Cremona is located on the left bank of the Po River, which is the longest river in Italy. It starts in the Alps and flows in a generally West-to-East direction across all of northern Italy, before emptying into the Adriatic Sea near Venice.
Since I live in Germany I suppose I should mention that in German the word Po means butt, bum or backside, so if the Germans start sniggering when they come to this river you will know why. A popular form of gymnastics in Germany for young or not-so-young women is called “BBP” meaning Beine Bauch Po (Legs Belly Butt) as it is intended to get those parts of the body firmed up. Numerous BBP courses are offered at the adult education centers all over Germany.
When I mentioned this on the now-defunct website VirtualTourist (R.I.P.), I was informed by other members that in England this kind of gymnastics is called LBT = Legs, Bums & Tums, and that in Australia many years ago, when chamber pots were in use, the colloquial term for them in Australia was a ‘po’.
To cycle from Cremona to Busseto you first have to cross the Po River on this long bridge, which fortunately has a separate lane for pedestrians and cyclists. (It makes funny noises when you ride across it, but as far as I know it’s perfectly safe.)
After coming off the bridge you soon come to these signs pointing to the hiking, strolling and cycling route along the right bank of the Po River. There is no sign pointing to Busseto, but since the direction was right I took it, and it turned out to be an excellent and virtually car-free cycling route.
Here’s a sign marking the percurso ciclotouristico (cycling tourists’ route) “Via Po”, showing that it is open to hikers and strollers (note that they have two different symbols for these) and of course for cyclists, but off limits to cars. This route goes along a dike which is not directly on the river bank, but a ways inland, sort of a second line of defense against flooding.
There is a smooth asphalt surface along the dike for ten kilometers or more. Eventually the surface turns to gravel, but continue on until you reach a place called Ongina, which is where the opera composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) used to raise horses. Turn right there, and ride south along a stream, also called the Ongina, to reach Villa Verdi and later Verdi’s home town, Busseto.
On my way back from Busseto to Cremona by bicycle I tried a slightly different route, which I won’t recommend because it turned out to be something of a detour, but it did have the advantage of getting me into the picturesque village of Soarza, which belongs to the municipality of Villanova sull’Arda in the Province of Piacenza (which is in the region Emilia-Romagna).
In 1998 three “late middle-aged” Canadian couples took a bicycle tour through this part of Italy, and their diary entry for Day 12 (now no longer on the web) includes this mention of Soarza:
“Day 12 (77 km): We headed east on a sunny Sunday, taking back roads wherever we could. In the village of Soarza we were entertained by the beautiful sounds of the church bells. We stopped for a glass of wine at a cafe where all the local men were sitting in very vocal conversation. They were quite interested in our bikes (and our wives!)”
When I came through at the end of March the fruit trees were just starting to blossom.
If for some reason you didn’t want to go by bicycle, you could also take a train from Cremona to Busseto along this single-track electrified line, which was built during Verdi’s lifetime and was carefully planned to avoid crossing any of his land holdings north of Busseto. The journey from Cremona to Busseto takes anywhere from 18 to 27 minutes, and there are trains every hour or two during the day.
This is my 350th blog post here on operasandcycling.com.
My photos in this post are from 2008. I revised the text in 2018.