City and History


The Lombardy region in northern Italy, the second most important city after Milan, is the administrative area of the Province of Brescia. With a population of approximately 190,000 , Brescia is a major industrial and commercial center, with thriving mechanical and automotive engineering and machine tool industries lying at the heart of Italy’s third-largest industrial cluster.

Brescia has never been a sovereign region. Aside from a brief period of autonomy in the 12th century, Brescia has been under the rule of other states. Once regarded as the fortress of the Roman Empire before the 1st century B.C., Brescia subsequently came under the rule of the Lombard Kingdom, Verona, Milan, the Principality of Venice, and Austria. It was until the reunification of Italy in 1860 that the city officially became the dominion of Italy.

While the Brescia today is very much a major industrialized commercial city in Italy, it was once an important center for musical instrument making. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Brescia was famous for the production of both stringed instruments and organs. The city’s instrument makers received a steady flow of orders for viols and violins, and trained a large number of apprentices; there was a constant striving to create instruments of even higher quality. Despite the epidemics in the 17th century that put an end to this glorious era, we can still picture the elegance of Brescia back then through the extant historical records.

The origin of Brescia’s instrument-making industry is still shrouded in mystery to this day. Nobody knows how a city with no nearby mountains and harbor could have actually developed the tradition of instrument-making industry. What we do know, is that instrument making began in Brescia at a very early day, and that it enjoyed a reputation as an important center for the trade in musical instruments for centuries. The earliest reference to violin-making in Brescia dates from the Renaissance, March 1495, when Isabella d’Este (1474–1539) of the ruling family of Mantua ordered a batch of instruments from an anonymous Brescian craftsman. The instruments included two viols of different sizes. It is probable to assume that the instrument-making industry in Brescia had already won great reputation at this time, which explains why it was much favored among music lovers in the royal family. The development of the violin could be seen as a natural progression in Brescia since the city had already had a strong tradition of stringed-instrument making. Under the sedulous endeavor of master craftsmen such as Pellegrino di Zanotto De Micheli (c. 1520–c. 1606), Gasparo Bertolotti da Salò (1540–1609), and Giovanni Paolo Maggini (1580–c. 1630/1631), the instrument began to take shape, bringing forth the birth of the violin that would also prophesy the oncoming golden age of the instrument a century later.

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School and Family:Brescia


Cremona is located in northern Italy today, adjoining the Po River. The city was established in 218 B.C. by the Romans as a military outpost. Around the 11th century, Cremona gradually showed great importance in transportation and commercial functions owing to its well-developed river communications, which boosted the city’s prosperity.

In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, Cremona had close ties with Venice, and became one of the major centers of cultural activity during the Renaissance. The city’s advanced river system facilitated the transport of wood from mountains to other regions, which helped to stimulate the growth of the local violin-making industry.

The manufacturing of musical instruments in Cremona began in the 1520s. According to legend, the luthier Giovanni Leonardo da Martinengo and his student Andrea Amati (c. 1505-1577) moved to Cremona from Brescia to set up a workshop in town, and since then opened up the great dynasty of violin-making in Cremona. A dramatic increase in commercial activity during the Renaissance period steadily expanded the violin market. Despite the outbreak of wars and plagues in the early 17th century that slowed down the industry’s development, the Cremona school was brought to a new peak once again under the hard effort of Nicolò Amati (1596-1684), who continuously cultivated many outstanding violinmakers, such as Francesco Ruggeri (c. 1620-1698), Andrea Guarneri (1626-1698), etc. Following the death of the great Brescian violinmaker Giovanni Paolo Maggini (c.1580–c.1630), the center of the Italian violin-making industry shifted from Brescia to Cremona, and by the mid-17th century, violins made in Cremona were much more valuable than those made in Brescia. During the time of Antonio Stradivari (c. 1644-1737), the Cremona school of violin-making technique was brought to a peak of perfection, winning the reputation of the best violin-making industry in Italy and around the world.

The Cremona school exerted a major influence on the subsequent history of violin making. Numerous individual workshops that followed the traditional technique of violin making can be found on the streets in town. Cremona not only has a Museo Stradivariano with collections of famous violins by Amati, Guarneri and Stradivari, but also an internationally recognized as the most reputed violin-making school, Scuola Internazionale di Liuteria “Antonio Stradivari”. Although it is not a major city of great economic growth in Italy, Cremona’s outstanding violin-making industry has indubitably marked a splendid page in the history of violin.

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School and Family:Cremona


Ferrara is located in the region of Emilia in northern Italy. Its musical history can be divided into two periods, reflecting its political and cultural history. The first period was under the reign of the Esterházy family from 1240 to 1597.

The Esterházy family was one of the main families that patronized musical activities during the Renaissance. (Its family tree can be traced from the 9th century to the 19th century). Its rulers included Borso (1413-1471), Ercole I (1431-1505), and Alfonso I (1476-1534). Between 1400 and 1700, the family was especially enthusiastic in supporting musical events and this made the Ferrara court one of the most important musical centers after the 15th century. In 1598, the Esterházy family was released from their governing power by the Pope and moved to Modena. Ferrara then came under the governance of the Papal States.

Since then Ferrara became part of the Papal States and this marked the beginning of the second period of its musical history. Although local music lost its autonomy, it continued to flourish and develop. Ferrara became an important site for the development of theater and instrumental music. In terms of the development of theater, between the years 1605 and 1610, two theater houses were designed by local architects and built in Ferrara. These two theaters were built for the purpose of competition; the interior consisted of numerous big boxes and three, four rows of seats arranged in the shape of a horseshoe. The seats close to the stage were reserved for the aristocrats, and those towards the back were offered to foreign visitors and middle class audiences. This reflected the social structure at the time, and the design of the theater was also a precursor to the modern opera house. Various competitions, drama pieces, and musical events were held in celebration of the completion of the two theaters.

After 1638, Ferrara began to invent certain theater equipment, such as machines for moving the stage and shifting scenes, adding numerous possibilities to the content of the plays. These acts of creativity soon spread to other parts of Italy. The oldest theater in Italy today with a mobile stage was built following the model of the Ferrara theaters. The development of instrumental music was another important goal for the city of Ferrara. The establishment of art schools and frequent outdoor concerts provided a healthy environment for instrumental music to prosper.

The rich musical and cultural activities in Ferrara helped to attract many famous luthiers, such as Alessandro Mezzadri (1690-1734), Giuseppe Marconcini (1774-1841), F. Maurizi, Luigi Soffritti (1860-1896) and his son Ettore Soffritti (1877-1928).


Many distinguished violin makers gathered in Florence during the 19th century, among which included Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731), Giovanni Battista Gabrielli, who was active during the years 1740-1770, and Lorenzo and Tommaso Carcassi, active from 1750-1780. Of the same school, Pier Lorenzo Vangelisti (fc1700-1745), Gasparo Piattellini (fl. c. 1738-c. 1780) and Luigi Piattellini continued their craft well into the 1800’s.

It was rumored that Cristofori was a disciple of Nicolo Amati. Although he made relatively few instruments, he inherited the tradition of the Cremona school of violin, making which featured bigger sizes and refined craftsmanship. However, his successors Gabrielli and the Carcassi Brothers tended to follow the German style popular at the time. The German school of violinmaking was widely adopted by many luthiers during the 18th century and received great acclaim. Gabrielli tried to stay within the boundaries of an ostentatious style, but the Carcassi Brothers took another direction.

By the 19th century, the number of luthiers working in Florence had gradually decreased. The three most famous luthiers that remained in Florence and established shops were Lorenzo Arcangioli (fc.1820-1850), Valentino de Zorzi (1837-1916), and Giuseppe Scarampella (1838-1885). They were extremely influential in shaping the modern violin making style of Florence.


A city and seaport in northwest Italy, Genoa’s violin making industry developed late because it had always imported string instruments from its neighboring city Turin. It was not until after 1700 that Genoa gradually produced its own luthiers such as Jacobus Philippus Cordanus, Bernardo Calcagno, Angelo Molia, Giuseppe Cavaleri, but in terms of craftmanship they could not compete with the luthiers in Turin.

Between 1800 and 1900, the virtuosic violinist Paganini made signifcant contributions to the musical development in Genoa. Antonio Gibertini (1797-1866), a contemporary and close friend of Paganini, was a famous luthier known for his superior craftsmanship.

Giuseppe Rocca from Turin and Nicolo Bianchi (1796-1881) began to lead the way for the Genoa school of violin making. Between the years 1840 and 1915, Eugenio Praga and Enrico Rocca elevated the violin making culture of Genoa to a new level.

By the end of the 19th century, the Candi brothers, Cesare Candi and Oreste Candi (1865-1938), continued the luthier tradition into the 20th century. Paolo de Barbieri, the Candi brother’s pupil and nephew, together with Giuseppe Lecchi (1895-1967) and Lorenzo Bellafontana (1906-1979) established a new school for Italian violin making.

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School and Family:Genoa


Situated in northern Italy, Mantua was an important music center during the Renaissance. According to relevant documents, musical activities in Mantua could be traced back to the Middle Ages. The musical events were sponsored by the Gonzaga family and as early as the 14th century, Mantua was well known throughout Italy for the making of woodwind (piffari) and brass (trombetti) instruments. Due to the superior skills displayed by many instrumentalists, organists, singers, and dancers from Mantua, they were actively sought after by music courts both within and outside Italy. Having a tradition of theater performances also provided many types of new music for the local music scene. Moreover, the teaching of music theory was also popular in Mantua.

Toward the end of the 15th century, the musical culture of Mantua was deeply influenced by Isabella d’Este (1474-1539), duchess of the Gonzaga court. She actively participated and sponsored music and art events, popularizing many genres such as the frottola, strambotto, ode, and sonnet, and asked musicians to combine various musical forms with these literary genres. Many exceptional musicians, including Bartolomeo Tromboncino (1470-1534) and Marchetto Cara (1465-1525), were employed as court musicians in the Gonzaga court.

In the beginning of the 16th century, Francesco II (1466-1519) brought a golden age to the court of Gonzaga. He built a cathedral inside the court, which provided numerous opportunities for many contemporary musicians of the day and for many years to come. Francesco II also actively fostered musical activities and performances. His successor Duke Vincenzo I (1562-1612) also considered music as an indispensable part of life, and hence participated in and promoted musical events with great enthusiasm. He held concerts every Friday evening in the court, which not only featured church music and chamber music, but also theater drama such as Claudio Monteverdi’s (1567-1643) Orfeo (1607) and Arianna (1608), both works which were promoted under Vincenzo I’s reign.

However, after Vincenzo I’s death, the reputation of being an important music center began to shift to other cities, and opera became the only genre that continued to develop in Mantua. In a way, the end of the Gonzaga era and the beginning of Austrian rule also signified consigning the musical activities of Mantua to Vienna domination. The opera houses began showing works composed by composers from Vienna and Milan, while the singers were mostly from Vienna. Music that solely belonged to Mantua ceased to exist.

At the end of the 17th century, Pietro Guarneri (1655-1720), the eldest son of Andrea Guarneri (1623-1698) relocated to Mantua around 1679. He not only devoted himself to violin making, but also served as a court violinist, eventually earning himself the title of “Pietro di Mantova,” or “Peter of Mantua.”

By the 18th century, many luthiers were working in Mantua, which stimulated the local violin making industry. However, the materials used during this period also reflected the economic situation at the time. Luthiers representative of this period include Camillo Camilli (1704-1754), Antonio Zanotti ( 1709-1745), Tomaso Balestrieri (c.1750-c.1780), and Guiseppe Dall Aglio (1795-1840).

During the transition between the 19th and 20th century, a luthier family from Brescia named Scarampella moved to Mantua in 1886 and soon gained fame and fortune for their craft. The family group was made up of the father-and-son duo Paolo Scarampella (1805-1870) and Stefano Scarampella (1843-1925), the family’s successor Gaetano Gadda (1900-1956), and local author Gaetano Dionelli (1806-1870). Their violins exhibit the violin making style of Mantua, especially in their use of varnish, which often used red as its bottom layer and bright orange or copper red on top. Gaetano Gadda’s son Mario Gadda (1931-2008) was also considered a famous luthier active in Mantua in the contemporary violin making world.


Milano is a city in Italy and its located in the North West City. The Milan metropolitan area, by far the largest in Italy. The city remains one of Europe's main transportation and industrial hubs, and Milan is one of the EU's most important centers for tourist destinations, fashion, and architecture with its economy.

During the Middle Age, the word Milano was named Mailand, and the German still use this term nowadays, the word derives from celtic- Mid-lan. The Romans imposed the name Mediolanum. Around 600 BC, was built by Galleans, then the Celtic inhabited Milan and the surrounding region for hundred years. Around 200 BC, the Romans conquered this settlement, became one of the most prosperous city. In the third century, Milano became the center for the Christian, was considered as the most important city of all. In the fourth century, Milano became the capital city and the center of politics, it was ranged the second largest city in Europe; During 1450 until 1500, Milano became the site of the Renaissance; in 1945, due to the Second World War, Milan suffered severe damage from British and American bombing. Milano saw a re-construction of most of its destroyed buildings and factories, and was affected by a rapid post-war economic growth, and now, it’s ranged as the second largest city in Italy and it’s also considered as the city of tourist destinations and business.

Milano is located in the South of Alpine Mountain, the total area is 198 km2, it’s considered as the second largest city in Italy and the city remains one of Italy’s main transportation and industrial hubs, and Milan is one of the EU's most important centers for fashion, architecture and tourist destinations, including ; Most tourists visit sights such as Milan Cathedral, the Castello Sforzesco, the Teatro alla Scala, artists of the calibre of Leonardo, da Vinci came to work in Milan, leaving works of inestimable value, such as the fresco of the Last Supper and last but not least, Galleeria Vittorio Emenuele.

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School and Family:Milano


Rome, located in southern Italy, was a city of vital importance during the Roman Empire. In 1420 it became the center of the Roman Catholic Church. With the unification of Italy in 1870, Rome became the capital of the nation.

During the late Renaissance, the Vatican established the “Council of Trent” to counter the Protestant Reformation led by Marin Luther (1483-1546). During the council sessions, the Vatican suggested that the use of varied instruments made the music too disorderly and clamorous, and suggested that music should be more pure and simple.

In the history of violin making, a few of the earliest luthiers in Rome were German immigrants, such as David Tecchler (1666-1748) and Francesco Emiliani (c. 1680-1736).

Starting in the 18th century, an increasing number of luthiers began working in Rome, including Jacob Horil (1720-1759), a student of Tecchler, and Michael Platner (1735-1750). These luthiers mostly drew on the local Roman style of violin making. Micheal Platner followed Andrea Guarneri and David Tecchler as models. Other famous violin makers from the same period include Giulio Cesare Gigli (c.1724-1794), Giuseppe Carlucci (c. 1780) and Angelo De Rub (c.1750).

Rodolfo Fredi (1861-1950), Anotonio Sgarbi (1866-1905), and Giuseppe Sgarbi (1818-1905) are representative luthiers working in Rome during the 19th and 20th centuries. Giuseppe Fiorini (1861-1934) and Simon Fernando Sacconi (1895-1973) were considered important luthiers who greatly influenced the Roman school of violin making after the 1920s. Sacconi’s instruments were often provided to violinist Arrigo Serrato (1877-1948) and cellist Arturo Bonucci (1894-1964) for public performances.


During the Middle Ages, Trovatore (troubadou) prevailing in the Turin area. San Salvador, the local church (S. Salvatore) also established singing schools. After 15th century, the relevant works of cappella singing can be found in the literature.

Emmanuel Philibert made Turin the capital of the Duchy of Savoy in 1563. Piazza Reale, today named Piazza San Carlo were added with the first enlargement of the walls, in the first half of the 17th century; in the same period the Royal palace (Palazzo Reale) was built. In the second half of that century, a second enlargement of the walls was planned and executed, with the building of the arcaded Via Po, connecting diagonally, through the regular street grid, Piazza Castello with the bridge on the Po.

In 1706, during the Battle of Turin, the French besieged the city for 117 days without conquering it. After the subsequent Treaty of Utrecht, the Kingdom of Sardinia was annexed to the Duchy of Savoy and the architect Filippo Juvarra began a major redesign of the city. Due to the political influence, made a closer relationship between Turin and France. For example, commedia dell’arte from France was performed by the famousAccesi and Andreini’s Fedli in Turin; in 1619, Marie Christine, France Louis’s sister married Vittorio Amedeo I, and brought four musicians and Filippo d’Aglie into Turin…etc. As you can see, n Turin and France influenced each others in many ways.

Turin, like the rest of Piedmont, was annexed by France in September 1802. Turin was the prefecture of the French department of Pô, when the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia was restored with Turin as its capital. After 1814, Piedmont-Sardinia began to actively pursue the unification of Italy. In 1871, the Fréjus Tunnel was opened, making Turin an important communication node between Italy and France. The city in that period had 250,000 inhabitants. Some of the most iconic landmarks of the city, like the Egyptian Museum, the Mole Antonelliana, the Gran Madre di Dio Church and Piazza Vittorio Veneto were built in this period. In 1861, Turin became the capital of the newly proclaimed United Italy. In 1865, the capital was moved to Florence. Turin reacted to the loss of importance by beginning a rapid industrialisation: in 1899 Fiat was founded and Lancia in 1906. The Universal Exposition held in Turin in 1902 is often considered the pinnacle of Art Nouveau design, and the city hosted the Exposition again in 1911. After World War II, Turin was rapidly rebuilt and its industrial base saw a huge development throughout the 1950s and 1960s, which attracted hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the southern regions of Italy.

The violinist, B.B. Somis, was an excellent performer, Ami Dior sent him to Rome and Corelli to study from 1703 until 1706, and became the private violin player of Duke. Somis’s students included Jean marie Leclair, who used to be a famous dancer in Turin, and then became a famous composer and violinist; another student of Somis was Felice Giardini, who was a composer, violinist and influenced British music from the eighteen century. Last but not least, Gaetano was also a student of Somis, who was the first violinist of the choir orchestra in Turin.

In 20th century, Orchestra Sinfonica di Toroni della Rai was a general public service and a way to promote chamber music, and therefore, opera performances were no longer the only choice to be performed in the opera house. Later on, Turin began to build conservatory of music for people who wanted to learn music.

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School and Family:Piedment


Venice is a city in northern Italy known both for tourism and for industry, and is the capital of the region Veneto. Venice is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world, due to the city being one of the world's greatest and most beautiful cities of art. Today there are numerous attractions in Venice, such as St Mark's Basilica, the Grand Canal, and the Piazza San Marco. There are also many famous artist and musician, such as Vittore Carpaccio, Titian, Tiziano Vecellio, Tintoretto, Jacopo Coming, Paolo Veronese, Canaletto, Giovanni Antonio Canal, Giovanni Gabrielli, Claudio Monteverdi, Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni, Alessandro Marcello, Antonio Vivaldi…etc. However, the reputation for violin industry in Venice was seldom known, they have excellent quality of woods, in order to provide a warmer sound.

The Republic of Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as a very important center of commerce and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history. It is also known for its several important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period. Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music.

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School and Family:Venice