All is noble and tender, everything speaks of love, nothing recalls the ugliness of civilization.
That whiner Stendhal could turn a beautiful phrase, like in his 1839 The Charterhouse of Parma as young Italian noble Fabrice del Dongo, enchanted by the (fictionalized) cities of the Farneses and the Piacenzas.
We too were entranced last week from those secret little gems on the low misty plains and flat farmlands of Emilia-Romagna -- Zibello, Soragna, Fontanelle, Le Roncole -- those Parmense postage stamps where the weather vacillates so peculiar between curative dry winds and blinding moist fogs, the latter so milked-out that you risk to drive your rental car into a 16th century castle moat, ther former responsible for cured legs of Parma ham. And really, not much has changed from the time that Giovanni Boldini created the Gazzetta di Parma's timeless font (which still titles the daily journal) between portraits of jaunty Verdi in a top hat and silk scarf.
We came in search of Verdi over le terre verdiane, but we found so much more: the dusty cities that churned out High Renaissance Mannerists Correggio and Parmigianino; the good duchess of Parma Marie Louise and her fresh violets; Acqua di Parma and its classic 1916 Colonia scent; local lambrusco and mavalsia drunk from thick porcelain bowls. Zibello, the capital of culatello, untouched but admired for the trophy skill mid-October to mid-February where lean cuts of pork are folded over wooden boards. Formentino cows, milky vessels of that perfect balance of proteins and fats, and vacca rossa with its distinctive red mantle mulling chamomile over lands, between the Apennines and the River Po.
(The bed where Verdi was born, with a bunch of roses left by the Club of the 27.)
Terre Verdiane begins in Roncole Verdi at the Italian scribe's birthhouse where he was born on October 10, 1813. The house with its gabled, steeply-sloped roof is on a corner off a main road in the tiny hamlet Roncole Verdi, renamed from Roncole in 1963. Inside, it has been renovated so many times that what must have been slanted, earth-stained floors are now clean, cut lines and the spacious quarters, used as an inn by Verdi's parents, feels really young. (More renovations are schedule and it will be closed on November 4 -- visits can be booked on the weekends.)
Across the street is a piazza, crowned by San Michele Arcangelo church where Verdi was baptised and played the organ at age nine. A year later, his family moved to the more lively, less rural Busseto.
Busseto's rung by a main square (Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, ovvio), with views of the matchbox Teatro Giuseppe Verdi, Carlo Bergonzi's I Due Foscari B&B and Casa Barezzi with a main road lined in shops and restaurants that runs down to the Museo Nazionale Giuseppe Verdi at Villa Pallavicino, and past Verdi mecca Palazzo Orlandi, which no one has bought since we wrote about it a year ago and will most likely be snatched up by a foreign buyer. C'mon Italy...Forza Verdi.
Verdi moved into Casa Barezzi in 1831, which was owned by his first patron, Antonio Barezzi, whose daughter Margherita he married in 1836 (who later died along with their two young children). Barezzi also hosted the orchestra he founded in 1816, the Societa' Filarmonica Busetana. He died in 1867 and Verdi famously wrote in his letters that he owed Barezzi everything for his generosity and open-heartedness. "He loved me as a son and I loved him as my father."
Casa Barezzi's insanely excellent, well-preserved collection of historic scores, journals and playbills was only made open to the public in 2001 during the centenary of Verdi's death. If you had to choose just one Verdi collection to visit -- this one wins, hands down.
A quick lunch at the amazing Storica Salsamenteria Baratta and off to Museo Nazionale Giuseppe Verdi at Villa Pallavicino, which recreated Verdi opera with art history narratives.
The last stop was Sant'Agata where Verdi escaped the rumor mill of Busseto when he shacked up with his future second wife, Giuseppina Strepponi, before they were married. Here he cultivated gardens, wells, grapevines and a lake, and bred livestock.
Click the link below to see many many many more photos...