The Vittoriale degli Italiani is one of the most evocative places in the world, almost a city within a city, a verdant and panoramic space created by the genius of the great writer Gabriele D’Annunzio.
The history of the Vittoriale degli Italiani.
Lake Garda, Brescia side. For those arriving by boat, Gardone Riviera (the town that hosts the Vittoriale) immediately appears as a place where time has stopped: the imposing silhouette of the Grand Hotel, inaugurated in 1884, immediately brings back to the splendor of the Belle Epoque, during which the he ancient peasant village became the most famous winter health resort in Central Europe, attracting nobles and intellectuals from everywhere.
In this context, the villa of Cargnacco (Gardone district) attracted the attention of Gabriele D’Annunzio. The Italian government, which expropriated the owner Henrich Thode (an illustrious art historian) in 1918, then entrusted the villa to D’Annunzio. The aim of the soldier-poet was to make the place a sort of memorial of his ‘inimitable life’ and of the exploits of the Italians during the Great War. With the villa, the poet also took over its precious contents, including a library of about six thousand volumes, Wagner’s manuscripts, the Steinway piano that belonged to Listz.
Over the years, renovations and various extensions were carried out in the villa (“La Prioria”) by Gian Carlo Maroni, architect from Riva del Garda. It was only in 1923 that there was news of the name “Il Vittoriale” for the first time, given to the grove of magnolias in the Gardens where “numerous memorial columns” were erected, and then extended to the entire property. The complex del Vittoriale reached about nine hectares of extension, overlooking a unique panorama.
Imposing residence, as well as a place of reception and representation, but with a “Deed of donation to the Italian people”, drawn up in 1923, completed in 1930, the Vittoriale becomes a common heritage; cultural and tourist symbol of Gardone Riviera and of the whole Lake Garda.
What to see at the Vittoriale.
Here the poet’s soul relives in every corner, in every monument, in every furnishings that he carefully chose to embellish his home.
The Vittoriale in fact includes the Poet’s house – called Prioria – an important and precious testimony of his inimitable and unconventional way of life; parks and gardens of great historical and environmental significance, the prow of the Puglia ship, set in the keep hill of the park (it was donated to D’Annunzio by the Navy in 1923. The prow dominates Lake Garda and symbolically faces the Adriatic and Dalmatia. It is undoubtedly one of the most evocative and original settings in the park); the S.V.A. aircraft, used in 1918 by d’Annunzio for the flight over Vienna; the anti-submarine motorboat MAS 96 of the Beffa di Buccari; the two cars: the Fiat type 4 and the Torpedo Isotta Fraschini, the last of the many cars that belonged to d’Annunzio.
In the park there is also the “Museum D’Annunzio hero” where the relics related to the military experience of d’Annunzio and the heroic deeds that saw him protagonist during the First World War and the enterprise of Fiume are collected, and the “Secret D’Annunzio Museum”, located in the sub-theater, which reveals the most private part of the poet: 150 objects, precious and in common use, which until now have remained inaccessible to the public eye.
The gardens are the part that perhaps most of all leaves you speechless. A triumph (to use a term dear to the poet) that extends between bronze statues, such as the “Victory crowned with thorns” by Martinuzzi, streams that form the Pond of Dances and fountains, such as the Dolphin Fountain. There is also a large amphitheater, called Parlaggio, inspired by the ancient theater of Pompeii and the Mausoleum where the poet rests together with some Rijeka heroes and legionaries, including the architect Maroni himself (the monument is inspired by the funerary mounds of the Etruscan-Roman tradition and consists of three groups in Botticino marble to represent the victories of the Humble, the Artieri and the Heroes).
TENER-A-MENTE the Vittoriale Festival.
The Festival takes place in the amphitheater of the Vittoriale degli Italiani, in a context full of history and in its wonderful park, elected in 2012 “the most beautiful park in Italy”. A place suspended between art, culture, nature and beauty. This every year attracts thousands of music lovers from all over the world and offers concerts by internationally renowned artists such as in the past Lou Reed, Ben Harper, Burt Bacharach, Keith Jarret, James Taylor, Paolo Conte, Franco Battiato and many others. Take a look at the calendar to find out all the concerts that the Vittoriale degli Italiani has in store for you and buy tickets in advance!
How to get to the Vittoriale.
To visit the Vittoriale it is advisable to book the visit and avoid the periods of school trips or public holidays in very high season.
– Coming from the North on the Brenner A22 motorway, exit at Rovereto Sud, then arrive at Riva del Garda and continue on the SS45bis up to Gardone Riviera.
– Coming from the South, you can take the A4 motorway, exit at Brescia Est, and then continue with the ring road towards Salò, then take the SS45bis along Lake Garda until you reach Gardone Riviera. On public holidays and in summer this road, better known as Gardesana Occidentale, can be very busy, so you can find queues.
The parking lots around the Vittoriale are all paid, it is always necessary to buy the ticket to be displayed in sight to avoid high fines.
On the train:
The closest railway stations are those of Desenzano or Brescia. You then arrive in Gardone Riviera by taking the buses that run along the entire Garda area.
Hotels – Restaurants – Experiences on Lake Garda.
On Lake Garda there are many structures in which to stay, from small and well-kept B&B’s to resorts with wellness centers and beauty services, in the section dedicated to hotels find all the information you need to find the most suitable accommodation for you.
The same goes for restaurants, at this link you will find our selection of restaurants on Lake Garda. Remembering that Lake Garda offers several starred restaurants and the quality of the culinary offer is very high.
There are many activities and experiences you can do on Lake Garda, so we recommend you visit the section dedicated to experiences in our magazine by clicking here.
Much more than a museum, much more than a historic residence. At the Vittoriale degli Italiani there is a part of each of us, that dose of healthy patriotism, which makes us proud to be Italian, surrounded by so much beauty, art and culture. Well… without forgetting our kitchen too!
See you next time dear Outdoors!
Silvia Turazza – Garda Outdoors editorial staff