Imago Dalmatiae. Itinerari di viaggio dal Medioevo al Novecento


"The maestral had gone, and a pleasant south wind was blowing in its place; the day was serene, and the sky blue; the steamer was excessively crowded with gay and noisy pleasure parties enjoying a Sunday trip, when - with a suddenness that is quite indescribable, the ship staggered as if she had been struck with a blow, masses of clouds went skurrying across the sky, and a violent wind began to blow. 'The Bora! The Bora!' resounded on all sides, in tones of terror and dismay. […]. Very cold, rough, and disagreeable it was; and we were none of us sorry when we steamed into the harbour of Zara at six o'clock. An Austrian three-decker was there, and she at once sent a boat-load of sailors to assist in mooring the steamer with double and triple chains, in case the much-dreaded Bora should increase. […]. It is a very rare occurrence for the Bora to blow in this manner in the middle of summer; but, for everal months of the years, a collect is added to the daily litany in all the churches of Istria and Dalmatia for deliverance from this dreadful wind.

Zara, the seat of the Diet, the bureaucratic capital, and the archiepiscopal throne of Dalmatia, is a very small city, standing on an island completely inclosed in high ramparts. These have been lined with grassy banks, and thickly planted with trees; so that Zara is pleasantly inclosed within leafy as well as stone walls. In the centre of her sea-front is a gate, Venetian on one side, Roman on the other; it leads into the principal street of the city, which is a quaint little place, clean and bright-looking, with very narrow streets and several piazzas. On the other side of the city, the connection with the mainland is guarded by a very handsome Doric gate, the Porta di Terrafirma - a work of San Micheli in 1543; as also a simple but rather handsome Loggia, built a few years later in the Piazza dei Signori. Close to this is a solitary Corinthian column, said to be the sole remaining fragment of a Roman temple. Another, not far off, was erected for exposing malefactors to public view before execution; the chains for this purpose are still hanging to the column. 

I came in for an enormous procession of all the noble and pious of Zara, who were engaged in carrying a figure of the Madonna from church to church in hopes of obtaining rain. It was sunday evening, and the crowds of people thronging the streets and the bastions were dressed in the fullest Viennese or Morlach fashion, according to their station; and the merest glance told me at once the difference in the gentry between the proud, oldfashioned, grave aristocracy of Ragusa, the busy, commercial man of Spalato, where few ladies join the promenades, and the bustling, important, authoritative look of both sexes of Zara; added to which I think I did not meet a dozen gentlemen in plain clothes throughout the evening: all were either in military or civil uniforms. The churches, in order to give effect to the prayers of the processionists, were brilliantly illuminated; the cathedral alone was deserted" (pp. 263-265).

"I was then taken to see a large addition, just completed, to an ancient Benedictine monastery; it was a long, flat, ugly wall, pierced with narrow, pointed windows of the commonest village meeting-house description. 'Ebbene! Che ne dice?' exclaimed the Zara gentleman who was lionising me. 'Don't you recognise it?'. 'Recognise what?'. 'Eh! Sicuro! Il suo Palazzo di Vestminster! They say this is a close copy of it!'. We then went to see the outside of the handsome Bibliotheca, of which the Zaratines are justly proud; it was the gift of a Zara gentleman, and it is, as yet, the only public library in Dalmatia. After this, having exhausted the lions of Zara, and the evening having closed in, I sat at the café, eating ices, and watching a number of Montenegrins, who looked strange enough in their beautiful dresses. Some of these men are exiled from the Black Mountain on account of old blood-feuds, which they would not consent to give up, and some because they belong to a family who think they have as much right to rule Montenegro as the Petrovich family of Niégush, who have now ruled for one hundred and sixty-seven years. These men have caused so many dissensions in the little principality, that it has been found necessary to exile them; and they have, I believe, been joined by all the family of Radovich, one of whom, named Kadich, was the murderer of Prince Danilo.

Few of the richer gentry live within the confined precincts of Zara; they all have villas on the mainland, whence of course every vegetable and fruit that is eaten in the city is sent; in fact, the inclosed space is so small, that only one house in the whole city stands in a garden or has the smallest court, and not even a washerwoman is allowed to have a yard in it. Zara, though actually the capital, and for many centuries the key of Dalmatia, was never really Dalmatian, or rather Sclavic. […]. 

During the French occupation of Dalmatia, the head-quarters of the general were fixed at Spalato; but all the Dalmatians (with the sole exception, of course, of the Zaratines) now greatly desire the removal of the capital to Spalato. Zara is at the very extreme end of the country; it is inconveniently small, and although the Venetian fortifications are good in themselves, the city would be indefensible, it is said, if attacked both by sea and land. It is but little nearer to Vienna and Trieste than Spalato, and now that the whole coast is furnished with telegraphs, this is of no consequence; and as I trust we may look forward to seeing a railway made from Spalato to the Danube, it is but natural to expect and hope that that place will in time become the real capital, as well as the chief commercial city and port of Dalmatia.

Zara is now the factory of the best liqueurs in the world; maraschino (made from black cherries which are grown chiefly at Almissa and Macarska), rosoglio of several sorts, portogallo from oranges, garofalo from cloves. I was told that more are exported to England than to any other country. Zara is also famous for its tunny, sturgeon, anchovies, and other fish; but I was told that Sebenico has the most numerous and choicest variety on the Dalmatian coast" (pp. 267-270).