Il Vittorale degli Italiani ★★

An over-the-top villa built by early 20C poet, solider, and adventurer Gabriele d'Annunzio

A voluble, if sometimes misguided, patriot, D'Annunzio once flew a biplane over Vienna in 1918 to prove an invasion was possible (the plane is preserved in an outbuilding). In 1919 he used private troops to take over the border town of Fiume (now called Rijeka in Croatia) that had been ceded to Yugoslavia and held it for 17 months, earning himself acclaim as a national hero—and the enmity of those in power, who couldn't control him. 

Tired of his shenanigans, Mussolini basically arranged to have D'Annunzio retire here in 1921 to keep him out of the budding dictator's hair.

D'Annunzio spent his remaining 15 years putting his considerable energies into his kitschy Art Nouveau villa, cramming tens of thousands of bric-a-brac and artifacts into the claustrophobic rooms that are decorated as flamboyantly as its creator lived his life.

In addition to mementos from his affairs, including one with actress Eleonora Duse (the Angelina Jolie of her age), the décor was all carefully crafted to create a giant visual and decorative metaphor on his life and philosophy. 

It reminds me a bit of Graceland, only rather than be filled with stuff that Elvis just kinda liked and bought, Il Vittoriale is crammed with five times as much bric-a-brac (there are 900 items in that blue bathroom alone), and all of it linked in a web of bizarre intellectual theories. 

For example: The vestibule—just after you come in the front door—is lined with old walnut pews, with a Franciscan stone column form Assisi topped by a basket of Punic apples, a fertility symbol.

At the base of the column are the three nails of the Passion of Christ. D'Annunzio reveled in the fact that his first name was that of an Arcangel, and he called himself the "Visionary" after a flying accident in 1916 blinded him in the right eye.

He was fond of saying, of his house "Everything speaks to me, everything is a sign, for I who can read it." D'Annunzio would also use this vestibule to divide his visitors between welcome guests and undesirables. 

Friends would be shown into the room to the left of the column, the cozy Oratorio Dalmata, lined by 17C choir stalls, and Gabriele would quickly join them. If he found you annoying, however, you'd be shown to the door to the right of the column and into the Stanza del Mascheraio—and be kept waiting and waiting.

On the wall is a mirror, and above the mirror, carved into green marble, the legend in Italian: "The to visitor: are you carrying the mirror of Narcissus? This one is of lead and glass, oh mask-carrier. Adjust your masks to match your face, but remember that you are scraping glass over steel."

Mussolini was always shown to the door on the right.

Scattered across the lush hillside property, which cascades down the hillside in a series of luxuriant gardens, are an outdoor theater, the patrol boat D'Annunzio commanded in World War I, his pompous hilltop tomb, and several small buildings serving as mini-museums to D'Annunzio's colorful life, including:

  • The Museo D'Annunzio Eroe (the "Museum of D'Annunzio the Hero;" modesty was not one of his failings)
  • The Auditorium (in which the SAV 10 biplane D'Annunzio flew over Vienna is suspended)
  • The MAS (an early kind of submarine D'Annunzio took on another daring, self-appointed mission)
  • The Museo D'Annunzio Segreto (no real secrets, just another set of rooms stuffed with his stuff).
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).