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    Verdi’s Home: Build a Holiday Around It

    For a memorable Italian getaway, why not stay in the childhood home — or castle, really — of Giuseppe Verdi? The experience delights all senses.

    AGEIST Hotels You Can Build a Holiday Around:
    Antica Corte Pallavicina

    This is our second entry in our series of “hotels you can build a holiday
    around.” See our first post here

    Our current enchantment: Antica Corte Pallavicina, located in the Italian countryside not so far from Parma. This hotel falls in the category of secrets you’ll want to keep, but AGEIST is all about sharing experiences we love.

    Antica Corte Pallavicina, which is actually not a hotel but a castle, just happens to also be the childhood home of Giuseppe Verdi. Yes, the Verdi. Because of this, perhaps, it is luxuriously appointed and feels like the home of an eccentric creative friend with exquisite taste.

    Traveller’s Luck

    We discovered Pallavicina by accident when we found ourselves in Tuscany for a New Year’s Eve party without a place to stay for our last couple of days.

    My impromptu travel strategy: ask any Italian you see at the NYE party and see what turns up. The third person I asked just happened to be a restaurant reviewer for the Italian version of Zagat’s guide, and he exuberantly corroborated…”I have a friend who is a chef, who has this place, and it is special…and, let me make a call…” We booked without looking too much into it.

    Menu planning by the fire, Parma, Italy ©patriciagarciagomez

    The charm of fireside baths, Parma, Italy ©patriciagarciagomez

    Fireside Bathing

    We arrived and were escorted to the honeymoon suite (it was the last room available of the castle’s only 11 rooms; more luck). It was love at first sight: my quirky room with a cathedral ceiling, velvet curtains, lush linens, tall windows looking into the fields, and a bathtub by the fireplace! 

    From the bath we wandered down onto the Noble Floor, without knowing it was the Noble Floor. This floor is a decadent series of plush and cozy rooms left at the complete disposal of the guests, to have a beautiful glass of wine, or perhaps an herbal tea from the Capuchin monks at the abbey in Torrechiara, or…whatever makes you happy. There are roaring fires, and a cheese plate and beautiful local wines arrived at our nook without our asking.

    Reserved culatello (aged ham) for chef Alain Ducasse in 1320 cellars of Antica Corte Pallavicina ©patriciagarciagomez

    Alongside the River Po ©patriciagarciagomez

    Taking the House Dog for a Walk

    Every castle needs a big, long-haired dog curled up under a desk or by the fire. I asked if I could take this one for a walk and was joyfully handed his leash. My Rhodesian Ridgeback of 11 years had just passed away, and this spontaneous companionship did so much for the soul. Pallavicina is located along the River Po, so the two of us made an afternoon of it, both coming back muddy and happy.

    Dinner decadence in the Italian countryside, Antica Corte Pallavicina ©patriciagarciagomez

    Culatello From the “White Pig” Aged Over 18, 27, and 37 Months 

    The restaurant, magically placed in a glass house that glows of candle light, is dedicated to local produce, slow food, and the character of the wetlands that make up the Italian countryside on which it resides. 

    The specialties: cellar-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano (you are in Parma, and this is the best of Parma; chefs such as Alain Ducasse reserve their aged cheese wheels years in advance) and culatello (a kind of ham aged for at least 11 months, traditionally produced in the territory along the River Po). The cellars age back to 1320.

    Portrait of Giuseppe Verdi, Hotel interior, Parma, Italy ©patriciagarciagomez

    From Verdi With Love (Or Perhaps Not)

    Over apéritifs, the owner Massimo Spiagroli gives us the snapshot version of how Verdi’s home came to be what it is today: This is the castle where Massimo’s father was born and worked as a sharecropper for the Verdi family until one day when he was fired (reason not shared). 

    The son vowed to get it back, and eventually did seize the opportunity to buy it off the heirs. He has spent the last 20 years renovating it. Verdi would be proud. 

    Patricia Garcia-Gomez
    Patricia Garcia-Gomez
    Patricia Garcia-Gomez is a writer, photographer and artist. She has contributed to the Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel. Her work is also part of the archives of the Tate Modern, the Museum of Arts & Design in New York, the Buhl Collection, and The Harwood Museum in New Mexico.
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