Il Brindisi del Poeta Astemio is the first book to explore Gabriele d'Annunzio's oenological habits in detail. Co-written by Enrico Di Carlo and Luca Bonacini (with an afterword by Andrea Grignaffini and published by Verdone Editore), it is a timely account of various correspondence and the contents of the Canteens at the Vittoriale degli Italiani. The painstaking research gave us the opportunity to discuss the genesis of the work with the author, Di Carlo, and to broaden the scope to include another, recent work dedicated to Hans Barth.

I would start with the book's pleasant title... How is it possible to toast for a teetotal poet?

I would say that it is not possible, unless the poet toasts with water. But if he toasts with water, he contravenes every rule of good manners and probably also a popular belief that toasting with water is bad luck. This evidently does not apply to d'Annunzio who could afford everything and the opposite of everything. The title of the book is an oxymoron, but it is the poet himself who is contradictory: we have a public d'Annunzio and a private one. The first is the one who drinks only water, as he pointed out to Carducci in 1901, in Bologna, only to be told 'and I drink nothing but wine', while the elderly colleague was grappling with a glass of Lambrusco. The second is the one who overindulges in front of a 'long and slender' bottle of Soave Veronese; and who gets sixty bottles, also of Soave, from Antonio Gioco, owner of the Dodici Apostoli restaurant, in Verona, in exchange for a photo of him with a dedication.

Yours is, first and foremost, an accurate archival and historical study. How did you and Luca Bonacini go about the research and what surprises did you encounter during the drafting process? Which, among the correspondence reproduced, have - most - involved you?

We moved mainly between public and private archives. The most important document we encountered was the list of wines and spirits, present in the Vittoriale cellar, compiled by the pianist Luisa Baccara, his last muse, before the writer's death. The originality lies not in having published the list, which had been known to scholars for years, but in having worked - Bonacini - on those 295 bottles, clarifying the names of some labels (as they were transcribed in uncertain handwriting) and drawing a map of Italian and French wines, the latter five times more numerous than ours, which were still very expensive. As far as national production is concerned, it should be borne in mind that the wines that d'Annunzio dealt with in some way are distributed, from North to South, in twelve regions: in other words, the best of the oenological production of the time. He asked me about the correspondence. The most engaging for me was the one with the Abruzzese Amedeo Pomilio, creator of the liqueurs Aurum, Cerasella and Mentuccia di San Silvestro.

What do his favourite glasses and his rich cellar at the Vittoriale tell us about the tastes of the Vate? Was his relationship with alcohol, indeed, contradictory?

Precisely because his relationship with alcohol was contradictory, I would speak of historical and literary knowledge rather than of tastes, however refined. One need only glance through the index of our book, which we have entitled 'an index of secret wines and amusing drinks' to understand how much his expertise ranged from Italian and foreign bitters to liqueurs from Abruzzo, from Sangue morlacco to Mosto Cotto, from syrups to champagne. All of this is documented by unpublished menus and letters (with Antonio Gioco, Marcello Fantoni, Lionello Stock, among others), and by the oenological references that we have managed to survey, found in various works by d'Annunzio. Among the curiosities, we also find coffee, cappuccino and tea mentioned in the usual index.

How is Michetti's Last Supper linked to the Corfinio liqueur, to which you - rightly - dedicate a chapter?

Corfinio was born in 1858, thanks to the intuition of Giulio Barattucci from Chieti, who collected forty-two herbs along the paths of the Maiella mountains, managing to give the product its typical yellow colour due to saffron stigmas. According to legend, it was named by the painter Francesco Paolo Michetti, inspired by the first capital of Italy, Corfinium in the province of L'Aquila. Corfinio, which D'Annunzio called 'the fragrant Teatino liqueur', was offered to guests at the Michetti Convent in Francavilla al Mare. The artist had also designed the amphora-shaped bottle, the first labels, and frescoed the two premises that Barattucci had opened in Chieti and Naples respectively, in Via Toledo, near the editorial office of the Mattino newspaper. Here, regular customers included Edoardo Scarfoglio, Matilde Serao, Salvatore Di Giacomo, Ferdinando Russo, Cesare Pascarella and, of course, d'Annunzio when he visited the Campania city.

D'Annunzio's recent work is not the only food and wine essay to which he devoted himself. I am thinking in particular of Guida spirituale delle osterie italiane da Verona a Capri, reissued in 1921 (but already published in 1908 in Germany and 1910 in Italy) by Hans Barth. A highly successful work of which you have edited a splendid, recent edition. What features of this work do you think might still appeal to the modern reader/tourist?

Hans Barth's book is the first Italian food and wine guide. Barth, a German journalist of great cultural depth, travels through the Bel Paese following the traditional itinerary of the Grand Tour. He looks at Italy through the keyhole of the taverns, taking the reader by the hand, who, yesterday as today, continues to find himself seated next to monarchs, pontiffs, artists, patrons of the arts, literary and legendary personalities and people of the people, experiencing the history of a nation that the author described and loved more than many Italians, so much so that he wanted to be buried in Rome. The book exerts a great fascination on the reader (or tourist) attracted by the passion for wines (of which Barth was an excellent taster), food, and the possibility of walking along itineraries steeped in history. The other important aspect is the preface by Gabriele d'Annunzio, who accuses the journalist of being a drunkard, calling himself an 'aquatile' instead of a teetotaler. The Pescarese writer once again shows a perfect knowledge of Italian wines, so much so as to reproach the 'sitibondo Barth' for not knowing about 'Nepente d'Oliena, not even by reputation', and inviting him to make a stop on the Cinque Terre coastline, to 'soak up that Vernaccia di Corniglia already celebrated by Boccaccio'.