BUSSETO, Italy - Opera maestro Giuseppe Verdi, whose bicentenary is being celebrated on Thursday, is "still alive" in Italy - especially for the inhabitants of his native village of Busseto.
The world famous composer's family home is surprisingly humble. On a crossroads, the grocery owned by his parents is on just one floor and has a handful of rooms, including a small stable.
Mario Rossin and Laura Manfrenatto, a couple who have come to visit from Rovigo near Venice, said they wanted to be present for the 200th birthday of "our Verdi", born on October 10, 1813.
"It is thanks to him that our country is known in the whole world with operas like 'Aida' and 'Rigoletto'," Rossin told AFP.
His partner said she was "very emotional".
"Our three sons are at the conservatory and we know how difficult it is to choose music and study when you are not from a rich family," she said.
Verdi only managed to complete his musical studies thanks to the patronage of a wealthy merchant from Busseto after his talent was noticed by his teacher at school, an organist at the local church.
The house of his rich patron, Antonio Barezzi, is in the centre of the village on what is now Giuseppe Verdi Square and is open to the public.
The young Verdi - known as "Peppino" - gave his first concert within these walls and taught piano to Barezzi's daughter, Margherita, his future wife.
In front of Barezzi's house is a statue to Verdi. Behind it is the local theatre, which was payed in part by the composer himself. A little further is Sant'Agata, the villa where he ended up spending most of his life, which can also be visited.