Born in 1813 in the Duchy of Parma in Le Roncole, at that time under Napoleon`s occupation, he moved to Busseto in 1824 where he started his musical studies with Ferdinando Provesi. Verdi is also known as "the swan from Busseto".
He composed an overture for Gioacchino Rossini`s Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), then he moved to Milan, but he was not accepted at the conservatory, so he had private studies with Vincenzo Lavigna. Marrying his patron`s daughter, Verdi became the municipal music director of Busseto after completing his studies.
In 1838, the leading European musical editor Giovanni Ricordi bought his copyrights and this business would last for the rest of his life, passing through the generations of Ricordi`s family, with Tito and Giulio Ricordi being considered as part of his family.
Now wealthy from the success of his works, the composer purchased an estate in Busseto. He then assisted at the birth of the Kingdom of Italy. In 1861, he was elected as Deputy in the first parliament of the new nation of Italy. La Forza del Destino had its premiere in St. Petersburg in 1862 and Don Carlos was first presented in Paris.
It was in 1872 that Aida was performed at La Scala with great success. It had been composed for the Egyptian Khedive, on the occasion of the inauguration of a new opera house in Cairo, and not for the opening of the Suez Canal as often mentioned.
He died of a stroke in 1901 in Milan after the completion of his "Casa di Riposo", a retirement villa for poor artists. In keeping with his humble origin, Verdi took pride in the engagement of the peasant girl (Artemisa) he fathered when he was already 63 to the Guardia Forestale Ernesto and attended their wedding in Langhirono a few years before his death. His funeral was extremely well attended, and a quarter of a million mourners were present to show their respect to one of the most important figures in Italian music. He was interred next to his wife in the "Famedio" (Temple of Fame) at the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan. A month later, the bodies of Verdi and his wife were both moved to the Casa di Riposo in Milan. During the procession from the Cimitero to the Casa di Riposo, which was attended by throngs of mourners, Arturo Toscanini conducted a choir which sang Va Pensiero.