Purple Travel

[September 14 2015]

A visit to Gabriele d’Annunzio’s ‘Il Vittoriale degli Italiani’ hillside estate in Gardone Riviera, Lombardy

Gabriele D’Annunzio’s house ‘Il Vittoriale degli Italiani’, gifted to the nation after his death in 1938, is a monument to the Italian poet/aviator/rabble-rousing politician. Trekking up to the Vittoriale from the lakeside at Gardone Riviera I decided to get myself lost, weaving along narrow hillside lanes, encountering few people apart from a teenage jogger and a man chainsawing logs, and wandering through fruit groves and cemeteries on my way. I reached the house and its extensive gardens in the late afternoon as a warm light rain descended.

It’s a mind-blowing mess, from the Nave Puglia, a torpedo ship that D’Annunzio hauled up onto the dry ground overlooking Lake Garda, to the brutal Botticino marble Mausoleum at the top of the estate, which contains the remains of many of his colleagues and comrades in arms. Inside the darkened, fascinatingly cluttered interiors of the house (sadly cameras are banned) the poet’s obsessions (Dante, Aerial Warfare, Italy, Music, Motor Racing, Women, Cocaine, Himself) dominate.

Passing by the Evangelical church my way back down to the town, I headed to the Torre San Marco. Originally built by the German industialist Richard Langensiepen, it was purchased by d’Annuzio in 1925 and reconverted to look more like the Venetian military style the poet preferred. It was later used by Mussolini as a meeting place with his lover Claretta Petacci in the final years before they were both shot dead in April 1945.


Text and photo Jethro Turner


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