I love the rhythms of the day in down-town Cremona. You can almost tell time by observing the daily activity. A weekday morning has a time when all the bars are busy making espresso for people heading into work. The city quiets down from 12:30 to 3:30 when many of the shops close for the lunch break. And, on warm summer evenings, the town comes alive again at about 10:00 when a stroll with friends and family, often with gelato in hand, takes place.
This shop owner, all dressed up and sweeping the side-walk in front of her store, is opening for the day. After sweeping, we watched her soap and scrub the walkway and then spray and shine her windows. We were siting, eating our brioche and sipping our cappuccino. Next store, another owner was performing the same morning ritual. Across the way, two other shop-keepers swept and cleaned and scrubbed and shined to prepare their shops for customers.
In addition to all of this work by each shop owner, the city has its own street and sidewalk sweeper machine that cleans regularly. The photo below shows the street where the little shop above is, so you can see how beautiful it is to shop here. The problem, however, is that every year that we come here, the shops have closed and new ones are trying to make a go. Just like in the States, shopping moved from the down-town centers to the malls in the outskirts of cities. There are also economic and political factors that affect whether there is a stimulating environment for an entrepreneur to open a little shop in these streets.
In recent years, the thing that succeeds in down-town Cremona is the eating places. Restaurants, bars, gelato stores are everywhere and they are full. This is also happening in downtown Salem. People are living and eating in these historic downtown centers. With the increased pressure from online shopping, malls are having a harder time in the States. A recent interest in shopping local, combined with the right entrepreneurial investments, might spur success once again, having beautiful local shops in our historic down-towns.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuale II in Milan pictured below is one of the oldest malls in the world and is right in the center, connecting the Piazza del Duomo and the piazza de La Scala. This was built between 1865 and 1877. Down-town malls like this and urban shopping predated the suburban malls and plazas. I hope that there is a pendulum swing of sorts and that our city and town centers continue to grow and beautify to become beautiful shopping destinations.