Captain D'Albertis Hermitage

The Hermitage
The Hermitage

Captain Enrico Alberto D'Albertis (1846-1932), was certainly an original and fascinating character animated by a taste for challenges and exploration. Born in Voltri (Genoa) from a wealthy family of textile industrialists, he dedicated his life to curiosity and the "discovery of knowledge". Attracted since childhood by the sea, he embarked on sailing ships and fed his passion for sailing. He became an Officer of the Merchant Navy and was promoted, at only twenty-five years old, to the command of the first Italian ship to cross the Suez Canal in September 1870.

Captain D'Albertis was a tireless sailor, explorer, philanthropist, speleologist, writer, photographer; an eclectic man who was able to cultivate infinite interests in the scientific field and who developed many friendships with many Italian and foreign scholars. Letters and photographs document his correspondence with Gabriele D'Annunzio, Giuseppe Verdi, Edmondo De Amicis who called D'Albertis "sundial painter" precisely because of his passion for sundials (he built 103 sundials all over the world).

Thanks to his resourcefulness and economic possibilities, he was able to take an interest in the history of navigation, human geography, customs, trade and economy, making numerous voyages and carefully documenting with writings and photographs what he was observing. 

He travelled three times around the world and once around Africa, using the most varied means of transport, from ship to horse, from train to camel, from sailing boats to seaplanes. He reached San Salvador in 1893, following the route taken 400 years earlier by Christopher Columbus and using nautical instruments he built himself, taking as a model those in use at the time of the great Genoese navigator.

 

He also collaborated actively with Arturo Issel on various research campaigns in the caves of the Finale area. For example, we learn that it was Enrico Alberto d'Albertis himself, in the company of his brother Bartolomeo, who was the first to enter the Caverna delle Fate (Cavern of the Fairies) and to become aware of the palethnological importance of it. Together with his friend Arturo Issel, he took an active part in the excavations and the collection of materials at the Caverna delle Arene Candide (White Sands Cave).

Captain D'Albertis
Captain D'Albertis

On the top of Capo Noli he built a small wooden and stone chalet whose interior must have looked like that of his boats. This is a place of wild solitude, today decadent, born to be his summer paradise, when the long periods spent sailing allowed him to do so. Reachable only on foot or on the back of a mule, the Captain therefore created, perched on the plateau hidden by the vegetation above the cliffs, the headquarters of a new residence called "Eremo". In front of the house he created a large botanical garden, rich in exotic plants from his long journeys around the world, the banana tree, a Mexican cactus, quince and bitter orange. The garden had avenues and paths with poetic and curious names, many of them in dialect. In the middle of the square in front of the house stood a sailboat mast where the captain loved to perform the ritual greeting of flag raising. He also had a tower built just above the Hermitage: the Torretta della Vittoria in honour of Italy's victory in the First World War. Unfortunately there is no trace of this tower anymore

Stone table and chairs with sea view
Stone table and chairs with sea view

Despite the inscription "Noli me tangere" (don't touch me) ironically placed on the facade, the Hermitage does not isolate him at all from his friends and famous people of the time, for whom it is a perfect meeting place.

In a natural niche at the base of the cape, in 1921, the Captain had a statue of the Madonna in white marble, the Stella Maris, placed in a natural niche at the base of the cape: thus was born, at the beginning of the summer, the tradition of the fishermen and sailors of Noli, to honor, with a procession of boats, the "Protector of the Sea".

In Noli, moreover, on the Town Hall building in the facade facing the sea promenade, D'Albertis made a sundial in 1925, whose motto: "Noli, the solitary fisherwoman, in its intercourse with the Sun the hour tells you" was coined by his friend Lorenzo Castamora, pharmacist and poet from Noli.

The Hermitage of Captain D'Albertis, built in the first quarter of the 20th century, is a significant example of a small holiday building of the period, but above all a precious testimony to the life of one of the most interesting and heterogeneous personalities of the cultural and scientific life of Liguria.

Today, unfortunately, it is in a state of complete abandonment even though it still maintains the charm of the small bungalow in perfect colonial style that dominated the sea and the cliffs of Noli.

 

Upon his death, Captain D'Albertis left to the city of Genoa the Castle of Montegalletto and its countless collections of objects (including weapons and sundials), photographs and material from all over the world.