The Bibione tourist resort refers to the municipality of San Michele al Tagliamento. This municipality’s history has deep roots that go back to ancient times. The area was known during Roman times, as it was crossed by the Postumia Altinate or Via Annia that connected Aquileia with Ravenna. And right on this road, which paralleled the Tagliamento River, lay the “mutatio Apicilia” (today’s San Giorgio al Tagliamento), a station where couriers for the Roman Empire could exchange their horses.
Following the invasions of the barbarians and the destruction wrought by Alaric and Attila, the residents of the small towns of San Michele, San Mauro and San Filippo found refuge on the small islands in the Veneto lagoon and on the already noted“insulae Bibioni”.
Once it overcame the Byzantine and Lombard invasions in 1420, the area was annexed to the Most Serene Republic of Venice, whose historical artistic legacy is still visible today. It was Napoleon, in 1797, who transformed San Michele into a municipality complete with an independent government agency as well as its own seal for duty-free correspondence. After the fall of Napoleon, all of eastern Veneto fell again under Habsburg dominion, remaining thus until 1866, the year when the Republic of Venice was annexed into Italy.
The great events of the first and second World Wars affected San Michele as well: the entire land was devastated by bombardments aimed at destroying the bridge over the Tagliamento River: the current inhabited area of San Michele is, in fact, the result of reconstruction further to the south of the original settlement, thanks to a new plan created by the Venetian architect Angelo Scattolin.
A sad reminder of the bombings of the Second World War is the Villa Ivancich, which was completely destroyed by them. Among the ruins of this abandoned villa, now smothered in climbing plants, we can see the ancient splendours of the late 1500s, when it was built by the Venetian architect Longhena upon the order of the Mocenigos, one of the most important Venetian families.
Few signs remain of the villa that once housed writer Ernest Hemingway and philosopher Ezra Pound, but many memories of its history persist.
Many historic events speak to this city’s force of will, which found new energy and benefitted from Bibione’s tourism resources to improve its services and its buildings on the shore, an effort that continues today. To learn more, visit www.comunesanmichele.it
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Villa Mocenigo – Ivancich: a legacy of a great love story. By Gloria De Antoni
Latisana, Friuli Venezia Giulia, 1948. On a rainy morning in December, a young brunette is waiting and waiting for someone at a crossroads. When the car arrives – a blue Buick driven by her friend Carlo, who had asked her to go hunting at the lagoon – the young woman gets in the back because the front seat is taken by a bulky male passenger she does not know. “I’m sorry we’re late, Adriana, it’s all my fault. I hope you forgive me.” The man, an older gentleman with a moustache and two lines furrowing his brow, spoke to her in English, but she, unlike many of her contemporaries, speaks English very well, as she is the last of a family of shipping merchants who came to Venice from Lussinpiccolo in the early 1800s. Their common friend Carlo introduces them. “Do you know Ernest Hemingway? Ernest, this is Adriana.”
Thus begins the love story between Adriana Ivancich, a nineteen-year-old of rare beauty, and the American author, with this northeast part of Italy as a backdrop, a place where Hemingway will continue returning many times until 1954 and that he will describe in his novel Across the River and into the Trees. “It is a flat and monotonous country and in the rain is it even more plain. Toward the sea there are salt flats and very few roads[….]”. Villa Mocenigo Biaggini Ivancich, a retreat for Adriana’s family, is a real architectural jewel built in the mid-1500s on the bank of the river, with a private landing where the first owners came in from Venice, gliding over the lagoon in a boat and travelling up the river. But when Hemingway begins visiting the house, the war had just ended and almost nothing remained of its old splendours: seventy-five aerial bombardments had practically levelled the two towns, Latisana and San Michele, and the only evidence the so-called “Red Palace” of Villa Ivancich had existed were the two magnificent Barchessas attributed to Longhena. But in a few rooms in a former warehouse that had survived, where a divan displayed a leopard skin that Hemingway had given Adriana, lived her brother Gianfranco, who always downplayed the relationship between Ernest and his sister Adriana. “She was one of the most beautiful girls in Italy, and Hemingway was always in love with her; that’s all. He called her daughter, figlia; it was a relationship like the one between a grandfather and granddaughter[…]”.It was Adriana Ivancich, then, but also the charm of the countryside in Lower Friuli, especially when seen in winter, that inspired in Hemingway the sort of enchantment that allowed him to set the scene in Across the River and into the Trees for his worries and his obsessions: the Second World War, the troubles of ageing and his dreams of renewed youth.