Under two hours from Milan, here bikes clatter along the cobbles as locals sip espressos in the town square. Home to 164 violin workshops, Cremona has a history of craftsmanship with professional musicians travelling there from around the world to commission local artisans to make bespoke violins. On average, a violin maker will only make 10 violins a year because the process is so time consuming - and the instrument will last a lifetime. As for sightseeing, head up the brick bell tower (the tallest in Europe) for views of the town and crowds flocking below. Here you'll find a handful of good restaurants, such as the appropriately named Il Violino which serves up four different types of risotto in spacious, deep-blue surrounds.
Where to stay: A 30-minute drive from Cremona, Villa Bottini is a 19th-century delight fit with huge iron beds and high ceilings. In the best rooms, guests are treated to views of mulberry or magnolia trees lining the park, which also features a lemon house and swimming pool.
The scene when: the family are relaxing in the villa, which is located just north of Cremona. Unfortunately the property is privately owned but it is currently for sale for €1.7 million for any super fans with cash to burn.