The Great Traveler

GIUSEPPE VITI (1816-1860) was one of important characters of the19th century history of Volterra and he was an exponent of the particular and unique activity in Italy that local people called “the Alabaster Travellers’ Movement” which permitted the city to reach a good economic level. Son of wealthy family of alabaster craftmen, he followed his father to the U.S.A at the age of only eight years, where he learnt English and “to do easy sums”, as he himself says in his written autobiography. After five years in America, he came with difficulty to Tuscany again, where he felt that it was the right moment to do “on his own” and in 1833, once more, he went businnes to the U.S.A whit alabaster works.

This American experience was a real failure and his father Niccolò threatened not to receive him at home if he had not come back as early as possible and with some of the invested money in this enterprise. Disappointed but still convinced of his ideas, Mr Viti reached Volterra in April 1841, but his mind was of returning to American Countries in a very short time.

So, he convinced his father and he was finaced by some Volterran alabasteres and, just six months later, he went on his second businnes voyage but, this time, to South Latin America. Even though the political situation was difficult and troubled in that part of the world, Mr Viti, aware of the previous experience, succeded in getting big profits and in opening an emporium in Rio de Janeiro City. His arrival in Volterra in 1845 was a triumph, his parents and relatives congratulated him and gave him a lot of presents, but he was not yet satisfied perhaps because of his adventurous nature letting him imaging; new horizons. The prestige, shown by all the city let him find the money easily for his last but the most fortunate as a merchant the Asian One.

He left in 1846, he travelled through some difficulties, he arrived in Lucknow, the capital of the Indian region Oudh, where he knew and made friends with the head of the place Mr Wajid Ali Shah, an important historical personage who was one of the leaders of the Sepoys’s revolt. The Rayah took and immediate linking to him and, after buying all his pieces of alabaster, at first he appointed him as his personal adviser and later as the Emir of Nepal. Owing to the British consul’s and the Rajah’s political pressures and because of the envy for the high position he reached at court and for his richness, Giuseppe Viti decided to go back to his country in 1848 where as a republican and a patriot, he wanted to take part in “the final struggle for freedom”.

Back home again in 1849, he was welcome by all the Volterran citizens, who gave him to buy the Palace from Incontri Family since 1849, he never left Volterra again, not because there was something more important to think of, that’s to say “The Unity of Italy” his youth dream which became reality at the end of his life.

For this writing we thank Dr. Emiliano Raspi