During the stopover at Genoa roads for Jack to report to Lord Keith about his success in the convoy duty to Cagliari and Leghorn, Jack and Stephen decided to take a side trip up to Cremona
They knew that the town of Cremona was known as the cradle of violin making, as three famous violin makers were all situated in one block of Cremona.
Jack and Stephen both knew that Nicola Amati was the first master violin craftsman and that over the course of time he took two apprentices under his wing. They were Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri. They became skilled craftsmans in their own right and later set up shop in the same block of Cremona as Nicola Amati.
Jack and Stephen hired a couple of sturdy steeds and headed out of Genoa for the 120 Km or so trek to Cremona. They took off in a north-north-easterly direction to stay out of the more mountainous area northeast of Genoa. After riding about 45 Km they then headed on an east-north-easterly direction toward Piacenza. They and their steeds starting to tire now, they rode on only for another 45 Km where they arrived in Piacenca, a town built by the Romans on the south bend of the Po river. Evening was approaching so they decided to do a little sightseeing and stop for the night to rest.
The highlight of their sightseeing was the Palazzo del Commune. Stephen was estatic over the Lombard gothic architecture style with its marble base and brick walls. Jack, being a lover of equestrian art, was overwhelmed by the beauty of the 15th century equestrian statues by Farneses. They both described the beauty they saw to each other, but as usual, neither were listening to each other as they talked.
After a good meal and a few glasses of local Italian wine, they retired for the night. They both slept soundly, especially Jack, even though they were eager to get going for the last leg of their journey to Cremona.
They started out early in the morning for the last 20 Km part of their journey to Cremona. As the Po river wound thru the country side between Piacenca and Cremona, they had to ford the river a couple of times or be forced to take lengthy detours. During the ride they discussed which family they thought was the best violin maker. Jack thought it would be the Stradivari family. Stephen disagreed and said his choice would be the Guarneri family. Neither one would give in and it was never settled when they arrived in Cremona. They both concured that maybe the visits to the shops would settle the disagreement.
They arrived at Cremona and Stephen, being the linguist, asked one of the inhabitants for directions to their "street of dreams" where the violin makers hang out. After making a few wrong turns, Jack and Stephen arrived on the "street of dreams". As they arrived at the first shop, Stradivari's, it was closed. They forgot that it was August and everyone was on vacation. However, the shop had a sign that said "We make the best violins in Italy!" Jack said "See Stephen, I told you that he was the best violin maker." Stephen wouldn't concede and they strolled down the street to Guarneri's shop where a sign hung out proudly that said "We make the best violins in the World!" Stephen was estatic and gloated over Jack's choice. At that point Jack conceded with the idea that Amati, the man who started it all, couldn't top that.
However since they had decided to take in all the shops, Jack and Stephen sauntered down the street to Amati's shop. As they arrived and looked up at his sign, they were both looked crestfallen as Amati's sign read "We make the best violins on the block!".
© 1998 Jim Trent