To the visitor:
Are your bringing Narcissus’ Mirror?
This is leaded glass, my mask maker.
Adjust your mast to your face,
But mind that you are glass against steel.
A visit to Il Vittoriale today, one of the most eccentric residences I have ever been to. Nestling on the hill above Gardone Riviera its full name, Vittoriale dell Italiani means The shrine of Italian victories. Refurbished by the Italian Poet Gabriele d’Annunzio it is, shall we say eccentric. The garden has a light cruiser set into the hill site. You can see the motor torpedo boat he used for pleasure trips on the lake. The rooms in the house make the Victoria delight in bric a brac look positively minimalist by way of comparison.
We drove and and then queued without shade for an escorted tour, having left all bags in the cloakroom. All tours were in Italian but we had a sheet of A4 with an English summary. Now if you have to listen to any language that you do not understand, Italian is far and away the best especially at speed in a contralto voice. The poet was a fascist, but he opposed the link with the Nazis. He was a national hero so money from Mussolini to build the folly (for there is no other description for the villa) was designed to keep him away from politics in Rome. Mussolini’s reward was to be admitted to the house via the reception room for undesired guests (yes he had two reception rooms) where a poem was in scripted for his visit in 2005. The english translation heads this post.
We have a room for him to reflect on death, a room with multiple religious images, the bedrooms, even the lavatory are nothing but collections of everything from artistic to tourist tack. Only the kitchen shows any functionalism. At the end of the tour there is a museum of his military obsessions. He didn’t like the Austrians and its comes across, throughout. Its worth remembering that until the end of WW1 the north of the like was a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Having completed the tour, climbed to the memorial and the “ship” it was only left to admire the views of the lake from the roman style theatre (still in use). It has been called a facist lunapark and to a degree that is justified. But when you enter with all the windows covered (he was convinced he was allergic to the light), you realise that this guy was above all an individualist, an eccentric, a madman, but one with a vision while unshared is fascinating in its execution.