© Map of Opatija on 1897, DARI Rijeka
The DOLCE ÉPOQUE classical crossover concert was inspired by the history, the artistic and cultural traditions, and the many EUROPEAN CITIZENS who were guests or protagonists of the OPATIJA RIVIERA, in today's Croatia, on the northern Adriatic coast.
Since time immemorial a hub of meetings and exchanges between different peoples, languages and cultures, this area was of great strategic interest from a geo-political perspective, and for almost two centuries, it was one of Europe's most elegant and charming tourist and cultural destinations.
The OPATIJA RIVIERA, with the nearby city of RIJEKA, is remarkable for the unique and rare events that marked both its beginnings and its surprisingly swift rise to fame between the late 19th and early 20th century. In fact, in no other corner of Europe have there been as many as 7 changes of political rule in such a short time, under different countries. An international character has always been a distinctive trait of Opatija, formerly known as ABBAZIA: speaking Croatian in the family, German at school, Italian in the Harbor Master's Office and Hungarian in a medical clinic has long been an everyday routine of whole generations of locals.
Well ahead of the times, the unique eclecticism of this area pioneered what a few decades later would become the cornerstone of the future EUROPEAN UNION: a civil and advanced society, where mutual respect enhances one's own and others' diversity.
© Ladies walking at the Park Angiolina, Francesco Iori
THE GRANDE DAME
Celebrated by poets and musicians for the variety of its legendary camellias; for its colors and its unique views; frequented by rulers and politicians for its healing serenity; studied by physicians and scientists for its beneficial combination of sea salt and mountain air; steeped in the aromas of laurel, lavender and rosemary; and visited by tourists and travelers from all over the world for over 180 years, Opatija – the Pearl of Kvarner, known as the Nice of the East – owes its name of "Abbey" to the church of St. Jacob. The church was founded in the 12th century by the Benedictine monks, and it still retains its original park, and the nearby small port. Since then, Opatija has survived time unscathed, with the elegant step and timeless charm of a Great Lady.
© Opatija by night, Hrvoje Saršon
PORT OF RIJEKA
Although small merchant ships were built in Rijeka – itl. Fiume, named for the river that crosses it – as early as the 13th century, it was only in the 15th century that the city became a real port, as recorded by the Italian notary Antonio de Renno di Modena in his Liber civilium between 1436 and 1461. After passing from Walsee to Habsburg rule, Rijeka was long disputed between the Republic of Venice and Austria until, in 1776, it was annexed to the Kingdom of Hungary. Except for a short period of French domination in the Napoleonic age, and a devastating fire started in 1813 by the English troops, Rijeka remained in Hungarian hands until 1918. Here two of the major naval companies of the time, the ADRIA and the UNGARO-CROATA, launched brigs and sailing ships that set sail for Asia, the Americas and the Indies, until they were superseded by the large steamships and the great transatlantic liners of the early 1900s.
© Harbour of Rijeka on 1890 ca., PPMHP Rijeka
In the Guest List, now kept at the Croatian Museum of Tourism of Villa Angiolina, there are many dedications and illustrious signatures left by famous visitors over the years. Emperors, kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses, diplomats, politicians, inventors, poets, writers, doctors, scientists, musicians, painters, theater artists, philanthropists, writers, scholars and well-known travelers, all attracted by the exotic landscape of Southern Europe, by the natural beauties of the upper Mediterranean and by the beneficial health properties of the Kvarner bay. The close proximity between sea and mountains has always influences this unique climatic combo on the European continent. For over a century and a half, the charm of Opatija and its Riviera have continued to attract citizens from
every corner of the world, trans-
forming every encounter into
a small yet great page
He loved beautiful women
She was nicknamed "the golden voice"
He thought everything
German-born, US-naturalized physicist and mathematician, Nobel Prize in Physics
She revolutionized the stage
He went down in history as the "king of Operetta"
She was the first Nobel
Peace Prize winner
Bertha von Suttner
He defeated diphtheria and invented tetanus toxoid
Emil von Behring
German immunologist, Nobel Prize in
He abolished serfdom
Ban of Croatia
The Lungomare enchanted him
He adopted the stream-of-consciousness technique
in his writings
Here he worked on
his Quo Vadis
Polish writer and
journalist, Nobel Prize
He spent a whole month
in the Riviera
He captured metaphysical atmospheres
Giorgio de Chirico
He visited the seaside resort
as a child
Russian writer, playwright and poet, naturalized American
INFLUENCE OF THE SEA
The history of the Opatija Riviera, its people and its illustrious guests would be unthinkable without its true protagonist: the sea. Since ancient times, it has provided man with food, but above all enabled him to travel and discover new worlds, import new customs, and trade with distant civilizations sharing a common desire to come into contact with one another. From the ships of the Greco-Roman era, loaded with goods and treasures in transit through across the Adriatic sea, to the luxurious transatlantic liners of the early 1900s that shuttled between the ports of Rijeka, Trieste, Naples, Marseille and Hamburg, joining Europe to America and Asia; and from today's hi-tech racing sailboats inspired by the shores of Istria,
to the small and picturesque
fishing boats featured in
historical regattas, the sea
has always inspired men,
inhabiting their memory
and in their dreams.
"Baron Gautsch" Steamship
Considered the Titanic of the Adriatic Sea, she was carrying 66 crew members and 240 passengers (reservists and recalled soldiers, luxury tourists and imperial notables) returning to Vienna via Trieste when she set sail from Mali Lošinj on the island of Cres. She struck a sea mine off the coast of Rovinj, and sank in just 5 minutes on August 13, 1914, the same day the UK declared war on Austria.
© Private Collection
Amphorae dating back to the I-II century BC belonged to the cargo of a Greco-Roman merchant ship wrecked near Sorinj, off the island of Rab, in the Kvarner bay.
© Daniel Frka
"RMS Carpathia" Transatlantic
Owned by the English shipping company Cunard Line, she became famous for being the first to come to the rescue of the shipwrecked passengers of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, having sailed from the port of Rijeka and navigated a dangerous route among the ice fields of the North Atlantic. Josip Car, a young Croatian waiter on the ship who was only eighteen at the time, kept a life jacket from one of the survivors as a memento. Today, this relic of the Titanic is displayed in the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Coast in Rijeka, and it is the only surviving specimen in Europe.
© PPMHP Rijeka
A Guc and a Gajeta cross their courses during the international regatta of traditional wooden boats which is held at the end of June every year, with the favor of the Mistral wind in Mošćenićka Draga, Kvarner Bay.
© Tamara Žerić
Racing sailboat designed by Charles Ernest Nicholson, a British yacht designer. She was the first to be equipped with the Marconi mast, so called because the bare mast – with its spreaders, shrouds, forestay and backstay – resembled Guglielmo Marconi's radio equipment. Out of 31 regattas she competed for in the European seas, she won 29, gaining the nickname of unbeatable boat.
© Private Collection
THE GRAND DAME
If in 1883 the tourists scattered between Opatija (Abbazia), Ičići, Ika, Lovran (Laurana), Mošćenička Draga (Draga di Moschiena), Matulji (Mattuglie) and Mount Učka (Monte Maggiore) were 1412 altogether, the number of visitors on the Riviera has grown by 290 times since then, reaching 409,000 units. Except for the period across the two world wars (1912-1948) and during the geo-political rearrangement of the 1990s resulting in Croatia becoming a sovereign State and later a member of the European Union, the number of tourists has been steadily on the rise, reconfirming the Opatija Riviera – the historical "cradle of Croatian tourism" – as a renowned tourist destination. In addition to its sumptuous historic buildings and parks, today the Riviera offers a wide range of exclusive hotels for anyone seeking top comfort in a Mediterranean location.