I apologize for the style this post is written in: the "all over the place" style. It was such a great experience that I put it down the way it happened so I wouldn't leave anything out.
While we were in Milan, passing through my old neighborhood we came across the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti (Resting Home for Retired Musicians) where Giuseppe Verdi's tomb is. One would guess that it being in my neighborhood would mean that I knew what it was. But alas, for some reason I always thought it was some sort of an embassy, or consulate or an official government building. This retirement home for old musicians was built and founded by Giuseppe Verdi himself. Later on, as the story will evolve, we will find out that Verdi had asked that the retirement home started functioning as one after he died, for he would be embarrassed to be thanked by his fellow musicians. The house was completed in 1899 but remained closed until 1901 when Giuseppe Verdi had died.
As we were standing outside the building, trying to figure out if we could go in or not, this short, surprisingly quirky and willing old man popped up and told us that we could go in and see the tomb. We went in and a short-haired angry lady adamantly pointed out that we could only see the tomb and that we were not allowed to go anywhere else. We walked in through the building to the internal yard. The small construction hosting the Verdi tombs (Giuseppe and Giuseppina Verdi) was at the end of the yard. We saw the tombs and were mesmerized by the amazing architecture and ornamentation, by how the mosaics were done and the great depictions over the actual tombs. We figured we couldn't take pictures to we tried sneaking-in some iPhone action. As we were leaving the tomb and enjoyed the smell of the unidentified bushes in the internal yard and got ready to continue our day in the streets of Milan, the old man popped right in front of us again and said that he wanted us to see the chapel -la Capella- up on the first floor. We told him that the (angry) lady at the information desk specifically told us not to go anywhere else, and that there were signs everywhere which forbid us from going anywhere beyond that point. He said that as long as we were with him we could go anywhere he took us. So, we went ahead and followed him. We passed by a small room with a couple of teenagers who practiced the piano and the harp (if I remember well) and provided an aptly fitting soundtrack to what we were experiencing. Heading towards the elevator we passed by a bronze statue of Giuseppe Verdi the old man explained that -from what I managed to gather from his sort of old italian accent, infused with what seemed to be German words- they were bronze replicas of the originals which were made in plaster. Then he took us up to the first floor where we were welcomed by a set of gorgeous green velvet couches as soon as the elevator doors opened. The "maestro" walked ahead of us and switched on the lights of a breathtaking, high-ceiling concert room with bright red leather audience seats, gorgeous elaborate wooden floors and ornate murals depicting arabian style drapes. As we proceeded in the room we saw that a huge church organ and a (very long) Grand Piano were at the center of the stage area. That's when the old man told us that he used to be a violin player. I believe that I am not only talking for myself when I say that we were -poorly stating it- overwhelmed, starry-eyed and dumbfounded by the all the magic and all the gravely important history that was implied by, and lied beneath everything that surrounded us.
As we were exiting the concert room through another doorway we bumped on one of the people who worked at the "Casa" and I personally thought that at that point our little illicit tour through history had come to an end. To our surprise this very kind man asked: "Have you seen Verdi's piano yet?" And while the old man, or "Maestro" as the younger man called him, was really eager to proceed with his tour to the first floor the assistant walked us to the "Arabic Room" through a lounge area packed with the most gorgeous antique furniture I've seen. The room was decorated in a similar way to the concert room. We could not believe that just like that, randomly, we were introduced to all this magic and in a few minutes we were standing right in front of the piano on which Giuseppe Verdi composed his major operas. On the walls on the left and right of the piano there were two arabic-style gorgeous furniture which were given to Giuseppe Verdi by the Egyptian King after he heard Verdi's Aida.
As we were still trying to "digest" all this, the Maestro insisted that we followed him to the Chapel. And so we did. He walked us to the chapel and silently, yet very proudly, stood there as if he wanted us to take a moment and enjoy the sight. It was small, with a few seats and gorgeous vitro green and red windows which let dim light into the room. Then, he took us around the rest of the floor to see where all the concert preparations took place and as we passed by the hairdresser, the dressing rooms, the flower preparation room and arrived to the bathroom he asked us: "Does anyone need to go?" We said that we were all set (though Sophie wanted to take pictures of the bathroom). "When you need to go, you need to go." he said and walked us to the elevator.
When we reached the door downstairs we asked him if we could take a picture with him. "What do you need that for? I am 96 years old, you don't want my picture. You are young!" I wasn't sure what he meant by that, but as we wished him a happy Easter and asked him if he wanted to go somewhere, he once again stunned us: "No, I need to go down to the metro station, I have stuff to do!" and in the same quirky manned he popped into our (sur)reality he headed towards the nearest metro station.
As we were leaving the building the aforementioned grey-haired lady was more than unhappy about our little personal tour. She made it quite obvious that she was pissed at both the Maestro and us.
Well, suck it! We just had a personal tour by a 96 year-old musician to one of Milan's most historical buildings.