If I hadn’t attended architect and tour guide John Anderson‘s lecture ‘Veneto Beyond Venice’ on Monday night I may not have learnt that, over a period of 400 years, Venetian nobles built a whopping 5,000 country homes the size of Buckingham Palace.
I also may not have learnt that, one of them, 18th century Villa Pisani was owned by Napoleon. (He only spent one night there before giving it away. As one does.)
Villa Pisani: the meeting place of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler
Villa Pisani is modelled on Versailles but looks more like the White House with its palladian arches and long reflecting pool. It is famous for being the place where two powerful men, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, met in June 1934.
The Independent article by Nancy Caldwell Sorel
But what took place when they did meet? Nancy Caldwell Sorel wrote a humourous article for The Independent about the meeting which was surely a personality conflict waiting to happen.
Hitler was disadvantaged from the start, she explains. He wore a ‘brown garbadine and limp fedora’ in comparison to Mussolini’s ‘snappy’ uniform.
Mussolini, she says, ‘had the confidence of a man who, after declaring himself minister of war, the navy and the air force, then learned to swim and fly, and to ride a horse so that he could review his troops’. Mussolini also spoke German. Hitler, apparently, had a nervous tick.
At Villa Pisani they retired to the drawing room. Hitler desired Austria to become a part of the Reich, Mussolini wanted Austria to remain independent.
Says Nancy, “Opposition brought out the maniacal in Hitler…Anxious attendants heard fists thumping, and increasingly frenzied rantings”.
By the time they left, in separate cars, they couldn’t even look at each other. When asked his opinion of Hitler later Mussolini declared him, “Un clown po’ matto” (A mad little clown).
I suspect Hitler wouldn’t have been worried, he didn’t understand Italian.