Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi is famed for his musical accomplishments and yet few know about what he described as his greatest work: Casa Verde. It’s a sumptuous mansion built for the sole purpose of giving elderly musicians down on their luck a place to spend their final days immersed in music.
Designed by Italian architect Camilo Boito, the retirement home was opened in Milan in 1902, a year after Verdi’s death. It’s a gorgeous neo-Gothic palazzo with chandeliers, high ceilings, decorated tiles and an elegant concert hall featuring an imposing organ and grand piano. Run by the Giuseppe Verdi Foundation, it currently houses 60 elderly residents who include retired orchestral musicians, conductors, ballerinas and opera singers from all over Europe. Along with a room, board and medical services, they are given free access to weekly concerts, music rooms, numerous instruments including drum sets, harps, and pianos, plus the company of their music-loving peers.
In the late 1990s, it also opened its door to music students who could rent a room at a reasonable price. The integration of young and old was a great success and now more than ever this palazzo is a glorious celebration of a life devoted to music.
While most of the building is dedicated to its residents there are some areas open to the public. A small museum showcases the personal possessions and mementoes of Verdi and his second wife Giuseppina Strepponi, while you can also see the elaborate mosaic crypt where they have both been buried. And if you’re lucky during your visit, you may even hear the dulcet sounds of an impromptu concert in progress.
The crypt is open every day from 8 am to 7 pm, while on Tuesdays and Saturdays a volunteer from the Italian Touring Club will give you a guided tour. Entry is free.