Exciting opportunity to attend Parma’s world famous Verdi Festival
The craft of stringed-instrument-making explored in delightful Cremona
Lectures and private recitals in Parma, Cremona & at Villa Medici-Giulini
Splendid monuments & works of art explored in Parma & its surroundings
Verdi’s Aida, Luisa Miller & I Due Foscari performed in historic theatres in Parma & Busseto
Italy’s greatest composer of operas, Giuseppe Verdi, was born in 1813 at Le Roncole, a little to the north of Parma. He studied in nearby Busseto before moving to Milan where his career began its ill-tempered, though steady, rise to fame and fortune. Every October, to coincide with the anniversary of his birth, Parma holds a wonderful opera festival devoted to Verdi. The featured operas in 2019 will be I Due Foscari, Aida and Luisa Miller.
Cremona is remembered as the home of the world’s finest violin maker, Antonio Stradivarius. The city was renowned for making luxury goods and superb stringed instruments. The Amati, the Guarneri and the Stradivari produced their instruments in a town of singular delight.
Visual culture is as great a part of Parma’s history as are music and food: the medieval era when Parma was ennobled with some of the finest churches of northern Italy; the renaissance and baroque when the Farnese family came to rule it as resident hereditary Dukes; and the nineteenth century when Napoleon’s second wife, the Habsburg Marie-Louise of Austria, was given Parma and its Duchy.
The medieval city was clearly very wealthy as it built a marvellous Duomo, plus the remarkable Baptistery which has a unique group of medieval sculptures and frescoes. In 1545, Parma, by then in Papal hands, was made an Imperial Duchy, created by Charles V for Pope Paul III’s natural son, Pier-Luigi Farnese, initiating almost two hundred and fifty years of Farnese rule. In time, the Farnese family dies out in the male line and Parma became a neglected backwater. After Napoleon’s defeat, his Habsburg wife had to be found a home – Parma was it.
The visit will be led by Professor Peter Hill. Peter taught at Sheffield University for many years and now devotes his time to lecturing and continuing his distinguished career as a keyboard recitalist. The three included operas will be preceded by a lecture in our hotel, two with piano accompaniment. We shall stay at the comfortable 4* Hotel Palace Maria Luigia, ideally located a short walk from the historic centre and the Teatro Regio.
Day by day
- Day 1: Wednesday 16 October
- We fly from Heathrow to Bologna, arriving late-afternoon. We transfer by coach to Parma where we shall stay at the 4* Hotel Palace Maria Luigia. Following Peter Hill’s introduction to Verdi over a welcome drink, dinner will be in our hotel – wine, water and coffee are included with all group lunches and dinners.
- Day 2: Thursday 17 October
- This morning we visit the medieval centre of Parma, dominated by some splendid buildings. The Baptistery is one of the finest medieval examples in Italy and externally has marvellous sculptural programmes. The Duomo is dominated by a series of frescoes painted in the sixteenth century by Correggio, the master of renaissance illusionism. His work is also to be found in the nearby church of San Giovanni Evangelista, which we shall also visit. The morning ends with a visit to the Camera di San Paolo, an exquisite secular dining room, commissioned by a very worldly Mother Superior for her aristocratic charges, frescoed by Correggio in his most delightful and witty style. Following a group lunch we return to the hotel. Tonight’s opera will be I Due Foscari in the Teatro Regio at 8.00 pm, preceded by Peter Hill’s lecture in the hotel.
- Day 3: Friday 18 October
- We spend the day in Cremona to the north of Parma close to the Po River. Our musical theme begins at the new Museo del Violino, an interactive and well-presented investigation into the history of Cremonese lute and violin making. It houses a magnificent selection of historic instruments including many crafted by Stradivarius, one of which will be played for us via a short recital. After a group lunch we visit the workshop of the master violin maker and restorer, Phillipe Devanneaux, who will enlighten us on the craft of violin making. We end our day at Piazza del Comune which has a rich panorama of Romanesque and later architecture. The Duomo is a wonderful Romanesque church with a very ornate west front. We return to Parma, and you will be free for the evening to enjoy the city at leisure.
- Day 4: Saturday 19 October
- This morning we drive to the north of Parma and begin at the private home of the Rocca Meli Lupi family at Soragna. A muscular medieval fortress was converted into a princely residence from the sixteenth century with fine frescoed rooms. We continue to Villa Verdi just outside the hamlet of Sant’Agata. The maestro lived at this summer residence for fifty years until his death in 1901 and the house retains many original furnishings. We return to Parma for a group lunch, and the remainder of the afternoon will be free. We meet again in the early evening for Peter’s second lecture, covering tonight’s opera and also tomorrow’s, before this evening’s performance of Luisa Miller in the nearby Church of San Francesco del Prato, to which we shall walk from the hotel.
- Day 5: Sunday 20 October
- This morning we visit the Galleria Nazionale, a famous picture gallery with works by Leonardo, Bernini and many others. It sits within the renaissance Palazzo della Pilotta, originally built by the Farnese family. It also contains the Teatro Farnese, a huge wooden structure modelled on Palladio’s more famous Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza. After an early group lunch, we drive to Busseto for the mid afternoon performance of Aida in the Teatro Verdi. We return to Parma mid evening.
- Day 6: Monday 21 October
- We make our way to the north of Milan to the Lombard village of Briosco, for a splendid day at Villa Medici-Giulini. Built in 1643, this private estate has had many owners, including the Medici of Marignano. Fernanda Giulini and her family restored the villa in the twentieth century and it is where Signora Giulini displays some of her extraordinary collection of historic keyboard instruments, many of which will be played for us. After our final lunch in the villa there will be a special, private recital in the villa’s recently built charming theatre – an apt finale to the musical pleasures we will have enjoyed during our week. We continue to Milan’s Malpensa airport and our return flight.
- Price: £2,895 per person
- Price without flights: £-120
- Deposit: £375
- Single Supplement: £230 (Double Room for Sole Use)
- Tour Manager: James Hill
5 nights with breakfast at the 4* Hotel Maria Luigia, Parma
Outward: BA542 Depart London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 1445 arrive Bologna 1755
Return: BA567 Depart Milan (Malpensa) 1905 arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 2005
1 dinner & 5 lunches with wine, water & coffee, all local transfers, City Tax, entry fees & gratuities, the services of Peter Hill and James Hill, tickets for the three included operas
Travel to/from Heathrow, 4 dinners
Weather Conditions for Parma in October are:
Average Temperature between: 13oC - 24oC / 55.4oF - 75.2oF
Rainfall: 76.2mm / 3 inches
As the seats we have been allocated vary, we are offering the tour with three price levels:
Level 1 £2895 is for top tier seats for Luisa Miller, Stalls for I Due Foscari & Front stalls for Aida
Level 2 £2835 is for top tier seats for Luisa Miller, Centre Gallery for I Due Foscari & Lateral seats for Aida
Level 3 £2795 is for top tier seats for Luisa Miller, Rear Stalls for I Due Foscari & Lateral seats for Aida
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.