Simanaitis Says

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THIS GUY HAD STUFF! PART 1

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.

Gabriele D’Annunzio, 1863–1938, Prince of Montenevoso, Duke of Gallese, Italian poet, patriot, scoundrel, collector.

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.

Above, the Blue Bath at Il Vittoriale. Below, its bedroom. Both display D’Annunzio’s aesthetic tendencies. These and other images from D’Annunzio and the Vittoriale: A Guide to the House of the Poet, by Attilio Mazza, translated by John Middemmen, Edizioni del Vittoriale, 1987.

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.

Il Vittoriale is in Gardone Riviera, on the west shore of Lago di Garda in northern Italy.

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.”

Identifying the features of Il Vittoriale.

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.

Glenn Curtiss took D’Annunzio for his first flight, at the Brescia Air Show in 1909.

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.

The Ansaldo SVA airplane used to poetry-bomb Vienna hangs in the Auditorium of Il Vittoriale’s Cupola.

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.

MAS 96, the motor torpedo boat that carried D’Annunzio on the Beffa di Buccari, now resides in its own special building at Il Vittoriale.

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

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