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GABRIELE D’ANNUNZIO was an Italian poet, patriot, soldier, aviator, hypochondriac, scoundrel, libertine, thrill-seeking meglomaniac, womanizer, proto-fascist and, some say, even worse. Il Vittoriale degli italiani, loosely, the shrine of Italian victories, was his home on the shore of Lago di Garda. This villa remains to this day a celebration of one guy’s stuff.
Among the treasures at Il Vittoriale are opulent furnishings of its era and collectibles galore: a World War I aircraft and torpedo boat, two of his favorite cars, a remnant of a world record speedboat and the entire bow of an Italian cruiser artfully embedded in a hillside.
This guy had stuff! Indeed, more than enough for a single piece here at SimanaitisSays.
With many claims to fame, certainly D’Annunzio’s art collector gene was a strong one. He was part of the late 19th century’s Decadent Movement that fostered aesthetic excess and artificiality.
D’Annunzio’s lady friends included several who attempted suicide, got hooked on drugs or alcohol or succumbed to mental illness. By contrast, Maria Hardouin del Duchi de Gallese and he married in 1883, separated in 1890, but maintained good relations, and the marriage, until D’Annunzio’s death 48 years later.
Among other women, D’Annunzio had a decade-long liaison with actress Eleonara Duse (who paid his rent at the time). She later said of him, “I would prefer to die in a corner rather than love a soul such as his. I detest D’Annunzio, but adore him.”
Author Romie Stott at the Atlas Obsurca website described D’Annunzio as “a cross between the Marquis de Sade, Aaron Burr, Ayn Rand and Madonna.” Yes, that too.
D’Annunzio’s flight with Glenn Curtiss at the 1909 Brescia Air Show inspired the poet’s work to soar with aviation metaphors. Later, near the culmination of World War I, he even bombed Vienna from the air, not with explosives, but with his poetry.
Another D’Annunzio wartime adventure was the February 1918 Beffa di Buccari, now called the Bakar Mockery. Three Italian MAS (Motoscafo Anti Sommergibile) anti-submarine torpedo boats) were towed across the Adriatic by larger craft, then released to sneak under electric power into what had hitherto been an impregnable bay near Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia). The boats’ stealthy movements were successful. However, five of their six torpedoes got caught in defense nets; the sixth caused only minor damage.
Yes, this guy sure knew how to collect stuff. Tomorrow, I’ll share other D’Annunzio adventures and more views of his collectibles. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017