By Andrea Alfieri:
Medical science progress together with the interest showed by the aristocracy in the 19th century, had pushed the development of spa resorts and luxury hotels, besides the expansion of thermal baths, surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens.
In those days, in fact, thermal baths as well as being ideal for treatments and relax, also became “fashionable” places for social, political and cultural gatherings. They were places where the economic, political and cultural elite used to meet.
Giuseppe Verdi went to a thermal bath for the first time in 1846, and he stayed in Recoaro Terme, a small town near Vicenza. A famous Venetian doctor, Giacinto Namias, had prescribed him a thermal stay, when – after having visited it – he found the Maestro suffering from “gastric fever”.
Verdi had arrived in Venice a few months earlier to complete Attila, who made his debut at La Fenice theater on 16th March 1846. The intense work together with frequent gastric crises and a rheumatic fever, had weakened him to the point that he was prescribed 6 months of absolute rest. It was to try to solve these health problems that he got to know and appreciate the spas.
Verdi also spent many summers, from 1858 to 1892, at Villa Verdi (ex Grand Hotel and former private residence of Marie Louise), in Tabiano Bagni, in the town of Salsomaggiore, a few miles from Fidenza.
He preferred Tabiano to Salsomaggiore because it was most tranquil and secluded, and this place was – for seven summers – more than just a holiday destination. The healing properties of mineral waters, rich in hydrogen sulphide, were defined by Giuseppe Verdi “miraculous” in a letter he wrote in 1885.
After a few years of absence, Verdi and his wife returned to “take the waters”, this time in Montecatini. At the time, the artist was almost seventy years old and, following his friend Genoese De Amicis’ advice, he was persuaded to try the “miraculous” waters of this Tuscan town. Such was the benefit that he received that he continued to go to Montecatini for 19 years, until 1900.