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Chapter 2 Touring the Frontier: Reinventing the Eastern Adriatic for Tourism

Culture and Society in Tourism Contexts

ISBN: 978-0-85724-683-7, eISBN: 978-0-85724-684-4

Publication date: 19 October 2012


International tourists traveling the eastern Adriatic are sometimes perplexed when some guides describe a Venetian bell tower, a Byzantine church, or Roman ruins as solely Croatian or Slovenian cultural heritage. If the same guides would then reveal that Marco Polo should be spelled Marko Polo for his Croatian origins, their perplexities would probably grow stronger. Most of the time, the same tourists are unaware that the Austrian Navy kept the codes and the tradition of the Serenissima Republic of Venice. Actually, until the Empire split in 1867, it was named Österreich-Venizianische Marine (Austro-Venetian Navy). Interestingly, according to the legend, the Austrian Admiral von Tegheltoff (German speaking subject of the Empire, born in the Alpine town of Maribor-Marburg, currently in Slovenia) after the famous victory in the battle of Lissa in 1866 hailed “Viva San Marco!” The Austrian victory against the fleet of the Kingdom of Italy was surprising and it has become a legendary one both in a good and bad sense. Accordingly, it has been later romanticized in different ways and strategically imbued with moral values by diverse actors. For instance, the journal of Admiral Wilhelm von Tegheltoff reports the famous sentence: “Iron men with wooden ships defeated wooden men with iron ships.” So, Tegheltoff stressed the virtues of the imperial subjects vis-à-vis the lack of moral strength of the opponents. As a matter of fact, the kingdom of Italy's fleet was stronger in numbers and technologically more advanced, but less organized and riddled with conflicts among the admirals. Quite differently, hundred years later, one of the most prominent journalists and writers from the Italian region of Veneto, Guido Piovene, said that: “the battle of Lissa has been the last great victory of the Venetian fleet.” The reason for such statement is that the mariners boarded in the Austro-Venetian fleet were all from former Venetian lands, such as Veneto, Istria and Dalmatia. Therefore, from this standpoint, the battle of Lissa is a matter of an “Italian” dispute between different maritime traditions, namely the Adriatic one of Venice and the antagonist Genoese or Neapolitan. Conversely, in Croatia and Slovenia, there is usually a different version of the story. The battle of Lissa is seen as a victory of a Croatian-Slavic navy over the Italians. Particularly, the battle of Vis (Lissa) is usually referred to as part of Croatian national history and it is a crucial step to legitimize the Croatian identity on the Adriatic Sea, because many of the sailors were ethnically Croats.


Cocco, E. (2012), "Chapter 2 Touring the Frontier: Reinventing the Eastern Adriatic for Tourism", Nogués-Pedregal, A.-.-M. (Ed.) Culture and Society in Tourism Contexts (Tourism Social Science Series, Vol. 17), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 25-55.



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