Theodor de Canziani will be our guide to Rijeka, during our Croatian Language and Culture Course in June. In this interview with the Croatian Language School, he tells us more about Rijeka, himself and his very unique family home.
1. Could you tell us a little about your background, particularly as it relates to the Croatian tourism industry?
I am an art historian, both in fine-arts and architecture, specialising in the promotion of the cultural impact that underpins Croatia’s rich and varied cultural heritage.
2. We will be visiting Villa Ružić on our trip. Could you give us some background as to how it became your family home?
Villa Ružić was built as a family home in 1938. However, as well as its domestic function, the villa has, from the outset, been a showcase for Croatian culture and heritage. I married into the family and, with my passion for preserving and promoting its history, my professional qualifications enable me to run the museum and to keep this cultural gem alive.
3. I understand Villa Ružić has a very unique historical and cultural story to tell. Could you give us just a few of the highlights to whet our appetites?
The house is quite unique in Croatia; it is an impressive private villa in formal gardens set with terraces overlooking the Adriatic Sea and the islands beyond. It houses an extraordinarily important collection of archives, libraries, artefacts and personal possessions belonging to the culturally and politically influential Croatian families Mažuranić, Brlić and Ružić. It is now a foundation in honour of Matilda Ružić, late caretaker of her family’s heritage, great grand-daughter of the distinguished author Ivana Brlić – Mažuranić and great-great granddaughter of ‘Ban’ (governor or vice-roy) Ivan Mažuranić, both of whose portraits are displayed in the entrance hall. But perhaps one of Villa Ružić’s greatest charms is the display of personal and everyday objects used by the Mažuranić, Brlić and Ružić families in their day-to-day lives over 2 centuries. They emphasise the fact that the house is today lived in – many of these items are still in daily use.
4. What are your plans for the future as far as Villa Ružić is concerned?
My plans are to preserve the amazing ‘time-capsule’ that is Villa Ružić with its historical glamour, while simultaneously offering it to a broader public through modern media; making it more accessible and attractive to future generations.
5. You will be our expert guide for Rijeka: could you give us an idea of what you believe makes Rijeka such a special place?
Rijeka (or Fiume as it was known previously) is a place apart: eccentric in its history. A template of multi-culturalism and ethnicism, a mish-mash of peoples and politicians’ ambitions, a crossroads of empires, a linguistic porridge. Maria Theresa, D’Annuzio, the Frankopans and pirates galore, not to mention Tito’s contentious rotting yacht, all play their part in this great port’s layered history.
6. Without giving away too many secrets in advance, could you tell us about one or two special places in Rijeka that perhaps are off the main tourist radar?
Firstly there is Kozala, the cemetery with a thousand stories to tell: a destination that is spiritually uplifting and historically and architecturally majestic. In a formal setting, rows of cypress trees flank massive decorative tombs bearing family names of the children of empires long gone. Secondly, I would show you Rijeka’s rich industrial past from the 18th century sugar-beet factory, to the striking paper factory chimney and the wharves and docks of its port.
It is a wonderful opportunity to bring the city together and show-off a sometimes neglected part of the European Union to a wider audience.
8. Are there any websites, in the English language, that would provide interesting information about Rijeka, in addition to the normal Tourist Board sites.
These days our friend ‘Google’ is always helpful, and as Croatia becomes evermore popular as a holiday destination, information proliferates.
Some useful sites:
And here is the link to Theodor’s Villa Ružić website: http://www.villaruzic.hr/about_us.html
For more information on this year’s culture and language trip go to: https://www.easycroatian.com/courses/language-and-culture/