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Vittoriale degli Italiani: Gabriele D’Annunzio’s secrets, perfumes and passions

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«Memento Audere Semper».
Remember always to dare.

There are few words that capture the attention of the visitor who goes to Gardone Riviera, on Lake Garda, to admire the Vittoriale degli Italiani.
A single phrase, written in red letters and well etched on the wall of a building that houses a torpedo-armed motorboat, which embodies the philosophy with which Gabriele D’Annunzio, poet and soldier, made his life a work of art. 

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Born in Pescara in 1863, D’Annunzio arrived on the Brescia shores of Garda Lake, after a life of irregularities, poems, daring enterprises, and fame.

“I found an old villa in the Garda that belonged to the late Dr. Thode. It is full of beautiful books … The garden is sweet, with its pergolas and its terraces. And the warm light makes me sigh towards that of Rome. I will remain here a few months to finish the Nocturne”, D’Annunzio writes to his wife Maria in a letter dated February 1921, that is, a few days after his arrival at Gardone. In the intentions of the poet, the Garda stay had to last only a few weeks to complete the draft of his latest novel, while today we know that the one on Garda Lake would become his last and final residence because he died in 1938. 

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The Vittoriale degli Italiani (admission ticket 16 euros), in fact, is not only the last home of what went down in history with the name of “Poeta Vate”, but it is also the mirror of D’Annunzio’s soul , a house museum, where every room tells a thousand facets of life and personality of this man: poet, dramatist, politician, soldier, pilot of aircraft, Italian patriot and lover.

Walking through the nine hectares of land that comprise the building complex built between 1921 and 1938 and located on the hills of Gardone Riviera that dominate the lake, there are buildings, streets, squares, an open theater, gardens and waterways in memory of the “inimitable life” of the poet-soldier and of the Italians’ businesses during the First World War. 

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D’Annunzio’s house, which can be visited every half hour with expert guides, is a treasure trove of symbols recalling distant eras, now dormant winds of war, and legendary loves such as that for the actress Eleonora Duse.

The music, as well as the great figures of Italian literature including Dante Alighieri, hover in every room, with pianos, statues, and books so dear to the poet. In addition, the whole house is in dim light, with large drapes that obscure the light on the windows, not only because D’Annunzio had lost his sight to an eye, following some aerial battles, but also because he couldn’t bear to see his body grow old.

D’Annunzio was an esthete and took care of his body to always appear in its best form: he loved perfumes very much and, to these, is dedicated, the exhibition
D’Annunzio and the art of perfume” Odorarius Mirabilis “, staged at the Il Vittoriale degli Italiani from April 14th to January 27th 2019 and composed of 150 bottles and ampoules, antique and modern, inserted in a suggestive scenography. 

The poet’s passion for perfume comes from the study of ancient renaissance recipes that are still found in the Vittoriale library starting from the Notandissimi Secrets of Profumatory Art, the Experiments of Caterina de Medici, up to the Galician Recipe Book of the XVI century where, on the sidelines of an ancient recipe of perfume, there is an autograph of d’Annunzio with the formula of his Acqua Nuntia. 

In fact, the poet created and inspired numerous fragrances and on the occasion of the exhibition, has been created a line of six perfumes whose names recall the most famous works of this man who always lived his life with audacity: Aqva Nvntia, the vision of the ancient; Hermione, the scent of spiritual joy; Divina Mvsa, the irradiation of the mystery; Pleasure, the hymn to happy voluptuousness; Notturno, the tribute to the beauty of the night; Fire, the emotion of a fire.

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