Yesterday, Lorenzo and I went out to the end of the Laurentina Metro Line to a part of the city that is somewhere between being a small town and a suburb. It is still  a diasporic community. Italians from Dalmatia and Istria were resettled here after the Second World  War and later Italian citizens from Egypt and Somalia. Lorenzo had set up an appointment with Dr. Marino Micich, who runs the Archivio Museo Storico di Fiume. Not only does the library house over 6,000 books, but it also has many rare periodicals, pamphlets and broadsheets as well as family papers of well to do former citizens of Fiume (Rijeka in Croatian). Micich knows every inch of the archives and is the person to talk to when beginning scholarly research on this subject.

Micich’s approach to the history of Fiume is as practical as that of Liliana Venucci of the Rijeka publishing house, EDIT,  whom  I wrote about in an earlier blog. While Venucci is focused entirely on the now–establishing schools in the Italian language, publishing Italian-language textbooks for children and so forth, Micich really is the keeper of the city’s Italian past. His approach is to collaborate with everyone–the Croatian government, the Hungarian government–constant collaboration.

Micich gave us a great deal of direction as far as our project, urging us to focus on materials such as journals and ephemera. He also agreed to act as a go-between among the various Italian diaspora associations–there are 57 alone in Croatia and Slovenia– to help us identify their local holdings. We also met independently with Colonel Carlo Cetteo Cipriani, who showed us the archives of the Società Dalmata di Storia Patria. Col. Cipriani got us to think further of the vast amount of materials available in state and ministerial archives in Italy and abroad.

As we left the Archivio Museo Storico di Fiume Micich showed us a picture of a Christmas tree that was composed from earth and twigs. It was dry and brittle. The  man who had created it had used the earth he had grabbed from his garden and put in his pocket as he fled Rijeka.


But I think rather than ending on such a somber note, I will end on a more positive one. Everyone I talked to had the same questions about how these materials would be preserved in the future. Some steps were proposed: consolidating the archives; digitizing their holdings; and using library students to catalog and scan these materials as part of their practicum. Other thoughts were to work through IFLA or to develop a plan under the auspices of the EU.

The comment  I heard most was that Yugoslav history needed to be rewritten to include other narratives.  This is essentially what these Italian associations are for–to preserve memory (in a collective sense) and memory (in a personal sense). But that’s another story, isn’t it?

Lorenzo and I will begin our work of creating a bibliography of these materials and writing an article for submission to an Italian academic library journal.

So on that final note I shall leave you with a beautiful and very serene picture of Zadar, as the Croats say, or Zara, as the Italians refer to it.





Venice and Dalmatia/Venezia e Dalmata



The last time I saw Venice I was nineteen years old. During the 1970s,  Jadrolinija had a car and ferry service that began in Italy, slowly made its way down the Dalmatian coast and ended in Greece. You could buy one ticket and get off and on the boat–essentially island hopping–taking as long as you liked until you reached your destination. This trip to Venice is quite different. It is not about being open to a general experience but rather on focusing on a  particular, narrow goal: finding enough information to create a bibliography of material, which either consists of ephemera or of specialized books that are printed in small press runs.  What I didn’t expect, especially during my stay in Venice, was that the underlying question raised by this trip would become much larger: what is history and who determines the narrative? History is largely interpretative, isn’t it.  I think quite often of the study trip and course I taught for Emporia University a few years ago on collective memory and memory institutions.  I am very glad that this bibliography is merely a tool, that is to say, not a text, and that it only points to information resources.

One of the exciting aspects of this trip has been having had the opportunity to visit cities, such as Venice and Padua, which formed an important part of my doctoral dissertation and subsequent research, but which at that time only existed in my mind’s eye.



Yesterday, Bruno Crevato-Selvaggi, the director of the editorial house, Musa Talia, which publishes Atti e memorie della Societa dalmata di storia patria, and Dr. Aldo Sigovini very graciously gave me a tour of the Scuola Dalmata di San Giorgio e Trifone or the “Dalmatian Club. ”  The building was bought by the Dalmatian community in the early 16th century. Its magnificent first level is open to the public and contains several paintings attributed to Carpaccio. The painting above is of St. George slaying the dragon. The picture below is of St. Augustine in his study, writing a letter to Saint Jerome.


I would like to call your attention to some of the magnificent rare books that are found in the library.


Tomorrow, Rome.


Florence and Fiesole


Today, I took the train to Fiesole, where Casalini, our distributor for Italian language books, is located. Fiesole is considered a part of Florence, although the soft light, thick trees and quietude give the impression that you are deep in the country.  The Etruscans lived here until their settlements were overrun by the Romans. The Etruscan walls still stand as do a Roman amphitheater and a very austere Franciscan monastery–all one on top of one another, each a successive layer of history. Casalini has quite a large building that houses the offices and warehouse of the company. It is a much larger operation than I had originally thought and employs close to 40 people.

Below are some of the books we brought back. All of them appear to be in Worldcat but held by a variety of libraries. From looking at the owning libraries the only one that seemed to be seriously collecting these books is the National Library of Slovenia.


IMG_0482 (2)

The majority of the books are either regional histories or memoirs. Patricia and I both agreed that these are probably among the last autobiographies to be written about World War II. These kinds of autobiographies are often critical to our understanding of a period because they are focused on a private rather than public presentation of history. Some associations are very well organized, whereas others have not done a full inventory of their materials. Barbara Casalini and I also talked about having library school students as part of their practicum doing some of the initial work on doing an inventory of these small libraries and warehouses as a way of locating and helping to preserve these materials.


One of the most interesting aspects of this trip is that the itinerary is fluid.  A conversation leads to a personal contact or the suggestion for a new place to visit. As luck would have it, I was able to speak this afternoon to Franco Luxardo, who is providing me with the “academic” contact information that is missing. He has sent me the bibliography for the Società Dalmata di Storia Patria-Venezia, and written the publishers of Bibliografia Centro di Ricerche Storiche-Rovigno/Rovinj, Bibliografia Societa Dalmata di Storia Patria – Roma, and  Bibliography of the Società Dalmata di Storia Patria-Venice.

Next is Venice.




For the next  part of the trip I will be working with Lorenzo Storai (his picture is below). Lorenzo is employed by Casalini, an Italian book distributer in Fiesole near Florence that our university uses to purchase foreign language books.   He’s been going through the various lists their bibliographers have generated of titles published by and about the Italian minority communities.  As a result, it is now much easier to see what these private presses have published or co-published and whether there are any overall themes or trends.   On Monday I will go Casalini’s offices and review the 20 or so books he brought back from our visits to the University of Trieste and individual Istrian organizations in the city.

I have the gut feeling that this nascent bibliography and brief history will prove to be quite useful. These books belong almost in the category of ephemera. Those that have been subsidized by the Italian government cannot be sold and the rest are produced in small press runs. It was quite sobering to find out when we arrived that Libreria Internazionale Italo Svevo Di Zorzon Sergio, the major publisher of these books, has closed, a victim of overexpansion perhaps and a bad economy. Part of its backlist has been purchased by other publishers.

Lorenzo and I met with the President of Trieste University, Renzo de Vidovich, who talked to us about the well-organized three-pronged strategy of the Unione Italiana to support the minority populations in Istria, Slovenia and Croatia, namely, education, publications, and cultural events.

In addition to Dr. de Vidovich we met Dr. Piero Delbello, the director of the Istituto regionale per la cultura istriano-fiumano-dalmata, who showed us the institution’s publications. He also talked to us about the events leading the the founding of these associations and institutions: the exodus of possibly 350,00 Istrian Italians from Yugoslavia in the late 40s and 50s, the complicated issue of property compensation, and the very different experience of the Italians in Dalmatia and Istria. Lorenzo and I also met with members of the  Circolo di cultura istro-veneta, another cultural organization. The president of the organization, Livio Dorigo, gave an excellent analysis of the complicated situation of the Italian minority population–one might even call it a paradoxical situation–that involves historical events beyond anyone’s control–the two world wars in the middle part of the twentieth century and the division of spoils afterwards.IMG_0417



Edit Publishing House


It was a long bus ride to Rijeka. The bus takes you along the old coast road, which used to be the principal route north before the highway was built. It’s a winding road that takes you up, around and through the mountains that come down almost all the way to the Adriatic Sea. However, all my tiredness was forgotten when I met Liliana Venucci, who is head of publishing activities for EDIT. As its Website notes, Edit publishes and markets books dedicated to historical literature as well as contemporary literature, poetry, children’s books, belles letters and in general promotes the culture of the Italian minority in Istria and in the Quarnero. Edit historically has published textbooks for elementary schools as well as middle schools.

This issue of bilingualism and culture will become more prominent because of Croatia’s recent admittance into the EU. The principle of minority rights was established in the EU Constitution. When Croatia became independent it also enacted laws which protected the Italian minority communities in Istria and Dalmatia. Italians in Croatia have dual Italian-Croatian citizenship, run their own schools in Italian and promote their own cultural activities. This wasn’t the case during the Second Yugoslavia, when, for example, Italian associations and Italian schools were closed in Dalmatia, although not in Istria. Liliana was completely persuasive in her arguments that the minority population had the right to maintain its culture and heritage, which includes its own dialect, Istro-Veneto.

Besides showing me the books that Edit publishes Liliana drew me a schematic map of the Unione Italiana’s activities. There are 55 Italian minority associations in Slovenia and Croatia. The Italian Ministry of Education with the help of the Unione Italiana runs an educational program for the children of these groups: kindergartens, elementary and high schools, and University departments of Italian in Rijeka and Capodistria. The Unione Italiana also promotes Italian drama on Italian TV in Capodistria and supports Radio Fiume and Radio Pola.

Again, as is the case with the other Italian associations I visited, these publications have subvention from the Italian government.

I had not been aware of the vast organizational structure that is in place in Slovenia and Croatia to support the activities of the Italian minority population. In my next post I will describe my visit to Trieste, the next city on my travels.


Here’s one last look at the market in Rijeka.



The Department of Italian Studies, Zadar University


, zadar university

Shortly before leaving for Rijeka, I met with Nedjeljka Balic-Nizic, Professor of Italian at Zadar University and the author of Talijanski pisci u Zadru : pred Prvi svjetski rat – (1900.-1915) , as well as many other publications. It was fascinating to see the work her some of her students were doing on diasporic writers. It is hard to know exactly how to categorize the Croats who in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance wrote in Latin, the Croats who while under Venetian rule wrote in Italian  and the Italians who emigrated from Croatia after the Second World who continued to write in their  native tongue. When Dalmatia was under Austrian rule the official language was literary Italian although the Italian spoken in Zadar was a Venetian dialect.  I again met up with Professor Balic-Nizic at the opening of Putovanja i Pezjazi (below), a lovely exhibit that was opened by the President of Trieste University, whom I will visit on Wednesday.



This was a nice affair held in the exhibition space of the  Kneževa Palaca. Organized by the National Museum of Zadar and the Italian Institute of Culture, the exhibit displayed 130 photos of the post-war period taken by Italian photographers in Friuli Venezia Giulia.


The weekend was spent visiting friends outside the city, but here is a last view of the “Riva” or “Corzo” which was built when the city’s medieval walls along the sea were torn down in the late 19th century. It gives Zadar an optimism and openness to new possibilities that few other coastal cities have.




The State Archives


I spent a good part of today with Ana, who has been helping me enormously with my research here in Zadar. I met with the director of the the State Archives (the building is pictured above) and talked further with people at the Center.  Rina has made arrangements for me to meet with the President of the University of Trieste, who will be coming to Zadar on Friday for the opening of an exhibit, as well as an editor at the Edit Publishing house and the President of the Italian community of Fiume on my trip to Rijeka next week. I hadn’t realized that the Drzavni Arhiv is the holder of all the church documents of Zadar. They were transferred here when Zadar was under Austrian rule, mainly for tax collection purposes and census information. The churches have duplicate copies of these documents. The State Archives has done a wonderful job putting on line its finding aids as well as a digital archive.

This is one of them. Romantic, isn’t it?


And lastly, on your way out….




Hello Zadar


Have just spent two interesting days at the Italian Community Center  in Zadar on Ulica Borelli. The center is run by the energetic Rina Villini, a Roman, who married a painter, who was originally from Zadar. She moved back with him almost 20 years ago. Her rationale was that since he constantly was painting Zadar–the light, the colors–he should be in Zadar. After conversations with her and members of the Italian community I learned a great deal about life in the period between the 1920s and 1940s and then again after the Second World War and finally after the Croatian War for Independence. Above are some of the books in the Center’s library. The library thematically is very interesting. There are books on almost every subject imaginable: the perfume of Dalmatia, poetry in the Dalmatian-Italian-Latin dialect (the Italians of Zadar spoke a Venetian dialect), cookbooks, family histories….it is almost as if every bit of this culture is being recreated in the mind’s eye and then published in beautifully printed limited editions.

There is a large literature being produced about Italian Dalmatia and Istria by firms such as Italo Svevo in Rijeka, by the Società dalmata di storia patria, and local organizations sponsored by the Italian government. For example, the ten books this center has published were subsidized in this way and form a beautiful collection now found in our library.

Zadar especially suffered during the Second World War. It was the center of Italian Dalmatia and was heavily bombed. The majority of the Italian population fled to Italy and the city was left almost empty. Eventually Italian property was confiscated during communist Yugoslavia or the owners had to sign their property over to relatives. After the Second World War, Zadar was rebuilt by Croats who settled in the city in the 1950s, seeking new opportunities. The Zadar that exists today in a result of the loss of that culture and a reimagining of another.


The Italian government is collaborating with the Zadar municipality to preserve and restore the town’s Venetian monuments. The winged lion, the symbol of Venice, is one such monument. It rises above one of the gates leading into Zadar. See the interesting work the  Venetian Heritage Foundation is doing in this respect throughout Southeastern Europe.



Here are two members of the community center, Giuliana and Gian Franco, who kindly spent a morning with me talking about the Italian Zara. The community center was only reopened after Croatian independence when various laws protecting minority rights were passed. Under Rina’s capable direction, the center now runs Italian language classes, lectures, hosts exhibits and has recently started an Italian language daycare center.  


A trip abroad

I’ve started this blog as a way of documenting my upcoming trip. From some time I’ve been wanting to do research on the publishing activities of the Italian minority population in Dalmatia and Istria, as well as the publishing activities of Italians who left Dalmatia and Istria after the Second World War. I’ve been to Zadar many times, but it was only on my last trip that I discovered  the Italian Community Center. It is nearly hidden on a side street in the old town. I studied Italian there  for three months. Before I left for home, I purchased twenty or so books that the center published–beautiful books that document a past that exists  only in memory. You can check out some of the titles in our library catalog by doing a search for “Italians” and “Dalmatia” or simply a term like “Istria. Please take a look, it’s an interesting collection that has been supplemented by titles acquired from Cassalini http://library.shu.edu/SHUBooks.