker who lived between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, perhaps the most famous violin maker in the world. These instruments that are still famous today for their excellent building quality and sound quality. More than three hundred years after the death of Stradivari, in the 150 shops that are still active in Cremona, violas, violins, cellos and guitars of the highest quality continue to be built. The local artisans pass on from father to son their knowledge and the secrets of an art (the "Know how for being a lutist") that Unesco in 2012 recognized as an "Intangible Heritage of Humanity".
The profession of “luthier” (lute maker), which began to develop in Cremona in the 16th century, involved entire families in the production and restoration of stringed instruments (violins, violas, cellos and double basses). The classical Cremonese lute making has maintained characteristics and modalities similar to those of the sixteenth century. The construction of a violin, in fact, is a completely manual work, which requires a long apprenticeship in a workshop under the guidance of a teacher (preceded today by a specific course of study) to learn to perfectly assemble over 70 pieces of wood for each instrument. Two identical violins don't exist and will never exist and each part of the instrument is made with a specific type of wood, carefully selected and naturally seasoned.
An essential starting point for a trip whose purpose is to discover "how to become a luthier" according to traditional Cremonese method, is to visit the Violin Museum (here you can find information on accessibility) which shows five centuries of Cremonese violin-making history with some valuable Stradivarian finds, a sort of reconstruction of a workshop. Inside the museum there are two collections of priceless value: the "Treasury", which contains 12 of the most significant instruments of the great Cremonese liutist school (the most ancient one, the so-called Carlo IX by Andrea Amati dates back to 1566) and the "Friends of Stradivari" collection, a permanent exhibition of important instruments of the great Cremonese masters (Stradivari, Amati and Guarnieri) belonging to public and private collections from all over the world. Moreover, it is possible to attend auditions of ancient instruments, which are played by excellent soloists at the Giovanni Arvedi Auditorium.
The calendar of the auditions can be consulted by visiting the museum website
After visiting the museum of the violin, we suggest visiting some of the 150 shops that are still active in Cremona, which keep the tradition of the great masters of the past alive. The Consorzio Liutai “Antonio Stradivari" Cremona proposes visits to the workshops, during which the Violin Masters illustrate the main steps of creating a handicraft production of stringed instruments. The visit lasts about an hour and it is organized for individuals or groups or schools, up to a maximum of 10-12 people per group. For larger groups, visits to several shops are organized at the same time. The visits can be in Italian and in other foreign languages; advance payment is required.
The violin shops that offer this service are all located in the historic centre of Cremona, near the main monuments and places of interest.
The "Consorzio Liutai" can also organize visits for people with disabilities: it is necessary to contact the Secretariat in advance to communicate the specific needs of visitors and all useful information for a good organization of the visit. In case of motor disabilities, laboratories with accessible entrance are proposed; however, in the workshops there is no possibility to have a seat or other supports and usually the visit to the workshop takes place on foot.
For information and reservations, please contact: Consortium "Antonio Stradivari" Liutai Cremona
Piazza Stradivari, 1 Cremona
Tel. +39 0372 463503
Fax +39 0372 464490
The last stop of this itinerary is Stradivari House, the building that was the workshop and home of Antonio Stradivari at the beginning of his career; this is the place where his first children and his first instruments were born. The house is now privately owned and is located in the old town of Cremona (Corso Garibaldi 57). The current owner has opened to the public the courtyard and the two rooms on the first floor, where exhibitions, cultural events and concerts are organized. To reach the first floor you pass a narrow and steep staircase of 16 steps. Free admission. The opening hours correspond to those of the shop on the ground floor: Tuesday to Saturday 10.00 / 12.30 - 16.00 / 19.30; on Sundays and during the Christmas period the house is open for events / exhibitions.
For information, please contact:
Corso Garibaldi, 57 Cremona
Tel. +39 0372 30500
In collaboration with the Municipality of Cremona, every year Casa Stradivari organizes the exhibition "Sguardo ConCorde - Serenata al balcone". A series of free concerts of stringed instruments, in which performers play from the balcony, while the audience sits on chairs placed along the street, in a pedestrian area.
This is the link to get more information on the program