At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

12 March 2016

Gabriele D’Annunzio – writer

Military hero influenced Mussolini with his distinctive style

Gabriele D'Annunzio: writer and military  hero, pictured in the 1930s
Gabriele D'Annunzio: writer and military
hero, pictured in the 1930s
Poet, playwright and political leader Gabriele D’Annunzio was born on this day in 1863 in Pescara in Abruzzo.

He is considered to be the leading writer in Italy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as being a military hero and a political activist. Some of his ideas and actions were believed to have influenced Italian fascism and the style of the dictator, Benito Mussolini.

D’Annunzio was the son of a wealthy landowner and went to university in Rome. His first poetry was published when he was just 16 and the novels that made him famous came out when he was in his twenties.

At the age of 30 he began a long liaison with the actress Eleonora Duse and started writing plays for her. But his writing failed to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and he had to flee to France in 1910 because of his debts.

After Italy entered the First World War, D’Annunzio returned and plunged into the fighting, losing an eye during combat while serving with the air force. He became famous for his bold, individual actions, such as his daring flight over Vienna to drop thousands of propaganda leaflets and his surprise attack on the Austrian fleet with power boats when they were moored at Buccari Bay in what is now Croatia.

In 1919, with about 300 supporters, he occupied the port of Fiume, now Rijeka, whose population was mostly Italian. D’Annunzio believed it belonged to Italy but the Italian Government and the Allies were proposing to incorporate it into the new state of Yugoslavia.

He ruled Fiume as a dictator until December 1920. Some of his slogans and the tactics he used while he was leader there were later copied by Mussolini.

After Italian forces made him abdicate he retired to his home at Gardone Riviera to write .In 1922 he was pushed out of a window by an unknown assailant but, although badly injured, he survived the fall.

He was given the hereditary title of Principe di Montenevoso by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1924.

Next to his house he built a stadium, Il Vittoriale degli Italiani, to display his torpedo boat and the aircraft in which he flew over Vienna. A mausoleum was built there after his death in 1938 to contain his remains.

The amphitheatre at Il Vittoriale degli Italiani
Photo: BlueSky2012 (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

Il Vittoriale degli italiani, The Shrine of Italian Victories, is an estate in the hillside above the town of Gardone Riviera, overlooking Lake Garda in the province of Brescia. D’Annunzio began planning the estate in 1921 with architect Giancarlo Maroni. Jutting out of the hillside is the cruiser, Puglia, its bow pointing symbolically in the direction of the Adriatic, as though ready to conquer the Dalmatian shores. Now a national monument, the estate houses a military museum and library and is a popular tourist destination.

Travel tip:

The birthplace of Gabriele D’Annunzio in Corso Manthonè in Pescara is now the Museo Casa Natale Gabriele D’Annunzio. The house at number 116, where he spent his childhood, now displays furniture, documents and photographs illustrating the writer’s life. It is open to visitors every morning from 9 am to 1.30 pm.


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