History of the Hotel Bonavia in Rijeka
On the 130th anniversary of the hotel's activity at its present location and the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Grande hotel Bonavia.
The Hotel Bonavia is a symbol of Rijeka, a meeting place with the soul of the city, and a discreetly present history. This business hotel has been the most important facility in the city for decades, but what made it the central point of urban tourism, which hotels were its competitors, why was it built in its current location in the first place - we will attempt to clarify these and many other questions in order to make the present idyllic picture even more complete and understandable.
Rijeka has continually had the status of a city for two thousand years. The Roman walls of Tarsatica from the 1st century were upgraded in the 4th century. In the Middle Ages, they were just maintained and rebuilt, although they remained identical in every square foot of their surface area. The Slavs mixed with the local Roman population and the city was transformed into Flumen Sancti Viti (St. Vitus' River), but in the architectural sense, throughout the period it existed within its walls, i.e. up to the late 18th century, the Roman spirit could be seen in every alley and on every wall.
The graveyard church of St. Andrew (S. Andrea), which was erected west of the fortified settlement, dates to the Roman period. Up until 1876, it stood in the area between present day Rijeka's skyscraper and the Erste Bank, and had a major impact on its surroundings over its long history. When it was demolished due to deterioration, a large Roman Aquileia-type floor mosaic from the late 5th century was uncovered.
In the late 18th century, Rijeka began to shed its Roman and medieval shell and shyly expanded along the coast. According to the 1787 census, Bakar was the largest Croatian town with a population of 7,656 inhabitants, Rijeka had 5,956 inhabitants, Varaždin had 4,814 inhabitants while Zagreb had 2,815 inhabitants.
The emperor, Joseph II von Habsburg visited Rijeka on 13th May 1775. He disembarked from a ship which sailed from Senj at noon. He spent the night in the inn on the banks of the Rječina River. On the following day, he attended a service at St Mary's Assumption Church, which was built over the Roman thermae, and was made from its stone, and he visited the theatre in the evening. It was the first stone-made theatre in Rijeka, and was built by Giuseppe Bon on 1765.
The building stood at the outskirts of the completely barren Dolac, which was divided from the two houses that were built at the same time as a theatre with a narrow passageway – they used to be located in the annex of the current Bonavia. At the time of the emperor's arrival, the director of the theatre was Giuseppe de Gerliczy (originally Grličić, 1721-1798), who was the brother of Giovanni Felice de Gerliczy, regent of Rijeka from 1751 to 1776.
That simple, but pretty enormous building could host 300 visitors in the pit and had 38 boxes. The programme was predominantly based on games of chance, the most popular of them being Pharaon. Apart from dances and parties, the frivolous plays of different vagrant acting troops were only shown occasionally. The area was lit by 54 lamps and 5 chandeliers with candles, resulting in an oscillating and intriguing semi dark atmosphere.
The elongated square in front of the theatre was closed towards the sea by the equally enormous building of the post office that was finished in 1776 by Pietro Henry, while the eastern part was closed by the city walls; on the other side was the Augustine monastery. The post office prevailed over the theatre, and the street/square connecting the high street of the Korzo and the steep and vacant hinterland, which ran parallely with the walls, was called Contrada della Posta.
We are not aware if Joseph II was satisfied with the evening programme, but we do know that he wasn't completely satisfied with the things he saw in Rijeka. The business activities were pretty much reduced to the incredibly successful Sugar Refinery, which processed imported sugar cane. That company, which employed 1,000 people at a time when there were only 300 manufacturing workers in Croatia, was run by the Dutch. Maria Theresia, the emperor's mother and his co-ruler, had her shares in this company. But everything else was quite modest and far from the success the emperor expected.
Besides the measures which were supposed to revive trade in Rijeka, the emperor decided that the town gates would no longer be closed at night and that the town could spread outside the city walls more freely. At the same time, he dissolved many monastic orders and confraternities, so he also emptied the Augustine's monastery (1788), which was located about twenty metres east of the Bonavia’s present location . Of course, he also established the Gubernium of Rijeka in 1776, which retained its administrative rights until 1918. In this way, the emperor gave credit to his host, Giovanni Felice Gerliczy, replacing him with the first governor, Count Josip Mailath de Szekhely.
Andrija Ljudevit Adamić was the most important person in the city life of Rijeka around 1800. This able merchant became rich through inheritance from his father Šimun, as well as through his marriage to Elizabeta Barčić. In 1796, he was a civil engineering clerk with Antun Gnamb, the leading civil engineer of the time. In 1798, Adamić designed a new, large theatre with 1,600 seats which he wanted to build with his own money on the Korzo, between the post office and the sea. He managed to finish it and open it with a grand ceremony on 3rd October 1805 on the site of the present City Library. Independently of its impressive competition, Gerliczy's theatre, with its frequent changes in ownership, survived until 1820,
when it was made into a residential building. One project has been found by Mr. Adamić dating back to 1806 that is even more interesting. He suggested the following to the city government:
«Since this town lacks a building which would be adequate as a large and spacious building for the reception of guests, and since I have bought the construction site from Mr Paravić (a wealthy squire from Čabar) near the new City Guards with a high wall on 22nd April, I have decided to build a building for the accommodation of 100 people there, together with a stable for fifty horses and storage for thirty carriages." He also attached a draft for the building which was 17 "klafter" long and 19 "klafter" wide (32x36 m).
This project was finally realised by his grandson, Eugenio Ciotta 1842-1844. It was in that building, which stood on the coast, that husband and wife, Adam and Catterina Ricotti, opened the hotel, Re d'Ungheria (Ugarski kralj, i.e. The King of Hungary), in 1845. A dancer called Catterina Keser, born in Ancona in 1818, was one of the most important figures of 19th century social life in Rijeka, a queen of common people's parties and fun. She married Adam Ricotti Jr, an inn-keeper, hotel owner and trader, and proved her independence when she continued developing the family business after his death in 1871, until her own death in 1894.
There are three hotels on the famous Pirisi's map of Rijeka of 1852. The most important of them was the Ugarskom kralju, then the Kazalištu, in the building built by Adamić, while the hotel Pošti was located in the remodelled Gerliczy's theatre, that is just two or three yards from the current entrance to the Bonavia.
St Andrew’s street used to begin between the theatre and the two buildings at the present location of the Bonavia, ascending up the hill, and descending to St. Andrew's church in a wide arch. It followed a line along the karst sinkhole full of greenery, and at the highest point passed the old villa belonging to the Meynier family (next to the current FINA building, who were the then owners of the Paper Mill, established by Adamić in 1821.
The spring of the Andrejšćica brook was just below that villa and St Andrew's Street simply bypassed it, together with that completely hostile terrain.
In 1856, G. A. Lavoratori, yet another of Adamić’s grandsons, opened a summer theatre in Dolac, near St Andrew's church. The Teatro diurno was a common phenomenon at the time.
Generally, it was an improvised wooden stage which was set up during the summer and which was actually only an excuse for drinking large quantities of wine and beer under a thick shade of the trees.
In 1874, that plot was bought by the widow Catterina Ricotti, who built a family house designed by Jakov Matić there, while she turned the timber warehouse into a theatre hall which she called Teatro Ricotti. This building was located next to the railway line connecting Rijeka to Zagreb in 1873.
The railway brought a new age of tourism to Rijeka - in 1874, two impressive hotels were built. The first was the Europa, designed by Giuseppe Bruni from Trieste for Josip Gorup, the richest man in Slovenia at the time. This building was designed in the Venetian classicism style and was built on the site of the demolished Ugarski kralj/the old Europa hotel, although it was considerably larger, occupying the entire block to the shore. The second one was the Hotel de la Ville (today, it is the students' dining hall Indeks in Krešimirova street). It was designed and built by Ivan Bakarčić for his family. The building had four floors, with ten rooms towards the Korzo Deak and seven towards the Brajda. On each floor there was a total of 68 rooms with 120 beds. The hotel was owned by G. Scheider.
The interior was luxuriously designed, with an impressive bronze sheen in the lobby, a large restaurant and a pub which had a spacious garden terrace. Both the Europa and the Hotel de la Ville set new, metropolitan standards in hotel proposals, in the matter of size, as well as in their shiny salons and restaurants, with a good deal of brass, crystal and mirrors. Beside these two facilities, there was also the Alla Stela (formerly the theatre/hotel Pošti), the Al Re d'Ungheria (on its new site), the Al Nuovo ritornello on the Korzo and the Aquila nera.
In 1874, the mayor, Giovanni de Ciotta, yet another of Adamić’s grandsons, finished the reconstruction and upgrade of the Municipium (the former Augustine monastery), which achieved its present look. For this reason, the street connecting the Korzo and the present Bonavia was named Via del Municipio.
In that period, a 24 year old Czech expatriate Felix (Felice) Eckerl moved to Rijeka and in December 1875 opened an inn at Korzo Deak, near the Hotel de la Ville. As his business ran well, on 8th June 1876 he decided to open a hotel, the Nazionale, with a restaurant in Via del Municipio, No. 548, in the old building next to the Alla Stela hotel.
This date marked the beginning of business of the current Bonavia. The reaction from the city daily La Bilanicia was quite negative: «The new restaurant in Via del Municipio has a sign with Restauration Nazional written in capital letters, it is not clear in what language it is, furthermore, it extrudes somewhat from the façade.»
The remark by Emidije Mohović, the owner, chief editor and the author of most texts in the newspaper, was related to the fact that the name of the hotel was written without the letter e, i.e. Nazional, and not in its correct form Nazionale, as the name of the hotel appeared in the same newspaper a couple of days later.
Shortly afterwards, on 26th May, the hotel Al Nuovo ritornello was opened thoroughly redecorated. On the opposite side of the vacant Dolac, the Teatro Ricotti was opened on 19th August on the site of the pub by the already successful owner. In some way, Mr Bukounik followed her example and on 22nd November 1876 he bought a building plot with a small building on Korzo Deak, next to the railway line, with the intention of opening a pub with a summer terrace in the shade of the tall chestnut trees. This unpretentious club would evolve into the very popular Hotel Deak (today’s trade union building, Franjo Belulović), whose business activity was connected to Bonavia at some period.
For unknown reasons, the hotel Nazionale changed owner, and Luigi Spinazzi took it over from Felix Eckerle on 18th October 1877.
We should also record another prominent figure from the history of Rijeka who moved to Dolac. On 10th April 1878, a photographer named Ilario Carposio bought the photography studio together with equipment from Giuseppe Luzzatto at Dolac, at No. 567, in the auxiliary single floor Ricotti building. He ran his business in those premises for the next forty years, leaving many distinct and historically important landscapes of this fast developing city.
In 1880, Ms Ricotti hired the famous designer, Jakov Matić, to build a new and more luxurious stage. The auditorium remained improvised, with the rows of wooden benches. The same architect in 1882 designed the rearrangement of the residential Bakarčić building from 1874 into the Hotel Lloyd on Adamić Square. With these construction works, Rijeka gained, although for a short period, an array of four hotels along Via del Municipio street: the Europa, the Lloyd, the Alla Stella d'oro and the Nazionale.
In 1883, mayor Ciotta, who was also a civil engineer who worked for the army, decided to apply the town planning scheme and solve the issue of Dolac. Firstly, the municipality bought a large plot from the Vranyczany family and demolished the old Alla Stela d'oro theatre/hotel, in order to ensure sufficient width to the street. At the same time, the mayor was looking for a suitable architect who could implement his ideas. He found the right candidate in the figure of Giacomo Zammatti, who he invited to move to Rijeka from Trieste in 1883, in order to supervise the construction of the new theatre by architects Fellner and Helmer from Vienna.
In the joint action of Ciotta and Zammatti, Rijeka achieved Dolac as it is today. The Hotel Bonavia thus ceased to be just a file in the archives and became quite real.
The two of them imagined regular blocks with the new streets of Clotilde inferiore (Dolac) and the parallel Clotilde superiore, in front of Villa Meynier, as well as the connecting Street No. 9. St. Andrew's Street (the name remained although the church was demolished due to deterioration) which kept only part of its previous course. These construction works covered the Andrejščica brook, the central part of the karst sinkhole was filled in - which resulted in providing a significant construction area for the monumentalization of Dolac. Since this included major construction works, the mayor decided to name the parallel streets Clotilde, which was the name of Archduke Josef’s wife, a cousin to the emperor Franz Joseph, who moved to Rijeka in 1882 and lived in a villa which now hosts the State Archive.
At the time of construction of Via Clotilde inferiore, the owner of two construction plots and the building of the former hotel Nazionale was Ignazio Bonetić. He decided to build on the construction plot next to the hotel and entrusted the project to Giuseppe Chierego, whose portfolio included the upgrade of the long, old Adamić house on the bank of Rječina River in 1880, and its conversion into a Croatian Grammar School.
The building that Chierego designed for Bonetić had seven window axis and a shallow lateral avant-corps with two balconies. The historicist decoration is discrete, but still gives a serious touch to the façade. The building was designed as a residential property, and, if the inn existed, it was operated at the ground floor of the former hotel Nazionale. The building was completed in 1885, as the first new building in the street.
A three-floor residential building was also built in the same block in 1885, west from the Bonetić building. Opposite these three buildings, Giovanni de Ciotta decided to build an impressive Girls' Primary School (now the University Library and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art), and an even more impressive Boys' Primary School at the opposite side of Dolac (now the Italian Secondary School). Both school buildings, which were used in competition against the Hungarian Gubernium, were designed by Giacomo Zammattio in 1885.
The preparations for construction of the schools began in 1886, but work stopped during the cholera epidemics. The structural works were finally finished in April and May 1887. The construction works were carried out by the Depangher & Botta company, and were finished in December 1887. The construction work of the Boys' School was supervised by Giuseppe Chieregho. The formal opening was organized on 9th January 1888.
Regarding the Girls' Primary School, it should be pointed out that the eastern wing was added by Giovanni Rubinić in 1902, when a small adjacent building was demolished, but fully respecting Zammatti's base idea.
Teatro Ricotti, then called Teatro Fenice at Dolac was modernized in 1888, and the new name, reminscent of the renowned Venetian theatre, shows the bigger ambitions of the owner.
According to Nicolas Predonzany's design, the elevated stage was thoroughly refurbished, a new decorative portal was built, as well as a working gallery for the handling of scenery. The backstage premises for actors, choir singers and the staff, in addition to toilets, were built in the yard area, along the southern row of the boxes. The chairs were upholstered, the orchestra pit was arranged and gas lights were introduced. The theatre could thus accommodate 500 people on the floor and 200 people in the gallery and in the boxes. The theatre still had no roof and would remain so until 1901, when it finally gained a canvas roof, with decorations painted by Giovanni Fumi in 1900, which was among his last works.
The theatre used to show plays and operettas with famous performers (Zago, Benini), as well as circus shows with trained horses, magicians, vaudevilles, puppet shows (Riccardini, Gorno-Dall Aqua), Hungarian operetta troupes, and sometimes even martial arts shows were organized.
When the buildings in Via Clotilde inferiore were fully built, Ciotta ordered a series of photographs from Ilario Carposi which were supposed to mark the new success of the city administration. We can therefore see two massive school buildings, the elevated road, the front façade of the Teatro Fenice, the block with the residential Bonetić building, next to which there was a harmonious three-floored building to which a high attic was constructed.
The Bonetić building stood beside the former building of the hotel Nazionale, and the spacious gardens were behind the whole block, as well as the ascent towards the great park belonging to the Meynier family. The eastern part of Clotilda inferiore street was closed by the Municipium building, where mayor Ciotta, who held that office from 1872 to 1896, came up with ideas of how to make Rijeka one of the most successful cities of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
An advertisement appeared on 3rd June 1887, stating that the Trattoria alla Buona Via, was located in the new Bonetić building, on the corner of Municipium Street and St Andres's Street (!). This shows the old habit of the citizens of Rijeka to call the streets and locations by officially non-existent names, which was not strange for a town where street names were changed dozens of times.
In the advertisement, the owner of the Bonavia restaurant called his reputable clients and all the others to come on Sunday, 4th June 1887, to taste the Steinfeld beer. He also offered genuine teran wine and white wines, stating that the boccie field with two lines was located in the extension of the garden area.
Between 1887 - 1888, Giacomo Zammattio started a successful cooperation with Robert Whitehead, who invented the torpedo and owned the factory where the weapon was manufactured, whose shares were also owned by mayor Ciotta. Zammattio designed the Venetian House in Clotilde Inferiore Street for this naturalised Englishmen, at No. 7. This luxurious project was a continuation of converting Dolac into a metropolitan area. Since Whitehead was extremely satisfied Zammatti also designed equally monumental residential buildings at house numbers 3 and 5, and afterwards designed a corner building with a dome
for the People's Savings Bank, opposite the Boys' School, which emerged on the corner of St Andrew's Street and Clotilde Inferiore. These buildings, which formed the present look of Dolac, were built between1895 and 1896.
As a response to the city schools at Dolac, the Gubernium decided to build the Hungarian State Primary and Secondary Girls' School in Via Clotilde Superiore and provided 50,000 fiorines to that purpose. The project was implemented by the great architect, Gyözö Czigler, a professor of Construction of Antiquity at the Budapest Polytechnic University. His idea was that the building should be a strict neo-Renaissance palace. The construction was entrusted to the V. Celligoi & G. Leard company from Rijeka, who committed to finishing the works in less than a year – from August 1896 to July 1897. That building closed the block of the
Bonetić building and the garden part of the Bonavia restaurant from the northern side. It has retained its academic function, now hosting the First Croatian Grammar School of Rijeka and the Andrija Mohorovičić Grammar School.
Ignazio Bonetić was mentioned as the owner of the building where the restaurant Bonavia worked until 1906, when it was given over to the family who inherited it, and who were mentioned until 1921. On the other side, in 1903, the owner of the restaurant Alla Bonavia was Ferdinand Scala. In his advertisement, he claimed that it was the most famous restaurant in Rijeka, which he completely refurbished and increased the garden area - where the boccie field was still an important part of his offer.
He pointed out the Italian and German cuisine, great local wines and the wine from Sanvicento and Smoljan in Istria, as well as first-class Dalmatian wine. For those visitors who preferred beer, he recommended the Puntigamer Keiserbier.
However, the hotel Bonavia began its business operation under its present name in 1906. At that time, the windows on the ground floor were enlarged in order to achieve more light in the restaurant. The daily La Bilancia published an advertisement on 4th November 1906.
«Grande hotel Bonavia Via Clotilde Inferiore
A completely new hotel, with fifty-eight elegantly equipped rooms, each with maximum comfort. In the city centre, with electrical lightning. Rooms at a fair price. In addition: there is a restaurant with a magnificent garden at the back. Great Italian and German cuisine.
Selected wines, both domestic and imported. First-class beer, modern service. There is a tram from the Rail Station for all trains and steamships. For the comfort of the travellers, the restaurant remains open until 2 AM. Phone No. 346.»
When the hotel Bonavia finally appeared in the city life of Rijeka, other entrepreneurs were also active. Thus Federico Heim, the owner of the Deak hotel from 1889, stated in a large advertisement that on 1st December 1907, the thoroughly refurbished hotel Deak would be open, and that electricity had been introduced into the hotel.
This hotel owed its great success to a lovely hall with a floor area of 2 152 sq ft and it was 30 ft high, with a large skylight and lavish stucco decorations and murals which were done in 1891 by Giovanni Fumi, a famous painter from Rijeka of the time. That hall was the centre of entertainment in Rijeka, especially at carnival time and was actually a supplement to the old Teatro Fenice.
However, apart from the renovation of hotel Deak, Federico Heim also advertised the opening of his new Royal hotel on the Korzo (now the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County building). It was designed by Emilio Ambrosini, with luxurious secession details on the façade that were implemented by Domenico Rizzo. The hotel owned a lift by the F. Wertheim company of Budapest. Both of these hotels – Deak and Royal – were once linked to Bonavia for a shorter or longer time.
In 1910, the Bonavia changed its address as the streets were renamed from 1908 - not for the first and certainly not for the last time! – as the local authorities strived to create a touch of an Italian city in Rijeka. So Via Clotilde inferiore became Via Edmondo de Amicis. The Austrian Archduchess, who left Rijeka after the death of her husband, the Archduke Joseph on 13th June 1905, was thus replaced by a popular Italian writer for young people.
Apart from the address, the ownership also changed - Nikola Mateljan and Anton Matejčić issued a call to the opening of a completely remodelled garden on 1st May 1910.
«The cuisine is the same as it used to be, being both domestic and German, with a great choice of delicious dishes. There is a variety of excellent wines, as well as light and dark beer from the famous Köbanya brewery. Quick and precise service.»
In 1911, Julius Ederer Burger appeared as the new owner of the Bonavia, which was advertised as the annex of his hotel Deak.
«Both of them are in the city centre, close to the railway station and the steamship port. Stylish and the most frequented houses for families. Excellent cuisine and drinks. Pilsner urquell beer.»
In the same year, the architect Thedor Träxler, educated in Vienna under the famous Otto Wagner, drafted the first project for the large Teatro Fenice in reinforced concrete. That design already included a theatre, a variety theatre, a casino with a concert hall and areas for socializing, as well as residential premises. Due to problems with purchasing the building plot, the casino and luxurious residential building (six-bedroom apartments with their own staircase and lift, roof terrace in greenery) remained simply a project, and new versions of the theatre building followed as well. In 1912, Träxler finished the project, the building was built
throughout 1913, and the grand opening on 2nd May 1914 included Puccini's opera Tosca.
Rijeka thus had the first theatre in Europe whose frame was built out of reinforced concrete. It was designed and built at the same time as the famous Théâtre de Champs-Elysées in Paris, by Auguste Perret.
A theatre with two large halls – the Sala bianca in the basement with 500 seats and a large dance floor, and a main room on the ground floor with 1,450 seats, which astonishes architecture connoisseurs, especially considering the time it was built. Actually, this was the largest theatre in the region and the transformation from the improvised summer theatre of Catterina Ricotti to a European architectural masterpiece is truly amazing. Just before World War I, when Rijeka together with Sušak had 65,000 inhabitants and Zagreb had 75,000, it looked as if anything was possible in this marvellous town in the Kvarner Bay.
In 1914, Rijeka had 20 hotels - Zagreb had only three! - which is worth a mention, as that was the highest point in the hotel industry of the city. The Old Town had the modest Albergo popolare and Alla città di Milano, Europa, Adria and Quarnero were on the shore, the Royal, Lloyd and Alla Marina mercantile were on the Korzo, Bonavia was on the Korzo, Deák, Bristol, Hungaria, Hotel de la Ville and Imperial were on the Korzo Deák next to each other, while the large hotel Emigranti hotel, which was 525 ft long, with 1,500 beds was in Industrial Street. In Sušak, it was also possible to stay in the following hotels: Kontinental,
Sušak, Klotilda, Jadran and Pećine.
Julius Ederer Burger was the owner of the Bonavia until 1915, when the hotel was taken over by Paradeiser. The years of the WW1 followed, but the war did not have any significant impact on Rijeka, as it did in the period between 1918 - 1924 when the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Kingdom of Italy were fighting over the city.
An interesting account of the situation in Rijeka was left in 1918 by an Italian voluntary soldier, Giovanni Comisso, who was later a close collaborator of Gabriele D'Annunzio. "The town is full of beautiful girls: sweet shops were full of extraordinary sweets, numerous cafés with many illustrated magazines, delicious zabagliones, waiters offering great service, shops with scents from all over the world… The people from Rijeka called Italian officers to their homes to all-night parties every night. Some of them ate, others drank; it really seemed that this town, with its life of abundant gifts, was the prize for all our efforts during the war.»
When Gabriele D'Annunzio conquered the city on 12th September 1919, he stayed at the Governor's Palace and introduced anarcho-tyrany, hotels Europa, Royal and Bonavia were occupied by his close associates and the restaurants became the stages for artistic and exhibitionist rampages. Shortly after that, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of futurism and equally as prone to pathetic theatre as D'Annunzio, also came to town. He stayed for three days at the Lloyd hotel in Piazza Dante (now The Republic of Croatia Square) and became involved in all events in the city. He held lectures and plays at the Teatro Fenice, in the hotel Budai (ex Hotel de la Ville) and in the café on the ground floor of the hotel Lloyd. He often walked along the Korzo in an unusual way, trying to provoke reactions from the inhabitants, nonetheless he predominantly gathered young people around him, who followed him waiting for his extravagant outbursts. D'Annunzio soon banished him from Rijeka as he drew too much attention to himself.
Gabriele D'Annunzio loved massive gatherings and parades, his speeches and playing with the masses. But in the moments when he wished for a more intimate atmosphere, he used to walk in the evenings from the Governor's Palace where he lived down to Dolac, where the mayor of Rijeka, Riccardo Gigante, then lived and stay to dinner prepared by Riccardo's sister, Luigia, also known as Gigetta.
His favourite restaurant was the Cervo d'oro (Golden Deer), which was located near the Royal hotel, in present day Adamić Street. He loved to eat risotto with shrimps, although the interior was dark and plain. One day, when his action secretary, Guido Keller brought stuffed platypus, D'Annunzio liked it so much that the Cervo d'oro became the Ornitorinco (Platypus). Before risotto, he used to drink Morlak's Blood, which was his term for cherry brandy, and he did not refrain from cocaine either.
As D'Annunzio's lover, the pianist Luisa Baccara (Bakarić), gained too much influence in the poet's home, the Swiss baron and famous pilot, Guido Keller and his friend Giovanni Comisso came up with the idea for the Love Palace party during the carnival period in early 1920.
They planned the theatre play at Quarnero beach, which was high on the pier in 1913. The plan was simple: Luisa Baccara, a captive in the Palace – i.e. Quarnero beach - would be saved by a pageant of knights who would come down from the Governor's Palace, passing Bonavia, to the port and then row in a boat to the beach, taking the prisoner out and sailing to the open sea. They did not tell D'Annunzio that they planned to simply take Baccara away from Rijeka. The poet refused the entire episode, claiming that it was too D'Annunzio style!
The psychosis in Rijeka was witnessed by Leone Kochnitzky, a Belgian poet and the Commander's close associate. He described the 15th June 1920, when the city celebrated the feast of St Vitus.
"Illuminated squares, flags, large written banners, boats with flowers and ornate lanterns (even the sea had its role in the feast) and dancing… Everyone danced, everywhere: on the squares, in the streets, on the piers; during the day and night, they danced and sang, not with the sensual softness of Venetian gondoliers, but one could say that these were the uninhibited bacchanalia. In the impoverished homes of the Old City the women took off pictures of the saints. Tiny lights illuminated the figure of Gabriele D'Annunzio. Some people might call it hysteria. That was Bal des Ardents. Under the look of a hostile and cowardly world… Rijeka was dancing before its death.»
After the Bloody Christmas in 1920, the regular Italian army expelled D'Annunzio from the city, while the hotels counted the damage. «In this category of insurance claim applicants, their sub-groups or peculiarities cannot be differentiated. Those who stood out included the restaurant owners, among them hotel Royal (285,000 liras), hotel Europa (claimed 35,993, estimated as payable 9,500) and hotel Bonavia
(5,740-5,000 ), as well as the restaurants, boarding houses and pubs which wanted to be reimbursed for the costs of their damaged premises and the inventory, and the furniture, equipment and accessories that were taken away.»
The situation in Rijeka only calmed down in 1924, when Rijeka was given away to Italy, and Sušak was given to Yugoslavia. The important day for the Bonavia was on 12th August 1926, when Giovanni Pavella became the owner of the hotel. Mr Pavella was actually Ivan Pavela from the village of Tugari, near Poljica, some 10 miles from Omiš in Dalmatia. He was born on 18th August 1892 in the family of Juraj Pavela and Antonija nee Antičević.
When he took over the Bonavia, he was living in Rijeka in Goldoni Street No. 3, on the first floor. There was no nationality specified in the official documents, so it may be assumed that he still had not solved his position in that turbulent age. He came to Rijeka because of his business - he was a successful wine tradesman.
The situation in Rijeka was not too optimistic and proved that the border on Rječina brought many problems to the city’s economy. From one of the most successful towns in Austria-Hungary and its second largest port (after Trieste), Rijeka became a provincial Italian town which no one had reason to visit. Apart from the Bonavia, there were also other hotels such as the Imperiale, the Reale (ex Royal), the Quarnero (in the present location of Euroherc), Adria, which was run by Tranquillo Negri from 1914 to 1942 and the Excelsior (ex Deak).
At the very end of 1926, a new iron border-crossing bridge was built over the Rječina connecting the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In 1930, Via XXX Ottobre Street (30th October 1918 was the date when the citizens of Rijeka allegedly chose to be annexed to Italy) - the former Via del Municipio - was considerably changed, and instead of the steep slope from Piazza Dante, wide stairs were built. The terrace above the present Generalturist tourist agency obtained its present look, because the buildings standing between the Bonavia and the Municipium were demolished.
In 1934, on the 10th anniversary of annexation of Rijeka to the Kingdom of Italy, many locations throughout the city were rebuilt and many events were organized. The most important of them was the asphalting of the 47-mile road between Trieste and Rijeka (it was the first asphalt road in the region, as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia had no asphalt roads!). In the centre of Rijeka, Regina Elena Square (the present Jadranski Square) was rearranged and the bank and pier were rebuilt. There were many art, book and photography exhibitions, the large Tommaseo school building (now the Faculty of Philosophy in the Old Town), and, last
but not least, the Votive Temple in Kozala, a church whose belfry was financed by Mussolini. The last two buildings were designed by the architect Bruno Angheben from Rijeka.
The centre of social life was the Teatro Fenice. This multifunctional building was a theatre, a cinema, the location for political congresses and an exhibition area. On Sunday mornings, whole families used to come to the Sala bianca, whilst in the evenings only the men came. Beside jazz, there were also many easy girls.
At the time of the crisis, the Bonavia became the main city hotel, due to Pavella's competence and dedication to work. Many bars existed at the time: the Adria, Ferrara, Litorale, Nazionale, Roma, San Marco, Sasso Bianco, Teatro Fenice, Ornitorinco, Tosca and Verona; as well as cafés: Centrale, Panciera, Fiumara, Borsa, Quarnero and Sport, and the most famous restaurant was the Conca d'oro (The Golden Shell), run by Edoardo Budicin, born in Pula.
This restaurant with its Croatian Littoral sentiment was opened at its present location in 1929, after reconstruction by the prominent architect, Edoardo Goellner, when it moved from the building next to the Teatro Fenice that that was to be demolished.
On 12th November 1937, Giovanni Pavella registered a large wine trading company in the Free Port Zone and lived in Costabella. In 1939, he started building the annex to the hotel Bonavia.
"Adaptation of the hotel Bonavia was done with the intention of modernising this city hotel, in accordance with new trends in architecture. At this monolithic and static building, the façade was divided into three unequal parts by horizontal cornices, which give it certain dynamics. In the first part (the ground floor), the representative nature of the building was accomplished by the sheath made from travertine stone. The second part of the building consists of three floors with a pure façade and a regular window rhythm. The highest parts are the last two floors of the hotel, where the window rhythm alternates with the rhythm of
vertical cornices between the windows. The asymmetry, even the illusion of various volumes was fully successful.»
This text needs an explanation. The old Bonavia was a three-floor historicist building with decorations glued to the façade. When the hotel was rebuilt, the façade was simply cleaned of decorations, the stone sheathing was added at the ground floor and two/three floors were added – the sixth floor was indented, which provided a small, comfortable terrace with a great view over Kvarner.
As the architect (Alessandro Bolass), who rebuilt the hotel, respected the previous state, he discreetly accentuated that on the cornices, and the asymmetry is thus the consequence of thoughtful construction, not an arbitrary game. Two shabby buildings remained between the hotel and the stairs. A small reconstruction was done on the façade of one of them (the former Nazionale) in order to gain visual connection with the hotel and cover its shabbiness, and the clean surface that was thus obtained, was used as an advertisement for the Bonavia.
In the same year of 1939, there was large competition for the reconstruction project of the Municipium and the whole block around it. Most works prepared new building complexes of enormous dimensions, without any connection to the present situation. They demanded massive demolition, which even included parts of Municipium, the seat of the Fascist Party (Now the People's Library and Radio-Rijeka), and other buildings on the Korzo and in the Old City. Luckily, this attempted attack against the core of urban Rijeka left no consequences as war begun. The Bonavia was thus spared this ugly neighbourhood.
The outbreak of war even stopped Pavella. On 22nd June 1941, that is on the day when Germany attacked the Soviet Union, he received a design proposal from the architect Alessandro Bolassoa, for the upgrade of the hotel into a skyscraper with 11 or 12 floors, which neatly combined with the existing upgrade. This project must be seen in the context of similar construction projects of the time. In 1939, the Small Skyscraper of Raul Puhalj was built, and the construction of the Rijeka Skyscraper by the architect Umberto Nordi from Trieste at Piazza Regina Elene started in the same year - it was finished in 1942. Then again, the Croatian Cultural Centre with the hotel Neboder by Pičman and Albini, which was supposed to become the tallest building in the country, was also being built on the other side of the border.
Looking at the draft of the design of the Bonavia, one could regret that it wasn't upgraded as a skyscraper, as the whole corpus would leave a considerably greater compact and truthful design than it is today.
Pavella's sudden suspension of investment was obvious even from the fact that in the 1939 upgrade he left all the old furniture on the lower three floors.
The city guide Guida di Fiume, founded by Bašćan Polonio-Balbi in 1888, which had been published until the end of WW2, is a valuable source of information. It listed hotels in Rijeka for the period 1941-1942: The Adria, then at the Via Spalato 2 address, the Bonavia in Via Edmondo de Amicis 4, the Quarnero, run by Gina Mohovich in Via Garibaldi 17 and the annex at No. 21 of the same street (now Adamićeva street), and there was also the surprising Grande albergo Belvedere at Piazza Dante 7 (now the Republic of Croatia Square). The guide mentions that Giovanni Pavella owned a wine trading company at Molo Genova (now
Orlando Wharf, west of the Administrative Building of the Port) in warehouses 11, 12 and 14.
It also states that he was chairman of the Istituto fascista Africo-Italiana, which might lead to the conclusion that he had certain connections with Lybia or Ethiopia, which were Italian colonial estates.
During the war, Pavella tried to keep the hotel and the wine trade successful at all costs. He often communicated with the authorities, demanding easier communication with the cities in Italy and Germany. After the capitulation of Italy on 08th September 1943, his situation got even tougher when the German units under the colonel Kasparom Völcher came to Rijeka on 14 September 1943. This unit was the advance contingent of powerful Rommel's forces, who were taking control over Istria, the Croatian Littoral and the Mountain District.
Pavella's son, who was then at the Italian Officers' Academy, was taken to a concentration camp in Germany, where he stayed for a year. Pavella probably managed to rescue him due to the fact that German officers were staying at the Bonavia, so he had a fair chance to make important contacts. The German Commander's Office for this part of the military and operational zone of the Adriatic was located at the Governor's Palace. The post-war court proceedings, related to the confiscation of property show Pavella's activity during the war.
"Pavella's company often approaches the army of occupation for different war services and privileges. Thus with the letter of 19th December 1944, he approaches the German Berater für di Provinz Quarnaro in Fiume, in order to obtain a permit for a car drive to Trieste and Venice in addition to the already obtained permit for that province, because its director, A. Trevisan, was travelling to the Reich (i.e. Germany) due to the trading activities of his company.
There are more similar letters in that year. The letter of 11th January 1945 sent to the Consiglio Provinciale della Economia Corporativa is also important - the company asks for permission for phone communication with various Italian companies for trade matters. In that 1945 letter, it was emphasized that the defendant's company was a contractor for the Wermacht (German army), exporting wine to Germany.
The defendant's company continued to do business with enemy companies up to the end, giving provisions to the German army. The last batch was delivered under the invoice No. 16374/55 on 18th September 1945. This batch included 15 barrels of net kg 10,555 Lit., 11,110 litres per 2.000 Liras = 2,222,000 Liras of fine liqueur delivered to Höheren SS und Polizaifürer Trieste.»
Giovanni Pavella, as an experienced business man, did not wait for the liberation of Rijeka. He escaped to Italy, leaving explanation of unclear facts from the war period to the lawyers. Soon after liberation on 3rd May 1945, the partisans entered the Bonavia, in the first daysonly the commanding officers, and later on even the soldiers, and the restaurant was thus used as a canteen. This situation lasted until 1st May 1947.
On 20th June 1947, Giovanni Pavella was sentenced in absence, after the appeal to the previous sentence. Although he was defended by the famous lawyer, dr. Leon Vio, he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, without forced work, and to confiscation of all property in Rijeka.
Besides the Bonavia, which was regularly insured until 4th October 1953, Pavella lost his villa on Costabella, his real estate and the land; construction sites in Lovran, his apartments, villas and real estates in Rijeka, his offices and warehouses in the Free Zone in the port and several trucks and FIAT 1100 cars. His wine trading company developed as the Istravino, company which took over wine from Pavella's warehouse in Costabella on 30th June 1947. It developed into a successful business.
At state level, tourism was to be given a new framework. The Office for Tourism and Catering was founded at the Federal Ministry of Trade as early as 1945, and there were also Departments for Tourism in the federal republics. In 1947, Yugoslavia had the Chief Administration Office for Tourism and Catering, while the departments in the ministries of the federal republics became administrative offices.
In 1949, the Chief Administration Office became a Committee, while in 1950 the committees were abolished and the Administrative Offices were founded at the Goods Trade Commission. The administrative period of managing tourism ceased to an extent in1950 and in 1952 it ceased completely. The most important institution in Croatia was the Chamber of Catering and Tourism, while the tourist organisations were founded in 1952 and 1953.
At the same time, similar changes were happening in Rijeka, only at the lower administrative level. A subsidiary of the Land Hotel Enterprise, which was to revive the old hotels and restaurants, was founded in Rijeka in 1945. The first director was Dimitrije Nastašić. When the hotel inventory was procured in 1946, it was stated that it was not required for the Bonavia, as its inventory had been preserved. Rijeka was one of the three subsidiaries of the Land Hotel Enterprise – apart from Split and Dubrovnik, while its seat was in Zagreb.
The City Hotel Enterprise was founded on 1st March 1947, although the Bonavia was not included in that company as the army was still stationed there. On 1st May 1947, all the hotels and restaurants in Rijeka and Sušak merged into the City Hotel Enterprise, and Mr. Josip Strelov became the director of the Bonavia. The City Hotel Enterprise existed until 1949, when the administration of hotel companies was formed, with Branka Maričić at its head. On 1st May 1951, the Administration was dissolved and the Bonavia became an autonomous company together with its annex, the Hotel Zagreb (ex Royal, ex Reale) on the Korzo.
Regarding supplies in the hotels, everything functioned to an extent until 1948, when the situation suddenly deteriorated. The year 1949 was the worst, there was no beef, the most common meals were two poached eggs with spinach or fried anchovies, mackerel or hake.
Veal returned to the menu in the 1950s. Chicken was commonly served, in such a way that live chickens were kept on the hotel terrace in winter and then were slaughtered when needed. The menu thus had roast chicken, fried chicken, chicken stew...
Wine was taken in barrels, but a certain amount was reserved for lunch or dinner. If that amount was consumed, there was nothing to be done. Imported drinks immediately disappeared after the war, and it was a real sensation when Campari obtained in Trieste appeared.
In the 1950s, the old piano teacher, Ms Bocculini played the piano in the evenings, and received a dinner as her salary. The hotel apprentices all slept in one room with eight beds at the Hotel Zagreb.
Regardless of all hotels, the Bonavia was still the central city hotel, although workers were unwilling to visit its cafe, as it kept the pre-war overly civic atmosphere.
In 1952, the Bonavia was an A category hotel, still at the same address of Edmondo de Amicis No 4, with 64 rooms and 97 beds. The restaurant was still the most important part of the hotel, but there were also the bar & café and the terrace, and the central heating and lift were also mentioned. Over the summer, there was a small bar with a roof terrace. The Zagreb annex, a B category hotel, had 34 rooms and 53 beds. In Sušak, there was also the Neboder hotel, which opened in 1949 with 81 beds, the Kontinental with 68 beds, the Park with 74 and the Jadran with 65 beds.
The main restaurants were the Gradski restaurant, the Zlatna školjka, the Istra and the Klarić, and the most prominent cafés were the Gradska, the Narodna, the Sport, the Učka, the Express, the Rječina and the Korzo. The most notable bars were the Neboder and the Plavi Jadran (ex Sala bianca), then inside the Partizan cinema.
In 1952, there were 70,421 tourists in Rijeka, with 200,511 tourist nights, with an average stay of 2.8 days. In comparison, 31,342 tourists visited Opatija, but due to the average stay of 9.5 days, there were 301,342 tourist stays. According to those numbers, at state level, in 1952, Rijeka participated with 4% of tourists and 3.5% of tourist stays.
The old Lujzinska road between Zagreb and Rijeka was finally asphalted in 1954, which had a partially adverse effect to the stay of the tourists in Rijeka, i.e. they started to transit the city quickly.
The building of the Girls' School in Rijeka, which was almost totally damaged during bombing and a fire in early 1945, was finally rebuilt in 1955. The refurbished building, in sharp contrast to the Bonavia's entrance, now hosted the Scientific Library and the Modern Art Gallery. As the always interesting Club of Culture Workers started its operation on the ground floor of the eastern wing, this part of Rijeka regained part of its urban features.
The year 1959 saw the opening of a café on the top of the Neboder hotel, car traffic on the Korzo was banned, while the city transport was based on trolley-buses - however the most interesting fact for us remains that the Executive Council of the People's Republic of Croatia approved the investment for the expansion of the Bonavia hotel. Construction works were drafted by the experts of the Lučić-Frančić-Sulowski Civil Engineering Institute, while the engineers of the Rijeka-projekt drafted installations.
"The basic concept of the investment programme is that a new residential wing will be built on the site of two existing residential buildings. The first of those buildings is completely owned by the investor, and was thus bought for hotel expansion. The second building is also for the most part owned by the investor, while the remaining share must be bought. Both buildings are completely deteriorated, so were scheduled for demolition regardless of the investment. At the same time, the existing hotel will be rebuilt and modernised in order to achieve functional and architectural unity of the old and new parts of the hotel…
The present functional scheme of the Bonavia has many disadvantages.
The facility has only one entrance, the kitchen is located in a small annexed building in the yard, it is squeezed in and does not have a suitable food store; the entrance into the hotel restaurant is not controlled, and the toilets are directly connected to the restaurant premises; the central heating boiler room is insufficient and completely deteriorated.
The café bar is only accessible from the street, while the small banquet hall is only accessible from the restaurant.
There is only one stairway in the building and one personal lift which is deteriorated, room service is not organized; the laundry room is located on the terrace, so vertical communications used by guests are also used for the transfer of laundry and gas. The roof terrace is small, and can only be accessed through the hotel stairway or the lift, which is unsustainable.»
As opposed to the previous capacities of the Bonavia with 95 beds, the expansion of the sixfloor (and later, seven-floor) building, it is conceived that the hotel will have 382 beds. The ground floor will be reserved for a large restaurant, while the first floor of the old building should become a large room for day activities and entertainment. A dancing bar has been designed for the basement, while the suites will be located at the top floor of the hotel.
Vertical communication will be carried out by means of several lifts: for guests, for staff, for luggage and for room service and catering. Shortly after, in April 1959 it was believed that all construction work and interior decorations would be completed in two and a half years, which proved overly optimistic.
Various problems occurred, from buying off 16 apartments in the buildings that were scheduled for demolition (ex hotel Nazionale), to the problems with rain water which made laying the foundations of the new building impossible. Real construction work started in 1962, and in 1964, the situation was as follows:
"Four floors have been built, and tomorrow, the new hotel Bonavia at Dolac will be increased by one floor. Construction work has been done quickly, after the workers of Jadran had many difficulties laying the foundations of this big and representative hotel building over the last year. It is assumed that the roof of this new seven-floor hotel will be finished by May. At the beginning of the following year, the hotel will be able to accept its first guests. The old Bonavia has normal business operations and has already accepted its first guests from England. In late March, we are expecting a group of fifty Austrians who will stay at the hotel, travelling to a number of Adriatic destinations. By the beginning of the season, the famous garden restaurant of the hotel Bonavia will also be open. It will be more spacious and beautiful than before.» 11
In the optimistic age of the 1960s, when Yugoslavia had magnificent economic results and when the state was opening to the West, at the time when the port of Rijeka was constantly increasing its traffic, the Bonavia was outranked by the hotel Jadran on Pećine, which had one floor added and was completely refurbished on 28th June 1964, on its 50th anniversary.
The subsequent delay of the construction work on the Bonavia was related to the issues of the delivery of construction materials, and with the lack of a competent workforce in season.
"When it was designed and during the construction works, the engineers and tourism and catering experts thought that the future Bonavia should be a representative hotel of B category, dedicated to transit tourism. The arrangement of the premises and the adjustment of comfort for the users of this hotel was executed for that purpose. Central heating was introduced to all premises, an automatic telephone box with connections to all rooms was installed, all rooms had their own toilet facilities and a signalling device. An air-conditioning device will be installed in all common rooms (restaurant, café, bar, social rooms, reception, banquet hall). The hotel will also have a barbers and hairdressers.»
Precisely six years after the drafts were made, the new Bonavia received its first guests on 27th April 1965, but construction work was still going on in the bar and on the ground floor of the building. The hotel soon outperformed all other facilities in town and the region by the level of its service, as it had first place in contemporary tourist polls, with huge advantage in points for its service, quality and choice, as well as in its interior design.
The perfect service and a great restaurant attracted interesting guests in the 1960s. The actress Belinda Lee who was very popular at the time and for whom oranges were brought from Trieste stayed there, Kirk Douglas stayed in the hotel on several occasions, although he dined mostly in restaurants in Opatija. Many famous actors and actresses have stayed at the Bonavia: Frederic March, Stewart Granger, Maria Schell, Curd Jurgens, the famous director, Orson Welles, the Italian singers Claudio Villa, Pepino di Capri, Toni Dallara and Nella Pizzi.
It is interesting that important politicians have not stayed at the Bonavia, but the writer Miroslav Krleža often stayed there with his wife Bela. This well-known writer and the arbiter of spiritual elegance always reproached the hotel name, demanding that it should be changed into something more appropriate to the contemporary system. As a guest, he was extremely grumpy, with numerous objections. But in, say, 1968, Krleža was only one of 216,000 guests with a total of 487,000 tourist nights. The numbers dropped after that time, so in 1983 there were only 120,000 guests and 232,000 overnight stays.
In 1970s and 1980s, the hotel was famous for its Captain's Club in the hotel basement. It had a very low ceiling but great entertainment. The members of staff were dressed as officers of the merchant navy.