Timeline in the Life of Gabriele d’Annunzio
1863 Gabriele d’Annunzio was born in Pescara at eight o’clock in the morning on March 12th. Coming into the world, he “seemed to be muzzled by death and did not let out a cry” (Libro segreto): a rare coincidence that ancient superstition in the Abruzzo region regards as a good omen.
1874 As a child, Gabriele attended the Reale Collegio Cicognini in Prato. He soon stood out from the rest as a studious boy and became a little “leader” who was always ready to fight against the boarding school’s strict rules.
1879 He published his first collection of poems and translations entitled Primo vere (In Early Spring), a tribute to Giosue Carducci and the barbarian metric.
1881–1882 In Florence he met Giselda Zucconi, the “Lalla” evoked in his Canto novo (New Song, 1882) poems. Once he obtained his secondary school diploma, he moved to Rome with the aim of attending the Faculty of Literature (but soon abandoned his plans). Again in 1882 he published his first short story collection called Terra vergine, which was his own personal version of Verismo.
1883–1884 Subsequent to their elopement, he married Duchess Maria Hardouin di Gallese in Rome and their son Mario was born the following year. In the meantime, his poetic streak continued: in 1883 he published Intermezzo di rime (erotic poetry that gave rise to much controversy) and in 1884 a second short story collection entitled Il libro delle vergini (The Book of the Virgins).
1885–1886 It was increasingly common for him to collaborate with newspapers and periodicals in the Capital. He worked as a gossip columnist and in 1885 was the editor of “Cronaca bizantina” for a few months. In 1886 he published the San Pantaleone short stories and the Isaotta Guttadàuro poetry.
1888–1889 He returned to Abruzzo, to his friend Francesco Paolo Michetti, in Francavilla a Mare, where he wrote his most famous novel entitled Il Piacere (The Child of Pleasure, 1889). In the meanwhile he continued his relationship with Barbara Leoni, spending the summer of 1889 along with her in San Vito Chietino, while drafting a novel about their intense love story entitled L’Invincibile.
1891 Giovanni Episcopo, a long short story, was published. He wrote L’Innocente (The Intruder) during his stay in the Francavilla convent, which later was translated in France by Georges Hérelle with the title L’Intrus.
1892–1893 A new collection of poems, entitled Elegie romane, was published in 1892; the following year came Poema paradisiaco. The Poet’s new partner, Maria Gravina, gave birth to his daughter Renata in 1893 – the “Sirenetta” (little mermaid) described in Notturno (Nocturne).
1894 After an extensive period of writing, he published Trionfo della morte (The Triumph of Death) – a novel announced several times with the temporary title L’Invincibile – narrating his love story with Barbara Leoni (also testified by their close correspondence, comprising more than 1500 letters). He met Eleonora Duse in Venice and they began seeing each other.
1895 Another one of his novels, entitled Le vergini delle rocce (The Maidens of the Rocks), was published in episodes on “Convito”. During the summer, the Poet went on a cruise to Greece and many of the sensations and images collected during the trip would soon be recalled in his Laudi – in particular in the book of Maia.
1896–1897 He retired to Tuscany with Eleonora Duse, in Marina di Pisa and Il Gombo, while working on the play La città morta (The Dead City). In 1897 he wrote two “Sogni” (Dreams) for her: il Sogno d’un mattino di primavera (The Dream of a Morning in Spring) staged in Paris and Sogno d’un tramonto d’autunno (The Dream of an Autumn Sunset).
1898 He rented an ancient villa called la Capponcina in Settignano, on the Florentine hillside. Eleonora Duse was at his side and moved to a small adjacent villa, called “La Portiuncula”. This marked the beginning of their romantic and professional involvement – during that period he truly lived “amidst dogs, horses and beautiful furnishings just like a Renaissance Prince”. The Poet followed his new partner to Egypt and wrote the play entitled La Gioconda for her.
1899 While in Corfù he concentrated his efforts on drafting of another tragedy, namely Gloria. Upon his return to La Capponcina with his notebooks full of annotations, he dedicated his time to composing three books of the Laudi: Maia, Elettra and Alcyone.
1900 The Poet inaugurated the new century with a solemn lectura Dantis held in Florence and with the publication of Il Fuoco (The Flame of Life), the novel that depicted Eleonora Duse as an actress going down memory lane. “Throw it to the waiting crowd”, Eleonora said to her lover. The book reaped immediate success and even its international fame was increasingly consolidated.
1902–1903 D’Annunzio’s great compositional season continued: in 1902 he published another tragedy written specifically for Eleonora Duse called Francesca da Rimini; in May 1903 he published Maia, the first book of Laudi. He continued his surge of verses at the end of the year with Elettra and Alcyone.
1904 He ended his relationship with Eleonora Duse. He met Alessandra Di Rudinì Carlotti, nicknamed “Nike”, the “blonde miracle”. His passion for Alessandra grew day by day – to the point of Gabriele even offering his “wonderful brain” to her in an actual love contract – while the first staging of La figlia di Iorio (The Daughter of Jorio) was a great success.
1905–1906 The Poet composed other tragedies that were less successful: La fiaccola sotto il moggio (The Torch Under the Bushel, 1905) and Più che l’amore (1906). His passion for Alessandra slowly faded away and he was seduced by another woman, namely Giuseppina Giorgi Mancini, nicknamed “Giusini” or “Amaranta”.
1908 Following an extensive period of writing, La nave (an Adriatic tragedy that celebrated Venice as queen of the seas) was staged on January 11th. An utter success. Following his break-up with Giuseppina Mancini, the Poet kept a journal describing those agitated days, entitled Solus ad Solam and published posthumously.
1909 During the air show in Montichiari, with the presence of 50.000 spectators and many prominent figures coming from all over Europe, d’Annunzio decided to embark upon his first flight. He took off along with Curtiss and then with Calderara. The comment he made once they landed was already a glimpse at his future as aviator: “Flying is a divine thing. All I can think about is flying again”.
1910 He published Forse che sì forse che no, a new novel that had been announced some time earlier. Its leader character was a modern sportman, motorist and (certainly not by chance) an aviation pioneer. But by then he was already besieged by creditors and moneylenders who forced him into abandoning Italy and his beloved Capponcina in the direction of France. During this period he dated various women: initially Natalia de Goulobeff, the American artist Romaine Brooks and then Marquise Luisa Casati Stampa.
1911–1912 He initially took up refuge in Paris and then in Arcachon in the Gironde department, dedicating his time to writing different tragedies: Martyre de Saint Sébastien (1911), with the music composed by Claude Debussy that would have cost all his works being blacklisted; and Parisina (1912), set to music by Pietro Mascagni. He also began his collaboration with the “Corriere della sera” newspaper, where he published the first Faville del maglio.
1913 He was assiduously busy with composing other tragedies: initially La Crociata degli Innocenti (The Children’s Crusade) for Giacomo Puccini, then La Pisanelle ou la Mort Parfumée for the actress Ida Rubinstein and ultimately Il ferro. He published the episodes of a new novel on the “Corriere della sera” newspaper, called La Leda senza cigno (Leda without Swan). He wrote the captions for Giovanni Pastrone’s silent movie Cabiria, for which he earned the considerable sum of 50.000 lire.
1914 When the war broke out, he abandoned Arcachon and moved to Paris, where he followed Italian politics and advocated interventionism alongside the Entente.
1915 War finally offered d’Annunzio the chance to return to Italy following five years of “exile”. He gave passionate speeches in favour of interventionism in Genoa, Quarto and in the Capital. The “joy of the warrior” urged him into asking and obtaining to be recalled into duty as an officer of the Lancieri di Novara under the command of Duca d’Aosta. He moved to Venice, where he rented the Casetta Rossa on the Grand Canal. That is the place where he planned his first flights: he flew over Trieste on August 7th on board a Farman piloted by Giuseppe Miraglia, the following days over Grado and Caorle, in September over Trento and Asiago with the rank of “ufficiale osservatore dell’aeroplano” (air observer officer).
1916 On January 16th, during a reconnaissance flight on a seaplane piloted by Luigi Bologna, he suffered a wound to his right temple after a harsh landing in the waters off the shores of Grado. The accident cost him the loss of sight in his right eye, a long hospital stay and absolute immobility. During this forced blindness he wrote Notturno (Nocturne), the “commentary of darkness”. He met Luisa Bàccara in Venice, who soon became his life companion until his death.
1917 During the night between 3–4 August, he flew along with thirty-six Caproni airplanes over Pola to bomb military installations. But only during the night between 8–9 August was the mission finally successful, leading him to being promoted to the rank of Major. Along with engineer Gianni Caproni and his son Veniero – likewise an engineer and aviator – he planned another arduous flight over Kotor that was accomplished between 4–5 October. Already in September 1917 he was planning a raid over Vienna, which he only accomplished one year later; in the meanwhile he fought along with the Infantry on Mount Veliki and Mount Faiti (10–12 Ocober).
1918 Together with Costanzo Ciano and Luigi Rizzo, on the night between 10–11 February, he embarked upon the Bakar Mockery venture; they penetrated the Bay near Fiume on board three MAS boats with the aim of bombing enemy ships and leaving three bottles crowned with tricolour flames floating on its waters.
Along with thirteen S.V.A. airplanes, on August 2nd he flew towards Vienna but they were forced to desist because of bad weather. Following a second missed attempt on August 8th, on August 9th d’Annunzio flew over the enemy capital city with a squadron of eleven single-seaters – one of which was especially modified to accommodate him. The mission’s objective was launching 40.000 leaflets inviting the Vienna population to surrender: “Long live liberty! Long live Italy! Long live the Entente!”.
1919–1920 The Poet, embittered by the peace negotiations, considered Italy’s victory as “mutilated” and was above all forced (in disgust) to breathe the “stench of peace”. On the dawn of 12 September 1919 he set off with a bevy of legionnaires towards Fiume (present-day Rijeka), the “unredeemed city”, which he occupied and ruled as Commander of a Regency. The following year, along with Aleste De Ambris, he co-authored one of the most modern constitutions called The Charter of Carnaro. But the Treaty of Rapallo brought an end to the Regency and the city was forcefully evacuated by the Giolitti government.
1921 Once he was forced to abandon Fiume, the Commander (as d’Annunzio would be called following the Fiume expedition) returned to Venice. The disappointment and bitterness he felt after the unsuccessful exploit led him into searching for a more secluded retreat. Hence he decided to rent, and later purchase, Henry Thode’s villa in Gardone Riviera – on the Brescia shores of Lake Garda. He was accompanied by Luisa Bàccara (by now his loyal companion) and some legionnaires from Fiume; even Aélis Mazoyer, his housekeeper-mistress from the times of Arcachon, followed him a few years later.
1922–1923 In the peaceful setting of Lake Garda, he dedicated his time to the conclusion of Notturno (Nocturne) and to the construction of the “Vittoriale degli Italiani”, the monumental citadel dedicated to his memoirs, assisted by the architect Gian Carlo Maroni from Riva del Garda: “I hope we get along, being you from Riva and myself from Pescara”. It was the beginning of an artistic partnership that would last until the Poet’s demise.
1924 He published the first volume of Faville del maglio. Following the annexation of Fiume by Italy, the King bestowed upon the Poet the title of Prince of Montenevoso.
1926–1928 The Istituto per l’edizione dell’Opera Omnia (Institute for publishing d’Annunzio’s entire works) was established by Mondadori in 1926, while the second volume of Faville del maglio came out in 1928. Thanks to the proceeds of Opera Omnia, the Poet purchased new areas adjacent to the Vittoriale and built (always with the help of Maroni) the new “Schifamondo” wing that today houses the “d’Annunzio Eroe” Museum.
1930 The Deed of Gift handing over the Vittoriale to the Italian State (already signed in 1923) was confirmed and executed by the Commander: “Not only every home I have ever furnished – I wrote – not only every room I have ever carefully composed, but every object I have ever chosen and collected during the different seasons of my life have always been for me a way of expressing myself, have always been for me a path of spiritual revelation, like one of my poems, like one of my tragedies, like any one of my political or military deeds, like any one of my testimonies of unswerving and upright faith. For this reason, I dare offer the Italian people everything that I own”.
1935–1937 In 1935 he dedicated himself to publishing Libro segreto and the collection of messages addressed to Benito Mussolini during the war in Africa, entitled Teneo te Africa (1936). In 1937 he was appointed President of l’Accademia d’Italia (The Royal Academy of Italy).
1938 D’Annunzio died on March 1st at 8:05 p.m. of a brain haemorrhage while sitting at his work table in the Zambracca Room in the Priory. He had foreseen his death some years earlier: “Feeling as if there were a rope in my brain – a rope that is about to snap, which may snap. A sense of sudden death”.