By the time Verdi showed up to the party (exactly 200 years ago today!), the burly Farnese dukes of Parma and Piacenza had already carved out a musical identity for the city, like theaters where they could air out their hereditary jewels and furs and avoid eye contact with the un-furred, un-jeweled masses.
Parma's Casa della Musica and Museo dell'Opera, in Piazzale San Francesco tell its long story -- from Pier Luigi Farnese in the early 16th century down to Ranuccio II Farnese in the mid-17th century -- and then up to modern day with Teatro Regio di Parma.
It's also where most documentation of Teatro Farnese is on display, which we later visited at Palazzo Pilota, which includes the National Gallery, the National Archaeological Museum, the Palatina library and the Bodoni Museum.
The Farnese Theater was built between 1618 & 1619 as a salle d'armes under the order of Ranuccio I, Duke of Parma and Piacenza. On 1628, it was inaugurated as a theater for the wedding between Margherita de' Medidic and Duke Odoardo Farnese with Mercurio e Marte by Claudio Achillini set to Claudio Monteverdi.
It's been used sparingly since then, destroyed in 1944 and later rebuilt in 1956. It was rumored that this October, Abbado would conduct a massive Messa da Requiem for Festival Verdi, but it never appeared on the playbill. Trompe l'oeil turns wood and plaster beams into marble and bronze.
Our last stop was the Museo Casa Natale Arturo Toscanini where the Italian maestro was born in 1867. The small house is full of personal effects from Toscanini's New York and Milan homes (via Durini) including those famous black and white portraits by Robert Hupka. No photos were allowed but we have fond memories of its exuberant head curator, Nicola Luberto, who lives and breathes Toscanini.