A Cheese Picnic in Cremona

Madame in Cremona with Bike

Italy Diary Part 3: I went to Cremona with a singular vision. I wanted to bike through the fields along the Po River and eat a cheese picnic. There were two reasons for this:

1. I read that the area around Cremona was “like Wisconsin” — a veritable dairy badlands.

2. I am addicted to mostarda, a mustardy cheese-loving condiment that was invented in Cremona.

Punch bowl of mostarda

So Monsieur Fromage and I took the train from Verona to Cremona, and our first stop was to the Formaggi d’Italia cheese shop on the Piazza del Commune. Lo, there was a punch bowl full of mostarda sitting in the window. The shop keepers laughed when they heard my piggy squeal.

Cremona Cheese Shop Owners

In Cremona, the mostarda is made from whole fruit — oranges, apricots, cherries. They’re candied, then infused with mustard oil. When you take a bite, your eyes water for a split second. It’s like eating fruit and wasabi. When you eat mostarda with strong cheese, like the region’s feisty Taleggio, your mouth turns into fireworks.

Taleggio Picnic in Cremona

Other villages, like Mantova, make mostarda, too, but they make it differently — with sliced fruit. I liked the Cremona style — at night, I found myself fishing glistening rounds of whole apricot out of fridge and eating them, jawbreaker-style.

In Cremona, everyone owns a Wizard of Oz bike. Little old ladies. Men in suits. Everyone’s got attitude and a basket. Even our room, at the lovely B&B Monteverdi, came with a set of rattletrap wonderwheels.

Bike at BB Monteverdi

Finding a bike path along the Po River, Italy’s longest scribble of water, was a cinch. We breezed through fields, through a camp ground, past old mills, through wee villages. It was remotely like Wisconsin. Maybe not as tacky?

In the future, I’d linger longer in Cremona and do a full-on gastronomy bike tour.

Monsieur Fromage along the Po RiverPo River views

Instead, we returned to town after a day of pedaling and worked our weary feet through the Stradivarius Museum. The violins under glass didn’t look very happy, though rumor has it they are played once a day.

Stradavarius MuseumStradavari's writing

I did love seeing the handwriting of old Stradivari himself as I hummed a little Beethoven to myself and considered my next morsel, the other famous sweet delight that orginates in Cremona: torrone!

Should you find yourself in Cremona:

  • Stay at B&B Monteverdi — it’s a whole apartment, and breakfast is delivered.
  • Go for Supper at Trattoria Il Bissone (ask for the marinated grape salad) and order a traditional meal of pork shoulder and polenta.
  • Drink an Aperol Spritz under the astrological clock in Piazza del Commune. The tourist office on the square is very helpful and offers bike maps.
  • Load up on stinky cheese, mostarda, and torrone.


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4 Responses to “A Cheese Picnic in Cremona”
  1. Such a fantastic trip! Thanks for taking us with you.

  2. Sam Frank says:

    Tenaya, next time you’re in Cremona, make sure you visit Cascina Lago Scuro: http://www.cascinalagoscuro.it/ENG/index.html. They’re a small farm right outside the city milking about twenty cows and making an incredible selection of traditional Lombardian and Piedmontese cheeses. They even have a small shop in the center of Cremona where you can buy all their cheeses, as well as other products they make on the farm like fresh bread, vegetables, salumi, etc: http://www.cascinalagoscuro.it/ENG/lospaccio.html.

    I had the good fortune of living and working at Lago Scuro for a month last summer. It was a wonderful experience. They’re great people, the farm is beautiful, and everything they make is absolutely incredible. Almost every afternoon I would spend hours biking throughout the countryside and along the Po. It was really living the dream.

    Have fun at ACS!

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