TREVIGLIO is Lombard; its neighbour Crema, previously like her larger namesake Cremona a fief of the Visconti of Milan, was held from 1449 until 1797 by Venice,
and a Venetian orientation can still be sensed in this most charming of cities in the Lombard plain. ‘Few people visit Crema,’ John Addington Symonds observed in Sketches in Italy of 1879. This is still the case.
Crema should be approached from the west through Faustino Rodi’s elegant Arco di Porta Ombriano put up in place of the original gate in 1805. The great campanile of the Duomo is already in sight. The street, now the Via XX Settembre, has an air of unassertive well-being. Soon on the left you pass the chromatic rendered façade of the church of the Trinità by a local architect, Andrea Nono, which was completed in 1740. Further on a road on the right leads to the ambitious Palazzo Virmercati Sanseverino (1592–1602) and a group of other mansions that testify to the long prosperity of Venetian rule. Return to the main
road and continue towards the Torazzo – a clock tower above an arch with the lion of Saint Mark in place – of the Palazzo del Comune, behind which the Duomo can already be seen. This is a characteristic Lombard brick construction, begun in 1284 and finished in 1341, and for Symonds no other building of the type was more beautiful. The façade is much higher than the body of the church, while the wonderful campanile, which rises to an octagon, is at the east end; as Symonds wrote, this is of ‘the grace-fullest, most airily capricious fancy’
Continue eastwards. From the last turn on the right before Piazza Garibaldi can be seen the grandiloquent but unfinished baroque Palazzo Terni de’Gregori Bondetti, whose Piacentine architect, Giuseppe Cozzi, knew exactly how to exploit the lateral viewpoint; opposite the palazzo is the Museo Civico. The Piazza Garibaldi is closed with a second arch of 1805 by Rodi, the Arco di Porta Serio. From here a road lined by planes leads after more than a kilometre to the great monument of Renaissance Crema, the sanctuary of Santa Maria della Croce.
The original architect, Giovanni Battagio (1490–3), was strongly influenced by Bramante, and there are few more satisfying brick structures in his style; Symonds understandably admired ‘its tranquil dignity and harmony of parts’. Externally circular and rising to a dome, with extensions at the arms of the cross of which that on the south side is the principal entrance, the church is octagonal within. The presbytery is raised above a crypt. That the decoration is later reminds us of the trouble relatively small communities had finding money for such projects. The frame above the high altar is dated 1499, but it was not until some two decades later that the altarpiece was supplied. The lesser Venetian painter Benedetto Diana’s Assumption of the Virgin is his masterpiece: the aged Virgin, dressed in deep blue, is set against a glowing yellow ground and flanked by angels emerging from clouds touched with butterscotch and bronze, while the apostles stand below, their paler robes, in which pink and reds and greens predominate, contrasting with the slate grey of the classical architecture behind. Diana was no protagonist. He reacts to the achievement of greater men. And at Crema he rose to the occasion.