The symbol of the “inimitable life” of a beloved and controversial Italian poet, this park is packed with allegories and self-celebrating symbology. Even more than the plants, the undisputed stars here are the statues, heirlooms, paths and elements of architecture with eccentric, evocative names.

In 1921, after Gabriele D’Annunzio’s failed raid to annex the city known today as Rijeka to the Kingdom of Italy (the “Impresa di Fiume”), the poet retired to Gardone Riviera, where he lived until his death in 1938. After buying the villa from German critic Henry Thode, D’Annunzio transformed it into a memorial to his own exploits and ideals. The poet’s former residence is surrounded by the Prioria’s highly-evocative, nine-hectare park. In an extraordinarily panoramic position, on a slope that runs down to Lake Garda through the Valletta dell’Acqua Pazza valley, the complex features the San Marco Tower and a dock of the same name. Olive trees, laurels, holm oaks, cypresses, oleanders and other local species surround a series of themed environments which D’Annunzio conceived himself, working closely with architect Giancarlo Maroni. A veritable outdoor museum, the gardens at the Vittoriale degli Italiani culminate in the Mausoleum where the poet is buried. Further downstream is an Open-Air Theatre (still used in summer), an Exedrawith a small temple, Piazzetta Dalmata (the poet’s residence, the Prioria, is accessed from here), the D’ Annunziano Museum, the Nave Puglia, Fontanone del Delfino, and the MAS 96 boatshed. In an exceptional symbiosis of botanical heritage, the symbolic heart of the estate, the Giardini della Prioria, are embellished with rich decor and references to classical gardens, the space filled with battlements, an orchard, rose garden, lemon house and the Arengocommunal assembly, where 27 columns surmounted by artillery shells celebrate victories during the Great War; here, D’Annunzio used to meet Fiume raid veterans and hold commemorative ceremonies on summer evenings.