Parma, an Italian Foodie Spot, Is Music to a Tourist’s Ears

A taxi zips through the Italian countryside, speeding past everything from overgrown farms to modest homes to dilapidated old ruins, from the bustling community of Parma to the vibrant yet decidedly quiet Busseto. I’m on my way to the town of My destination is someone’s house. We were told that it is a large property and that we need to check it out. Unfortunately the owner of the glamorous villa is not there to greet me. He died over 100 years ago.

Parma may not even be in the top 10 places in Italy that travelers dream of visiting. After all, the Eternal City of Rome, the heart of Milan, pizza-centric Naples, not to mention the picturesque Amalfi Coast and idyllic Capri, Como’s sparkling sea, Puglia, Bologna, Florence, Venice and Sicily. there is. There are many other communities where tour buses run, couples go on honeymoons, and influencers flock to post selfies on her Instagram with the caption “La Dolce.” life” (And yes, I’ve seen someone do this). If anything, what most people think of when they hear the name Parma is cheese.

Simply put, Parma is the Wisconsin of Italian life, at least in the sense that cheese culture reigns supreme here. As you might imagine, Parma is the proud home of Parmesan his Reggiano. (The Reggiano part of the moniker comes from the region’s name.)

As a result, Parma and its surrounding communities have acted as a minefield for lactose intolerance as they are actively filled with formaggio, including shops selling cheese wheels the size of Goodyear tires. increase. Cheese is rarely grated in this local trattoria, but served in large chunks piled high on plates and eaten by hand alongside other regional specialties. They include Parma ham or torta frita. These are essentially salty, light puffs of fried dough. Yes, mountains of cheese, fatty fries. American catnip is on the menu here at Parma.

Parmigiano Reggiano, cheese must pass inspection and meet certain quality standards.

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But there is another beloved celebrity of this community, made up of neither salt nor fat.His name is Giuseppe, and he was born and lived in the area a century ago. Ironically, however, we hear that Giuseppe Verdi didn’t like quaint Parma so much that he didn’t enjoy life in the big city near Milan, where he later trekked in search of a career as a composer. I’m here. It’s a career that has embodied his famed feature-length creativity and world-famous opera.For 87 years, he was the mastermind behind classics like; Rigoletto, Bard, Aida When Traviata. Yes, along with the aforementioned Dairy, Guzeeppe is Palma’s favorite son, but he never returned that feeling.

Yet Verdi’s footsteps can be seen all over Parma and the surrounding area, and the deceased composer still commands in this part of the world like a musical specter. Indeed, the composer Arturo Toscanini also hails from these regions, but his legacy is smaller than that of Mr. Verdi. (Also, Verdi never left Italy, but Toscanni fled to New York, where he took command in-house at NBC Radio).

Verdi’s legacy is on our minds all year long, but each fall it truly takes center stage (or steps proudly into the conductor’s stand to fine-tune its trope). . At that time, Festival his Verdi comes to the region. The region celebrates his four weekends to enjoy the eyes and ears of his performances and lectures, his works at Parma’s gorgeous Teatro Reggio and Teatro his Magnani in nearby Fidenza. Many of the participating Americans are passionate fans of opera and regularly travel the world in search of the art form. International Friends of Festival Verdi, a New York-based non-profit organization that serves as a pipeline from America to Parma for many of its attendees, is who I tagged along with this particular weekend. . Indeed, for someone with a previously rudimentary knowledge of opera (when I saw my first and only opera at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I was delighted, but meanwhile I was mad at the man next to me). I was silent), it was an education.

Luckily Francesco Izzo is here to fill the gap for me. A part-time resident of Parma and professor of music at the University of Southampton, England, Izzo is the Festival Verdi his Parma’s “Direttore Scientifico”. In other words, he’s one of the keepers of Verdi’s legacy, and Izzo is a prime example of this, with passion in his voice: not a right or privilege. It is a challenge and must continue to be a challenge. ’ This is a man who takes Verdi seriously.

The Verdi Monument in front of Rocca Pallavicino, home to Busseto’s Opera House Teatro.

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Saturday afternoon in the countryside of Loncor, about 30 minutes from Palma. As you can imagine, it’s still full from yesterday’s plate of cheese and ham. I am walking through Casa Natale Verdi Museum, Verdi’s childhood home. Today, cheese wheel magnets that say “Parma” are sold in gift shops and the Italian flag flutters rustically.

That Guzieppe didn’t grow old with a silver spoon in his mouth, but grew up here in fairly modest means, as the son of both an innkeeper and an old full-time career known as a “spinner” is clear. ” True to its Italian form, here seem to be his two dining rooms. A small one and a big one. A wooden table displays the setting where Verdi would have gathered, served with a bottle of Chianti and its distinctive wicker base, bread. The floors here are lined with bricks, and the ceilings are fitted with long wooden beams, the imperfections of which clearly convey the quality of handcrafting.

Verdi spent his childhood here, but tragically lost his best friend, his sister Giuseppa. In fact, his later years were marked by similar losses, with not only his first wife, but only his two children dying in blood. The latter of the inflammations of the brain with the dreaded name of encephalitis. No wonder the operas I’ve seen on my travels depict extreme heartbreak and loss, mad at emotion, with scenes that bounce between sheer glee and the depths of despair. Although it is a work, bard, It depicts characters exploding in extreme joy, ending with the two main lovers dying in utter agony in a dungeon.

House in the small village of Roncole Verdi (Busseto, Parma, Italy) where Giuseppe Verdi was born on October 10, 1813. It is now a museum owned by the City of Busseto. August 29, 2012.

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The home Verdi built for himself is far more expansive than his humble childhood bargain. The villa is called his Verdi because when you have someone famous and wealthy, the name of the house is just as fancy and bears that name. The property in the village of Sant’Agata has remained virtually untouched since his death in 1901, down to the books, curtains, sheets and the distinctive black hat that sat idly unworn for the past 120 years. left. It is a sprawling estate with stables, a wine room and ornately decorated bedrooms, adorned with floral wallpaper that has long lost its bright colors.

The man is devoted to his craft of inspiring, if not eccentric, including sleeping in a separate bedroom from his wife so as not to wake her when late-night inspiration strikes. Elsewhere it is said that he deliberately sanded the walking paths around the property because the gravel would drown out his musical thinking when taking walks in nature.

After walking through his dusty bedroom, I later asked Izzo about the foundations of the festival itself. moment he says. Izzo is fully aware that he isn’t talking about familiar names like Beethoven or Shakespeare that are everywhere, but about someone the majority of the public has never heard of. A festival can only exist when there is still so much to learn about him, and it will be about presenting his lesser-known works and presenting them in a way that is closer to the spirit of Verdi’s own intentions. It’s there, both in terms of presenting.” For the team behind the festival, it also creates a sense of risk. Wise Words: do not do They retaliate and thus offend opera Verdi’s performance Simon Boccaneguera At the Teatro Reggio, some (possibly vegan) audience members booed a new addition to the 100-year-old show: a depiction of the production’s butcher.

Torrechiara Castle on the hill at sunrise, Parma, Italy.

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Back inside Villa Verdi, our tour guide delivered breathtaking news from the assembled group. After a century of private ownership, the home and property will likely open to the public for good this fall. Izzo explained that Villa Verdi is for sale and God only knows if someone will buy it. Verdi’s distant family does not have the financial means to maintain the place.Villa Verdi may be returned to the Italian government, but whether they also have the financial means for maintenance and public visitation is an open question. Italian government and all).

Again, unlike America, it’s not like they’re trying to overthrow it and build Citibank. “According to Italian law, it must be preserved as it was left by Verdi,” Izzo explains. “So I hope they find willing buyers they can intervene with, like research institutes and universities that want to do cultural work there.” This is scary It’s better not to think about it. A recent glimmer of hope emerged last November when Italy’s Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, walked through the house and assured the press that there were “many entrepreneurs willing to intervene.” This museum, Verdi, is the foundation of our country, so he is the heritage of all Italians. ”

Whatever happens to Villa, I am fortunate to be one of the last to see it, perhaps in a multi-generational legacy. , both Parma and Festival Verdi give validity to their obsession with keeping man alive. Even if Verdi himself wasn’t a fan of Parma as much as Parma loves him now.

In particular, Izzo says this Italian pride in Verdi came to fruition in the early 1900s. “There is a growing movement for symbols of Italian role models, and many cities are celebrating, honoring and proud of some of their most illustrious citizens,” he explains. “For Parma it’s Verdi. Every Italian city has Via Verdi, Piazza Verdi, Ristorante Verdi, Pizzeria he Verdi, etc. But Parma makes it much bigger.”

“When my mother decided to move to Parma, she moved into what is called the Verdi building,” he adds. “Verdi himself would have strongly objected to this.”

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