When my sister-in-law came to visit in December she asked for recommendations for places to visit on a day outing and I advised her to go to Cremona and Mantova. I have wanted to brush up my memory of Cremona ever since she came back and said she had really liked the town. So, with beautiful weather now available, I decided to forego an hour's extra sleep last Saturday and take the early train to Cremona.
My usual bicycle was at the workshop and so was the strong chain that I use to secure it, so I rode another bike to the station and had no choice but to use another flimsy chain. I locked the bike to a post in front of the ticket office, hoping that the prominent place would discourage bicycle thieves, who have become rampant of late especially in the area around the train station. It took me two hours to reach Cremona, and used the time to finish reading a book about the events leading up to WW1. It was a boring 750 page long book, that I was reluctant to give up out of moral commitment, but certain reconstructions of events were so detailed as to sound more like gossip-mongering than history. The most interesting point was when I realised that the last 200 pages were indexes, notes and references which I wouldn't have to read!
In Cremona I walked down the Corso up to the monumental Cathedral square. The Torrazzo bell tower, the tallest steeple in Europe according to the plaque on the monument, cast a shadow over the street market in the misty morning air. It was really impressive and I made a decision to climb to its top – I would certainly be able to take beautiful shots from above. So, after a gad round the centre, I entered the ticket office. The man looked at the watch on the wall and said that with only less than 30 minutes before closing I'd have enough time, but I would have to make haste.
I paid the fee and tackled the wide staircase. From the first level a balcony gave onto the church square encumbered by the colourful market stalls and people still making last minute purchases. I returned inside and climbed more steps. The windows on the four sides offered views that were more and more panoramic over the cathedral roofs, its pinnacles and the flat town centre all made of brick buildings. It was great, but there was a problem: the windows were barred by an iron railing and a fine-mesh iron net on the inside. There was no way I could take photos through that exaggerated protection.
I go to Cremona to visit and take photos. I want to climb the steeple, but I make an inexcusable blunder.
I climbed up and got to a point where the staircase forked. On the right there were two people admiring the view, on the left the staircase still went up a flight of steps on the end of which it was barred by a door. In any case all the windows had the same railings. I was disappointed and thought I would complain to the man at the office. The only photos I could take were thanks to the mobile phone camera whose small lens fitted between the meshes.
I told the ticket seller what a bad idea it had been to fit those view-blocking railings on all the openings. The man looked surprised and said that there were no railings at the top level. Then he asked: "Where did you get up to?" and I described the little door on the left-hand stairs. With a smile he said I should have pushed the door and gone up a few flights more to reach the top. "You have missed the best!", he added.
The tower was about to close for lunch break. He was willing to let me up again in the afternoon for free, but it would open after two hours and I had my train to catch. I just went away thinking that I should never have asked and stay happy with the views, behind bars, that I had enjoyed from above. At least my bike was still waiting for me untouched in front of the ticket office.