Celebrating Puccini

Head to the maestro’s hometown in Tuscany, where a spanking new amphitheater will be unveiled at this year’s Puccini Festival to celebrate 150th birthday of Giacomo Puccini. The curtain rises June 15 (through August 23) in the tiny lakeside village of Torre del Lago, where the opera legend spent most of his adult life, and where he composed Madama Butterfly, La Boheme and Tosca (pictured). Puccini always wanted his operas to be enjoyed al fresco, and the new 3,200-seat facility was designed to afford views of the composer’s villa (now Villa Museo Puccini), set between Massaciuccoli Lake and the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Pilgrims to Puccini country can stay in nearby Lucca, at the recently restored 19th-century hunting lodge Albergo Villa Marta. You also get to eat like the composer, whose letters from Milan to la mamma while studying at the conservatory there contained entreaties to send hearty Tuscan fare to the homesick artist. One thing Puccini might not have bargained for: mosquitoes love balmy Italian breezes. Open-air opera acolytes should come slathered in repellent.
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