If you’re a traveller who likes the classical music, this article should attract your attention. I’ll take you on three days tour, from CREMONA to PARMA, following the trails left by two important musicians: ANTONIO STRADIVARI and GIUSEPPE VERDI. Stradivari was the maker of the world’s most famous violins, and Verdi was the composer of the world’s most famous operas.
The principal Italian towns that are the most popular destinations of foreign travellers are Venice, Rome, Florence, Milan and Naples. Parma is known principally by food lovers for its Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and its prosciutto, and frequented also by the opera lovers for its connections with Verdi (Verdi Festival) and his music. Cremona is usually omitted by the traditional tours and is reached only by the tourists interested in music and musical instruments.
First day – Cremona
Cremona was officially founded in 218 B. C. Archeological findings bear witness to Celtic and Pre-Roman settlements. During the Roman empire it was a military base and mercantile city and passed under Byzantine domain in the mid 6th century, it was conquered and destroyed by the Longobards in 603 A. D. It had an important role as a member of Lombardy League since 1167. In the 13th century it passed in the hands of duke Azzone Visconti and in 1441 was given in dowry to Francesco Sforza by his wife Bianca Maria Visconti. Ceded in 1535 to Spanish king Carlo V, under his reign it had lost the commercial prestige. Wars, plague (1630) and taxes excluded devolpment of arts during this period. The renewal arrived with Austrian government in 1707 and only in 1802 it had joined the Italian Republic.
The old town today is visitable in one day. The Cathedral, its principal attraction, is situated on the main square, near the octagonal Baptistery and Torrazzo – the bell tower is the symbol of the city. You’ll be dazzled by the beauty of the church which is the testimony of the art development from the late Romanesque to the Gothic style. The sculpures and the frescos will leave you breatheless. One can also visit Torrazzo, see its seven bells, as well as see a panorama of the whole city from the top of it.
Within a few minutes walk we arrive at the Museo del Violino. It exibits the straordinary collection of the most precious violins made by Cremonese masters (Amati, Guarnieri and Stradivari) and the original working tools from the ancient Stradivari’s workshop. We will discover how these instruments are made, will get information about their history, construction details and their role in musical performance.
To make this experience more profound, we will visit one contemporary Violinmaker workshop where we will witness firsthand the phases of violin construction (who is going to let us touch the single parts and show us directly the fases of violins construction.) If you’re lucky and time permits, the master will also explain how to distinguish an authentic Stradivari from the copies.
There is more for music lovers. Teatro Ponchielli is a jewerly and has a good opera season. The day in Cremona must not finish without going to Stradivari’s house. Antonio Stradivari who was born and died in Cremona lived in this house since his marriage to Francesca Ferraboschi in 1667 and this place became his first workshop. The family (they had two sons – Francesco and Omobono) lived here until 1680 and maestro had made some of the most prestigious instruments here. The house today is private property, but we will have special permission to visit. Here we will see the permanent exhibition, with the possibility of playing the instruments.
During our walking tour in this wonderful town we will have a possibility to taste the typical food and local products (i marubini, il torrone, la mostarda, etc.)
Second day – Parma
We arrive in Parma after a one hour bus ride. The second day starts with Casa della musica where we are going to visit Museo dell’Opera. We will take a short walk to Piazza Duomo and stop to visit both the Duomo and Battistero.
The dome of the Cathedral was decorated by a highly influential illusionistic fresco by Renaissance painter Antonio da Correggio and there is a wonderful Deposition by Benedetto Antelami (1178), the same artist that began the construction of the Baptistery in 1196.
Parma is a city of music and opera. Teatro Regio is visitable on request. Every year in October it hosts the Festival Verdi. The tour proceeds with the visit of Teatro Farnese with a brief stop to Verdi’s monument. Among other treasures there is also the Birthday place Museum of Arturo Toscanini.
For who wants, we will one briefe enogastronomical tour for discovering the secrets of the productions of the local food (Parmiggiano Reggiano, prosciutto, etc).
After a dinner in a characteristic and atmospheric Parma restaurant, there is a concert or an opera waiting for you. Maybe you’ll meet one of twentyseven members of Club dei 27 (each one of them has a name of one Verdi’s opera and can tell you everything about it). Now you’re ready for a major treat dulcis in fundo part of this musical trip: the places associated with Giuseppe Verdi.
Third day – Roncole Verdi – Busseto – Sant’Agata di Villanova sull’Arda
Most of the tourists connect Verdi with Parma without knowing that he was born in one village of the province and lived in another near Piacenza. To visit these places is necessary to have a car or take an organized tour because they are not served by the pubblic transport. So we depart from Parma and arrive in Roncole. It’s a small village near Busseto (province of Parma) famous because it’s Verdi’s birthplace. The house today is a museum called Casa Natale Giuseppe Verdi.
Close by is the church of St. Michael Archangel where Péppin, (Verdi’s childhood nickname) was baptized and where he played his first notes on the recently restored organ while studying with maestro Pietro Baistrocchi. August, 2015, will be the first Roncole Festival.
Teatro Verdi and Museo Casa Barezzi in Busseto are completely dedicated to the Maestro. There is also an recently opened Museo Renata Tebaldi. Since 2009 in Villa Pallavicino has been opened the Museo Nazionale Giuseppe Verdi where 27 operas are rappresented storically with the reproductions of the original Ricordi’s scenografies and all this was invented by the director Pier Luigi Pizzi.
We then arrive at the wonderful Villa Verdi in San’Agata, bought by the composer in 1848. He moved in three years later with Giuseppina Strepponi. The house and park have been enlarged over the years. This country house today is perserved as it was by the Carrara Verdi Family (heir of the Maestro) and offers visitors exposure to the scope of this man and extraordinary artist.
When you walk through the home and magnificent gardens and acknowledge that he lived here 150 years ago, you can almost touch the spirit of the genius.
The sunset indicates that the day is finished. The silence remains full of gratitude for having been a part of it.
See you again on my next Globetrotting Travel Adventure!