Busseto is a small town of 6,890 inhabitants, located in the Po Valley of northern Italy, about a hundred kilometers southeast of Milan.
The great opera composer Giuseppe Verdi was born near Busseto in 1813. He grew up in and around Busseto, had his first music lessons here, went to school here, met his first wife here, later bought a large house in the center of town and finally bought a farm just outside of Busseto where he spent the last fifty years of his long life.
A bicycle is the ideal form of transportation in this area, since the Po Valley is absolutely flat and some of the most interesting Verdi sites are a few kilometers outside of town. I cycled over to Busseto from Cremona, which took about two hours on a mainly car-free route along the dikes, and spent the next day cycling around Busseto and vicinity visiting all the places where Verdi lived, learned or performed (or boycotted) in various phases of his life.
Giuseppe Verdi was born just outside of Busetto in a place called Roncole, now called Roncole Verdi in his honor.
Since this area was under French rule at the time, he was christened with the French names of Joseph Fortunin François Verdi. His father Carlos Verdi was a tenant of the Marquises Pallavicino, and he earned his living running a small inn and general store in one room of their house, which was and still is at a crossroads in the center of the village, just across from the village church.
This plaque was attached to the house in 1872, saying that the musical genius VERDI had been born here and that the local nobility wished to have the house preserved for posterity. Verdi was still very much alive at this time, in fact he was only 59 and not too happy about all this talk of posterity.
Local tradition has it that he tried unsuccessfully to buy his birth house and have it torn down so it wouldn’t attract idle gawkers and curiosity seekers. (So now you know what he would have thought of us tourists traipsing through his house.)
Across the street from the house is this banner with a famous Verdi quotation: “I am and always will be a peasant from Roncole.” Paris, May 25, 1863.
The photos in this post are from 2008. I revised the text in 2017.