Roncole Verdi – A Step into the Past
Roncole: Discovering Giuseppe Verdi – A Step into the Past
By Francesca Cuoghi
It’s a Sunday morning in the springtime. The sun hangs in the sky; its rays warming the landscapes below. The sky’s hue in an intense blue, while the soft breeze carries with it the scent of freshly cut grass. It is a perfect day to spend exploring the region of Emilia Romagna. We do not know what our destination will be, nor our point of arrival, but we intend to enjoy every bit of the trip, letting our instincts guide us.
Rather than working with a dedicated itinerary, we decided to simply wander about and see what discoveries lay ahead. It was with this spirit that we descended on a small village in the province of Parma, the birthplace of composer Giuseppe Verdi.
It was almost unexpectedly that we found ourselves in Roncole di Busseto. How many of you know this place? We heard of the village, but only due to its connection to the great master- Giuseppe Verdi. Le Roncole is a small village just a few kilometers away from the highway exit of Fidenza (Highway A1). There are some places that have a special charm and manage to elicit feelings of an instant connection to our heritage and roots. This village brought about such feelings. As we looked around, we saw that the central focus of the town takes place along a short stretch of the road where Verdi’s birthplace is located. In this modest building, located at a crossroads in the center of the village, his father ran an inn with an attached grocery store. His mother was a spinner. According to legend, the yearly festivities for the feast of San Donino, the patron saint of the diocese, were underway at the time of his birth and the music, played by the strolling musicians, provided a start for the newborn. Verdi never forgot his origins and in 1863 wrote: “I was, am and always will be a peasant from Roncole.”
When we visited the master’s birthplace, we found a simple rural home, perfectly plastered on the outside, with ornamental details in view. The date of his birth is carved onto the main façade of the house, while on the left side we found an old well. In the front of the dwelling there was a small courtyard where the bust of the great composer is placed. The house was built in the 18th century and was rented to the Verdi family. Part of their responsibilities was to manage a tavern, to which was added a cellar, a grocery store, an inn and a post office.
Here one can feel the love for the music created by one of the world’s greatest composer. We became very curious about how people lived centuries ago and how Verdi spent his childhood. We went in to visit the house. The staff welcomed us and we were given an iPad – a true case of tradition joining technology; thus the visit became virtual as well as physical. Through the simulation program, images, sounds and dialogues were presented and we were able to to relive Giuseppe Verdi’s history and do so in the place where it all began. The multimedia story is told in the voice of a child, as would be the case in a young Verdi.
The rooms alternate one after the other. We follow the route suggested by the iPad and our imagination takes us back in time. It was unquestionably worthwhile to stop at the different points, listen to the story and recreate the frames of Verdi’s life – the tavern, the bedrooms, the studio with its accounting registers and the Master’s spinet.
More than two hundred long years separate us from the date carved on the outer wall and so many things have changed. But there is an invisible bridge that keeps the past tied to the present. Going to Roncole and visiting Giuseppe Verdi’s birthplace feels like a journey through time. It is a place that has seen its face change, but has effectively been able to preserve its glory.