hidden europe 62

The D'Annunzio affair: remembering the Free State of Fiume

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: Fiume/Rijeka. From 1924 to 1943 this river was the frontier between Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (photo © dragoncello / dreamstime.com).


Gabriele D’Annunzio was an aviator, poet, playwright and populist who in his manner presciently anticipated the current crop of populist leaders. His ‘invasion’ of the Adriatic city of Fiume in 1919 precipitated an international crisis. One hundred years ago, in autumn 1920, the newly created League of Nations endeavoured to defuse tensions by creating the Free State of Fiume.

This autumn marks the centenary of a rare moment in international relations. On 15 November 1920, two European ports were granted special privileges as independent city-states. The Free City of Danzig and Free State of Fiume were respectively on Baltic and Adriatic shores. In each case, the then newly created League of Nations had a key role in guaranteeing the independence of these two unusual and very different polities. The story of Danzig is well known, its creation prompted by major geopolitical concerns and the need to give Poland assured access to a major seaport. The special status of Fiume was less governed by affairs of state, but more by a need to curtail the antics of a wayward playwright.

Our story about the Free State of Fiume starts not on the Adriatic but in a Mediterranean seaside resort. By November, the very last of the summer warmth has faded in Rapallo. The Ligurian coastal town, where Wassily Kandinsky spent four winter months from late 1905, becomes much quieter as the first winter rains sweep in from the Mediterranean. There are still the scents of Liguria — salted anchovies and olives — but many of the green shutters along the seafront are now barred shut.

But in November 1920, there were visitors to Rapallo who didn’t rush to leave. Representatives of two European kingdoms, Italians on the one hand and a South Slav alliance on the other, stayed at the negotiating table, working day after day to hammer out an agreement.

This is just an excerpt. The full text of this article is not yet available to members with online access to hidden europe. Of course you can read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 62.
Related article

Editorial hidden europe 67

In hidden europe 67, we go mountain hiking in Croatia's Kvarner region, ponder the relationship between mining and cultural heritage, take to the rails in Germany with a wonderful slow travel deal and discover a former Catholic seminary in the Braes of Glenlivet. We also visit both Hoek van Holland and Harwich and make tracks for an unsung delta on the Adriatic.

Related article

Editorial hidden europe 69

In this 69th issue of hidden europe we look, possibly more than in any preceding issue, to our coastlines and inshore waters for inspiration. We visit islands off Croatian and Scottish coasts, take boat trips through Greek and Norwegian waters, stand at the point where the Skagerrak meets the Kattegat and explore Germany's Wadden Sea.

Related note

Portoroz airport reopens

The little airstrip at Portoroz in Slovenia has never featured prominently in Europe's flight schedules. The airfield is south of the town of Portoroz, and built on water meadows near the Dragonja river. But Portoroz airport is back in the news, as it is about to reopen for scheduled flights.