Music-lovers from across the world head for Cremona, northern Italy, to see the greatest collection of violins and other stringed instruments made by the city's phenomenal luthiers – Andrea Amati, Antonio Stradivari and Bartolomeo Guarneri.
But after a day spent looking at exquisitely fashioned 17th- and 18th-century wood, ivory and mother-of-pearl, it can be refreshing to unwind in the clean-lined spaces of the decidedly 21st-century Delle Arti Design Hotel.
The Delle Arti has a simple and sophisticated façade in a quiet road of distinguished townhouses, and its ultra-cool public areas – cool in style, cool in temperature – are a welcome refuge from the broiling heat of an Italian summer's day.
The hotel takes its name from its commitment to the local contemporary arts scene, demonstrated in the art gallery that is wrapped around the breakfast room and in occasional art-related events at the hotel. The city's own renowned collection of musical instruments is just a few minutes' away on foot, and it's a very pleasant walk through the impressive main square, the beautiful, medieval Piazza del Comune. And the Museo Stradivari, also dedicated to the art of violin-making, is a few hundred yards beyond that.
Corridors, with walls designed to suggest the wings of a theatre stage, lead to smart, modern but comfortable rooms in subtle shades of brown, grey and terracotta with dramatic silver and gold highlights. Bedding down in the Gold Suite is like sleeping in a Klimt. Designers favoured natural materials – glass, wood, stone, and simple textiles. Reading matter includes high-fashion monographs, art catalogues and books on the great violins. If a little male in taste – no dressing table mirror, no body lotion, ginger soap – the rooms and en-suite bathrooms are nevertheless luxurious and finished to a very high standard.
The food and drink
Breakfast among the artworks is continental-style, but substantial, with slimmer's options for those who prefer to start the day other than with cake. Partly buffet-style, partly served, oddly, from a clunking great trolley, there is plenty to go at, and a bar, but for lunch and dinner you need to head for the ranks of restaurants a few seconds away.
The Fitness and Relax area has a sauna, Turkish bath, Jacuzzi and gym, and there is a pleasant internal courtyard garden beyond the restaurant. Bag a suite and you can have a whirlpool spa bath in your bedroom.
Children welcome. Rooms are big enough for a cot or extra bed. Level access from street, lifts to all rooms.
Double rooms start at €110 (£94) per night, including breakfast. Covered parking costs €12 per day.
Delle Arti Design Hotel, Via Bonomelli 8, 26100 Cremona, Italy (00 39 0372 23131; dellearti.com).