Giovanni Podenzana

Last changed on Thu, 01/01/1970 - 00:00


Enrico Alberto D'Albertis was an extraordinary man, full of interests and incredibly curious. He was born in Voltri near Genoa in 1846 when Italy was not unified and Genoa was in the Kingdom of Sardinia. He fought in Lissa during the third independence war in 1866.  He was fond of swimming, mountain climbing, canoeing, and riding. But it was the sea and sailing that “called” his heart. After he studied sailing at the Navy School, he visited several Yacht Clubs in England. In 1875, d’Albertis founded the first Italian Yacht Club with a group of enthusiastic Italian friends. “Violante”, d’Albertis’s 42-foot cutter, was the first Italian yacht and sailed up and down the Mediterranean for scientific endeavours. Serving in both the Navy and the Merchant Navy, he briefly sailed as a Captain. He resigned when he was 25 after steering the first Italian sailing ship through the Suez Canal. With his second vessel, “Corsaro”, a 72-foot cutter, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean to commemorate Columbus’ voyage using the nautical instruments of the fifteenth century (i.e. quadrant, astrolabe and cross-staff). A proficient writer, he published half a dozen books and many reports on his travels worldwide. “Captain” D’Albertis journeyed extensively, visiting every corner of Europe, completing a three-time world tour, and visiting Asia, Oceania, Northern and Southern America, Africa, Turkey, Syria, and Palestine. During his innumerable stays in Egypt, the Assuan Dam was being constructed, and monuments of Pharaohs’s time were discovered and freed by sand. Unfortunately, the “Corsaro” sank shortly after the Atlantic adventure and was never replaced. This forced d’Albertis to travel by “public transport” such as carriages, ships, camel caravans, and trains from this point on.  In 1860, the big American railways were expanded for transcontinental passage and the Trans-Siberian railway a few years later, allowing d’Albertis to cross the United States from coast to coast and then Europe to reach Vladivostok.  Very fond of astronomy, he drew over one hundred sundials around Italy and a few in Egypt, Libya, and Albania. In 1900, he circumnavigated Africa along its coasts. At the beginning of the First World War, d’Albertis was nearly seventy and could not join. But he couldn’t stay lazy and watch what was happening passively, so he managed a submarine spotting network in Tuscany that granted him a medal. His love for his country and hometown led him to leave his castle and collections to Genoa Municipality, requesting the opening of a museum to celebrate Columbus, to compensate his country for being unable to help during the war.  He died in 1932 at 86 and was active in public life until then.




He was acquainted with and friends with many personalities: scientists, politicians, and learned men. Just to name a few: Giacomo Doria, Leonardo Fea, Odoardo Beccari, Arturo Issel, Paolo Thaon di Revel, Umberto Cagni. He met Garibaldi, Verdi, D’Annunzio.  He had a penchant for Margaret Brooke, wife of the white Rajah of Sarawak.


He took over 20 thousand photographs between the late 1800s and the early 1900s, from fifty until a few years before his death.

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