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IL VITTORIALE, Gabriele D’Annunzio’s villa along the shore of Lago di Garda in northern Italy, is opulent to the extreme in design and furnishing. Here I continue yesterday’s tour of the place and its recounting of D’Annunzio’s adventures as poet, patriot, scoundrel and worse.
With the end of World War I, Gabriele D’Annunzio felt that Italians living across the Adriatic in Fiume, now Rejeka, Croatia, got less than fair treatment in the Armistice. In September 1919, he led an assault on the city, renamed it the Reggenza Italiana del Carnaro, the Italian Regency of Carnaro, and installed himself as Duce of the place.
Indeed, Soviet Russia was the only country acknowledging this takeover and, at one point, D’Annunzio declared war on Italy. He finally surrendered the city to the Italian navy in December 1920.
By 1923, the Puglia, a protected cruiser, had completed its useful service in the Italian navy. Dictator Benito Mussolini rewarded D’Annunzio for his wartime valor by giving him the ship’s bow portion, which now is artfully embedded in an Il Vittoriale hillside.
Like Mussolini, D’Annunzio savored the power of the automobile. Two of D’Annunzio’s cars, a Fiat Typo 4 and Isotta Fraschini 8A Torpedo, are preserved at Il Vittoriale, albeit not quite in the splendor of the rest of the place.
Another D’Annunzio acquisition also reflects his fascination with speed. On June 13, 1930, Englishman Sir Henry Segrave was killed when his speedboat Miss England II crashed after setting a world record, 98.76 mph, in a competition that D’Annunzio helped organize. The steering wheel of Segrave’s craft is one of the relics in Il Vittoriale’s Room of the Relics.
D’Annunzio’s relationship with fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was a complex one. Dieter Birkenmaier observes in his minibio of Maria Hardouin, “D’Annunzio’s loyalty to Mussolini and his reign was only relativized by the poet’s unlimited arrogance towards everyone. Nor is it explained how a man indebted for most of his life could acquire, during the time of a dictatorship, such a huge property.”
Indeed, the guy sure acquired stuff. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017