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Monday, 11 May 2015

A Birthday Trip (Cities, Islands and Music) - Part Three: Busseto


I was born and raised in the city but converted to country life. The turning point came after experiences of living in numerous places – cities, small towns and countryside in Italy, England, France, Germany and Israel.

Although I don’t feel any particular roots, I have happily settled down – for the time being – in an idyllic place in the Italian country, trying to be an olive farmer and quite enjoying it.
It’s a very tranquil life that follows nature’s slow rhythms.  No stress. Sometimes I feel I long for a little stress, so I visit a city. This I do on the occasion of the birthdays of my partner or mine, and this year was no exception: Venice was in the agenda. However, we added two extra destinations, a smaller town (Cremona) and a tiny hamlet in the Po valley (Roncole di Busseto). A theme links all three: classical music. Cremona is the cradle of violin making, Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice and Busseto was the birthplace of Giuseppe Verdi.

Verdi, the “Swan of Busseto” was actually born in Roncole in a modest house, now a tourist destination. The plaque commemorates the restoration of Verdi's birthplace by the Pallavicino family in 1872 to preserve it for posterity. The house was closed when we got there, but from the outside it looked very well maintained and not really the "humble dwelling" the plaque mentions.
Our bed and breakfast was just a few hundred metres away from it, in the deep countryside. It was a very pleasant and relaxing place surrounded by a mature garden full of lovely trees. The welcome we received was typical of this warm-hearted region, kind and pleasantly informal.

Our room was airy and tastefully decorated and the kind landlady lent us two bikes with which we toured the countryside, reached the town centre, came back and a very enjoyable ride it was, too.
The landscape is rural and quaint, completely relaxing; there are numerous pedestrian and cycle paths cutting across fields and alongside ditches. The modern era has stopped many kilometres from here; the only sounds are those of nature, birdsong and cattle lowing from their sheds. It is the perfect place to detox from city stress – ideal after the Venetian hangover.

In addition to his birthplace, there are other places to visit in the Verdi pilgrimage. Villa Verdi was the mansion where the composer lived in his later years, still inhabited by his heirs but partly viewable. Then there are the Verdi Theatre and the Verdi Museum in the head town.
The museum was opened in 2009 in Villa Pallavicino, a stately mansion dating from the 16th c., surrounded by a water moat and majestic grounds.

The rooms are decorated according to the Italian Romantic period, with heavy brocade curtains and upholstery, reproductions of Francesco Hayez's beautiful portraits and arias from Verdi's opera constantly playing in the background. In a few rooms are drafts of the set designs for a number of operas.

A few original costumes worn by world famous tenors and sopranos are also on display. On the middle floor there is also an auditorium.



Parma with its district is the capital of the Italian gastronomy and we asked our landlady to address us to a local restaurant. She couldn't go wrong. It is called Le Roncole, the same name as the hamlet.

It immediately struck us with its very genuine, cordial Emilian atmosphere and with numerous patrons apparently enjoying their meal with great gusto.
We had two starters: a "Parmesan ice-cream" (not really frozen, but very original) and a classic platter of "Culatello di zibello" (locally produced raw ham). We then ordered ham ravioli and stewed rabbit in a herb sauce, both delicious. For desserts, we had "Sbrisolona" (a crumbly pie) and a semifreddo of the house.
We drank red house wine with our main courses and sweet malvasia with the desserts. The overall quality of the meal was stellar, but everything was so economic compared with Venice!

© DaniBlue

 11th May 2015




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