NARETTI - Diaries

NARETTI - Diaries




Italian version corrected by Gino Vernetto

Translated to English by Pierluigi Vernetto




Foreword by the translator 2

Prologue. 2

The departure to France. 3

Towards Marseille. 4

In Marseille. 6

In Alexandria, Egypt 20

The meeting with the engineer Godineau. 31

"This is the beginning of the destiny of the departure for Abyssinia.". 34

In Jeddah. 42

In Massawa, and the subsequent departure to Ethiopia. 47

Welcome to Adwa! 64

Ras Kassa in war against ras Tekle Giyorgis. 70

The coronation of Johannes IV.. 96

The rise to power of Johannes. 116

The French vice-consul De Sarzac. 117

The throne of Solomon. 121

Around Abyssinia and the conquest of the Galla Oromo. 123

The war with Egypt 134

The wedding of Naretti 147

Johannes’ projects. 152

The return to Egypt 162

In Jerusalem.. 168

The return to Ethiopia. 173

The encounter with the Matteucci expedition. 176

On the site of the Battle of Guda Guddi [Guda Guda] 189

Approaching Adwa. 190

The administration of justice in Ethiopia. 196

The French consul Carbonnel 198

A visit to Axum.. 199

The trip to Debre Tabor 202

In Debre Tabor 217

The Greek consul Mitzachis and the mission of Gordon Pasha. 232

Cardinal Massaja at the court of Johannes. 236

The expedition of the Emperor Johannes and King Menelik to the Ieggiu. 238

The letter and the gifts of King Umberto to Johannes. 255

The impatience of Count Antonelli 257

The coronation of King Taclé Haimanot *. 259

The first mass in the church of St. George. 261

The departure for Azebu. 262


Foreword by the translator

The first pages of these diaries can be a bit disappointing: Naretti’s narrative style at the beginning is very clumsy, and the facts reported are of little historical interest.  But your patience will be rewarded: from the cholera in Marseille onwards, Naretti’s diaries are a fresh, interactive, very pleasant and humorous account, and represent a unique first-hand report of very important facts and characters who have made the history of Ethiopia. You will find in Naretti a very acute and perceptive story teller, an outsider who came to observe from very near the politics and intrigues of the Ethiopian court.

In the middle there is a long section dedicated to geographical descriptions during the crossing of the plateau. It’s deadly boring, and we believe it has been copied word by word from the diaries of Pippo Vigoni, another Italian traveler – the style is too different from Naretti’s. Don’t give up on it: the rest of the book is really very entertaining.



I, Giacomo Naretti

after thirty years of a life of travel abroad, I am going to gather all my memories to make a book of my past life abroad in a civilization and finally with a longer stay in a different civilization.

I do not claim to write a scientific book and even geographical because they are neither a scientist nor a geographer, I mean only to describe the life of a poor young man with a brave soul, with faith in work and the passion to travel the world while respecting my neighbor, and I think to give the reader a book that will not displease him, a very satisfying and enjoyable reading for those who love the life of a man with faith in his work and loving his neighbor as much as himself.

One day some of my colleagues asked me to tell my "travelling" life, a draft of which I made, and my friends took it upon themselves to clean it up and make it delightful to read.


The departure to France

I, Giacomo Naretti, after 16 years in Abyssinia I remember having spent a lifetime travelling abroad during the space of thirty years, having left my beloved country in 1856, and as I left from Piedmont, as the first direction I decided to move towards France with my younger brother Giuseppe (who had already had three years of apprenticeship under my direction as a carpenter, so I thought well to take it in my company as an aid to my work), and I left my poor father * and my poor * mother, whom I loved from the bottom of my heart, but with all my heart and my mind I was very firm upon travelling abroad.

* “poor”  is a typical dialect attribute in the Canavese dialect, often followed by the apposition “good soul”, to refer to a deceased persons; Naretti wrote his diary when his mother and father were already dead for some time.

I assure you that I parted from my poor mother with a deep and sore kiss, and my poor father came to accompany us for four hours of walking. How much affection he had for us, a spontaneous feeling, my poor father loved us with all his heart. The son, however, by nature attaches his heart more to his mother, but I do not know if this seems only to me - because my mother had the virtue of making herself loved, but I think this happens generally to everyone: it is certain that while leaving my poor father, my pain was less.

So we left for Turin and passing by we went to give good morning to my dear cousin Antonio Boggio - master carpenter in Turin. Since he was a hard-working young man he gave us only good advice, and he told us: "Well done, good, dear cousins, you do well to tour the world because you are young - and added - I had the urge to get married too young; I wish I could go around the world like you." It ended with a kiss.

At the Susa railway off we went to France. Upon arrival at Susa I spent the night thinking and talking with my brother Giuseppe, we were wondering which way we were to take, whether to Marseille or to Lyon. In fact, we were out of town and we had not yet decided on which path to take. I thought then, and I advised my brother and said "Look, we do so to choose the direction: there is wind, we throw his hat in the air and go to the side where the hat will fall."

My brother liked this advice, so he threw his hat in the air, which fell on the road to Marseilles.

Towards Marseille

So we set out to Marseille, via the Montgenevre, on foot.

Finally after a few days we arrived at the French border. Before leaving the Italian border we saw the last Italian fort called the fort of Exilles *, in the middle of a small gorge which formed a very small stretch so full of trees that we could almost not see the little fortress, which was empty and uninhabited and for its defense was surrounded only by a large deep ditch crossed by a drawbridge.

* In the original manuscript SJC; probably corresponds to Exilles, stronghold of the Susa Valley on the way to Montgenevre.

Finally, marching a few hours, we arrived at the French border, and then descending a small hill we came upon a small village. Here we met the French police who immediately, as is their right, asked politely to see our passport, which we immediately showed them, and after reading it they told us: "Boys, do you want to have breakfast? There is a small hotel nearby". We said yes, we had almost appetite, and one of them came to accompany us, and I said to myself: "Look, what polite and good natured people we begin to meet!"

So we took to the road after a good breakfast.

After a few hours we arrived at the first fortified town of France, in Briançon: I visited it a little and it seemed to me a very original and well-fortified city. So after a few hours we set off for Gap; it would be too long to describe all the small towns and all the stages of our trip. Finally we arrived at Gap, a small town at the foot of the Alps, in a narrow plain with the river Durance: on its west side it is also equipped with a fortress.

From here we set out to Manosque: I am not going to list all the intermediate villages. Finally we arrived in Manosque, a very large town near the Durance River which flows in a very large plain. Here we spent the night at a small inn, and after dinner a young girl accompanied us to the bedroom and asked us "Where are you going, boys?' She spoke in Provençal and we were beginning to understand something, and we could make ourselves a little understood. She was a very amiable young lady and very kind, and we answered that we wanted to go to Marseilles; she asked what our profession was, and we said "We, our profession is carpenters." And she replied: "Dear young men, in Marseilles at the moment there are more than two thousand people who are in the street, they have no work, not only for your work as a carpenter but for all trades, because of the Crimean War *; you should rather stop here for some time, and let this dead season pass. " But we, being very eager to see Marseille, the next day we left for Aix-en-Provence, after thanking a lot the girl for the information and advice.

* The Crimean War, in which the Piedmont participated, as well as France and England, occurred precisely in 1853-1856.

After half a day we arrived in Aix, a beautiful town situated on a rather large plateau, with boulevards and beautiful stretches of plantations, but rather I remarked the antiquity of the city: in fact, I inquired, Aix was, before Marseille, the capital of Provence. So we went by train to Marseille. Aix at that time was still without a station, only a trunk of the railway began to be used, joining with the Lyon and Paris trunk in 1851.


In Marseille

We arrived in Marseille and I was immediately struck by the aspect of big city full of traffic and trade.

I had the address of a childhood friend and schoolmate, a certain Pietro Enrietti, carpenter and sawyer, and I immediately started looking for the street and number, and found a small inn offering board and lodging: here we had breakfast and then I asked information about my friend: I was told: "Yes, he stays and eats here and now he is in the old port to saw" *.

* In those times, cutting trunks into boards was done by hand, with a long saw with two handles pulled by a man on the ground and one standing over the trunk placed horizontally on stands: very hard work and unrewarding, but still very advanced compared with the Abyssinian method, as we shall see.

We started to look for him and found him cutting into the indicated port: it was a great pleasure for us to find a childhood friend in a foreign city of which we didn’t know the language yet. Then in the evening at dinner he told me: "My dear, you arrived in a bad season, I must do the sawyer because I cannot find work as a carpenter."

So we rested for three days then I thought of roaming the city to explore it. After walking for nearly three hours in the city, along the Méjan Avenue I saw a carpenter's workshop. I had already learned from my friend what to say in order to ask for a job: I entered the shop, I saw an old man who was walking and asked him: "Monsieur, vous avez pas d'emploi?" * And he told me no.

* "Do not you have any work?"

I walked quickly out of the shop when I saw a strong young man, of kind and cheerful look, and as he had understood my dialect, he came out of the shop with me and spoke to me immediately in good Piedmontese and I said, "I'm sorry, are you not from Piedmont? " and I happily replied "Yes, my dear countryman" He said, "What part of Piedmont?", I replied, "I am from Parella, province of Ivrea" and he, pleased, said: "I am from Pecco *, then we are compatriots and neighbors."

* Village of 456 inhabitants (1860), a few kilometers from Parella, Val Chiusella.

My brother was outside waiting for me, my friend invited me to eat a casse-croûte* and to drink once with my brother and he told me that the old man was not the owner but only the foreman. "He told you that there is no work, but come with me, when the owner arrives I'll ask him." In fact, I walked with him in the shop, the owner arrived, an old man blind in one eye; my friend spoke to him and he glanced at me with his good eye and said, "All right, come after noon."

* Fr. casse-croûte = snack.


This was the first request for work I had done.

Happy, I say goodbye to the friend, go out and tell my brother: "I've already got a job; I will speak to them about you." So we go back to the inn happy and I say to my friend Enrietti: "See, you're telling me that it is a difficult time to find work, but at the first shop where I have applied I have already found a job; I will quickly have lunch and then I will go to my work". He says: "You're lucky!" In fact, I can say, I've been lucky, I've never being out of work during my working life.

Finally my first master was the entrepreneur of the works of the town of Marseilles; after eight days, I told him that I had a younger brother who had already done three years of apprenticeship. Since in these eight days he had already begun to appreciate me and to treat me with some affection and benevolence, he replied: "Why didn’t you tell me before? Tell him to come tomorrow." So my brother has worked for two years with the same master as me, and he loved him because he was smart, but my brother wanted to change, saying that he was young and wanted to change jobs.

But I spent four years with the same owner; before the end of these four years the municipality engineer, a certain Dusau, a very kind person, was getting ready to get married; he wanted to give a surprise to his young bride and prepare for her a living room, so he handed to my master the design of a Gothic living room and prayed my master to give him a worker able to realize his plan. My master Arrion, a very kind man whom I loved so much, he loved not only by me but by everybody, he put this plan in my hands in front of the engineer and said, "Giacomo, come with me." So we left together with the engineer, we arrived at city depot where there was a timber depot, the engineer showed me the oak wood and said: "Monsieur, regardez, il faut choisir le meilleur bois" *.

* "Sir, look, you have to choose the best wood."

Finally he recommended me to do the job well according to the plan and told me to prepare quickly the execution plan. The day after he came, he found the execution plan finished, he examined it well from top to bottom, he stared at me and then said: "Okay, you can work according to your plan - and he said - I want it to be ready for such day, do you need other workers with you?" And I said "I take responsibility to finish it by myself in a short time, I will make for you a miracle." He said, "All right - and added - I know you keep your word because your master told me so."

So I began to work not as a joke, but with commitment. The engineer was coming from time to time to visit me and see the work and I managed to finish it in fifty days instead of sixty as required. The engineer was happy and, indeed, charmed. So the four windows and two doors in the Gothic style were put in place, and the engineer was happy and my boss ecstatic. But it would be too long to relate all the details.


My boss since a long time was very fond of me, he would invite me often to the countryside on Sunday; he had no children, he had at home only a niece that the poor old man, a very charming man, loved as his own daughter. When we were in Cabanon, after having lunch, we ate and drank well, with good bottles of Bordeaux and other qualities of wine, together with his good wife Alfina and his niece Marie, I was very fond of her, we would go, cheerful, to play the game "the blades" in the large garden containing beautiful trees.

Sure enough, we were always together in pairs for the game: once I was with Marie, the other I was with the lady Alfina. When I was with this Alfina she would say to her husband: "I'm with Giacomo, I will win". Finally, we would pass together the Sunday and I was very sorry that it was too short, it was suddenly night. In the evening after dinner Marie would play the piano and sing, in short, we would pass together nice evenings and then we would go to sleep. On the morning of Monday my master and I would take the bus: an hour's journey and we were at the laboratory, at six in the morning we would start working. And I would go to the municipality laboratory which was under my direction.

Finally one day the engineer of the town, Monsieur Dusau, who loved me and respected me, took me apart in the lab and told me: "Dear Giacomo, you should know that your master Arrion plans to retire and to stop working, because he says that is old and he has enough, but he did not tell me what he wants to do with his fortune. He should have more than eight hundred thousand francs and has no children; he has only a niece that he considers as his daughter and when the time will come, his legacy will be divided into three parts. But, my dear Giacomo, I know that your master Arrion loves you and wants you to have a position in life. Please pursue your own well-being, because I love you too. "

It was already four years that I was in the service of my master Arrion, and towards the end, when he was about to liquidate the company, on a Saturday night, after giving the salary to everyone, he summoned me and told me: "Jacques, please sit down." and he begins to tell me:" You do not know yet that I want to retire and stop working because I am old and I have enough money for the rest of my life. You know what I thought? Now that I know that Monsieur Dusau loves you very much and is happy with you, and you know almost all my customers, and you know that I have the best customers in Marseille, so I thought I will bestow my lab on you". And, knowing that I was very thrifty, he says, "I know you must have economized and saved some money." I said to him: "Dear master, yes, with my savings I have accumulated a few thousand francs, but since my brother Giuseppe is serving in the army - two years ago he had changed his master and worked elsewhere - I would like to help my brother settle down because he is intelligent and I love him, but I'll need at least two thousand five hundred francs, and how much will be left? Only a petty amount so I cannot take over your large business, thank you very much for your offer: I see that you really love me."

He let me talk and then he replied with a laugh and said, "Well, I like everything you told me, but be brave! See, in my workshop nothing is missing, there are utensils and wood, you do not have to buy anything. You know that the establishment is mine and I do not have to charge you a rent from day one. I will be representing you for six months and even longer, if necessary, to introduce you to all our customers, to let you know everything and then you will pay me little by little. - And he said - Think about it, Giacomo, I am trying to give you a good position." I expressed him my deepest gratitude and I said: "Please grant me eight days to think about it." And he replied: "All right, think about it, you still have time."

Here comes into the picture the fate of the young man who has in his heart the desire to travel and who feels he has never tried and seen enough. I would certainly have had to be pleased with this offer because it was a great opportunity for me and the start of a great fortune, because I already knew the reason for the generous offer of my master: his intention was that I settle down and then marry his niece Marie. I had already noticed that not only my boss and his wife loved me but that Marie too was in love with me. To tell the truth, even I was in love with Marie because she was very pretty, and above all she was very kind, but I had a worry in my heart without knowing why: it seemed to me a pity to marry so soon.

Finally, in the same week that I had taken the time to respond to my master, I received a letter from the Prefecture of Ivrea, sent to me by the mayor, stating that I had to return home for the military service in the National Guard in December 1869; I brought the letter to my master, in answer to his generous offer, and gave it to him to read, and I said, "I am very sorry." He read it and then looked at me and said: "You are so dumb; home is where you make a living and where you feel good." I replied: "My heart thinks that if I had to live all the days of my life with the regret of being exiled from my country, not being able to return to my homeland, I could no longer see my dear parents and relatives, it would an unbearable pain not being able to return to my homeland, so I am very sorry to have to refuse the kind and generous proposal that your benevolence wanted to offer me, for which I will be grateful for my life. " And he said: "What else can I tell you!"


So my dear master handed the job to another and I still remained as head of the work for the municipality under his successor monsieur Gimisi, with whom I was getting on well. Gimisi had quite a lot of respect for me and also allowed me to earn some money when it came to do urgent work for the municipality. Very often it was necessary to add workers and I would ask my boss to give me more, because we had to work at night to transfer the office furniture from one room to another, all in a hurry, and my master Gimisi would tell me, "Do me this favour, look for them by yourself, I know you can find them."

I would find them always and immediately because I knew many compatriots who were jobless and I knew always how to manage on my own. On the pay of the workers I would get a large cut for myself: already Dusau the engineer, who loved me, told me to manage on my own. Someone told my master that I was taking a cut on the workers pay: on a Saturday, while we were distributing the salary, the foreman of the laboratory said so to my worthy and good master, who replied: "I know as well, but I'm glad to know that he can manage: to me it’s enough that the engineer Dusau is pleased with his work, and I know he is happy and that makes me glad." And I said to his foreman, 'What do you care? Every man who does his work well must make some profit! "

And here I must say the honest truth: I found in the heart of these two French masters, the first Arrion and the second Gimisi, two men full of humanity and really worthy, for the will of the Supreme Being who gave them the chance to manage people in their business. If all of the entrepreneurs were like them it would be so nice! In fact, both have made a colossal fortune, with great honor and without envy. However, according to what I see, not everyone has these ideas of honesty; some heads of laboratory and shop owners and construction managers have the idea to make money by swindling others. The way I see it, with these abuses or swindles few have managed to make a fortune: some may go on for some time but then they are publicly discovered; little by little, if you lose the honesty, not always you find help. In my thirty years of traveling abroad I think I've learned something of what I'm talking about, and not only through the experience of others but I myself have suffered and been the victim of many intrigues.

Sorry I can be neither a "scientific" nor a professional writer in order to describe my life and my natural history, because I think it would be very entertaining for the readers and instructive from the point of view of morality.


Finally, after two years, having sent my dear brother Giuseppe to school, even to drawing classes, where he learned very well, seeing him good and intelligent and with the possibility of getting a great help from him, I have decided to set up our own business. I Already knew many entrepreneurs and engineers who begged us to establish our own laboratory, because there would be plenty of work, and so we decided and we started taking orders in our profession as carpenters.

The first order was a house in the La Castellane square, very important, for a total value of about forty thousand francs. And since we had to advance the expenses and we had a few thousand francs of savings but they were not enough, I thought of going to a wood dealer that I already knew, because he provided wood for my first master, and I asked him to give me timber in accordance with the terms of my supply contract. He replied: "I'll talk to the director, come back the day after tomorrow." Finally I went to get the answer and he asked me: "Where is your shop located?" "In such place" "Well, what is the quality of the wood you want?". I told him the quality and gave him a small description of the amount that we would need.

Two days after a number of carts loaded with timber arrived: we had a very big shop and plenty of room in the courtyard; everything was measured, counted and stacked. The day after came a few wagons more and eventually we were forced to suspend the order, praying the merchant not to bring in more timber because we did not know where to put it. We talked about it with my brother and we said, "Look, he immediately trusted us, the merchant of wood!"

A few days later I met my second master; he greeted me kindly and told me, "The merchant of timber brought you the wood?" And I replied, "Yes, a lot!" and he said, "he has come to inquire by me and I gave him the references that you deserve. Well done, I like you, so go ahead, and if I can be useful do count on me. "

So we went on with our company. At this time my mother arrived; she had already written that she could not live without seeing us, for sure she loved her children and as far as my heart is concerned I had nothing more cherished in the world than her. Thus I found myself to be the happiest man in the company of my dear mother, she had come only to see us and to spend some time with us, because we know that a mother loves her children, and my heart too loved her deeply. But then she decided to stay with her children for the rest of her life.

And we went on with our order and with other work and it marched very well. We finished the first complete order which was not successful: in fact there was a court case between the manager and the stone-cutter, with a sentence of liquidation, so we had to lose the third part, but this did not prevent us from paying the workers and our supplier of timber.

And this way we went on, there were other jobs and we had three wonderful years. At that time was in progress the decree of Napoleon the third * to open a passage between the old port and the new one of La Joliette, crossing the old quarter of the Carmine and demolishing all the houses. Napoleon the third made a gift of six million to the city of Marseille to execute his decree; at that time Napoleon was highly regarded not only in Marseilles but in the whole of France.

* Napoleon III, Emperor of the French from 1851 to 1870


Truth must be told, at the time of the triumph of Napoleon, France had developed and triumphed abroad and the French were proud of their Napoleon, and they were not wrong: In fact, Napoleon was respected by all the rulers. This after the glorious Crimean war and the alliance of England with France, and the small Piedmont and Turkey also allied with France, to defend their rights.

Finally, our famous and immortal Count of Cavour, who was already thinking for a long time to make a united Italy, he agreed with Napoleon to keep fifteen thousand men ready for combat. Unfortunately he died of a forced death, by jealousy, and our gentleman king, the enlightened, immortal Victor Emmanuel was able, with his intellect, "to run the boat in accordance with the politics" and was able to make a united Italy, and Italy cannot deny that they have a debt of gratitude to Napoleon the third, though, in my opinion, towards the end of the politics of Napoleon he had fallen into despotism. And it was his fault because it was no longer time to go backwards and take away the freedom from the people "human and progressist."

I was in Marseille in 1856 when Napoleon with his influence brought in Villafranca the Emperor of Russia and Vittorio Emanuele and other rulers belonging to the "Treaty of Crimea" * and, according to the Treaty of Villafranca, Nice with the addition of Savoy was ceded to France shortly after the war of '69 as a reward for the help given to Italy from France. **

* Congress of Paris (February-March 1856) named after the Crimean War to settle the issue of the Middle East and the Black Sea. Cavour made an appeal for the unity of Italy.

** Naretti  is confusing facts. Following the agreements of Plombières (21 July 1858) between Cavour and Napoleon III over 100,000 French soldiers, led by the Emperor himself, fought alongside the army of Savoy against Austria in the battles of Magenta (June 14, 1859), Solferino and San Martino (24th June), three victories but very bloody, hence by surprise Napoleon III signed an armistice with Austria at Villafranca. As a compensation for the French aid, Nice and Savoy were ceded to France.


This way we go on working.

Since the decree of Napoleon was carrying as consequence the execution of colossal works, a very strong company under the name of Company Lyonnaise was founded. What was this Company Lyonnaise? It was a great Jesuit society, trying to rob the bread from the workers so that the workers could not become rich and proud. They opened a great carpentry workshop with machinery of all kinds, from whom every kind of carpentry work would be produced almost finished, and the workers had very little work left, and getting very low wages the workers had no other option but working for food and shelter.

We were in 1864, cholera broke out in Alexandria, a strong cholera, and a large part of Europeans were killed and some escaped.

As a result many arrived at Marseilles, of course after having undergone quarantine: I have had many contacts with these men coming from Alexandria, they said that the carpenter work was the only one where real money could be made. My brother Giuseppe and I were talking about it, and we said that it was better to go to Alexandria because here in Marseille there was little more to be gained, and getting approval from my dear mother, who was very intelligent and brave, we thought well, at the end of the cholera, that one of us should go Alexandria in exploration. My brother said, "I'm younger than you, I am going to see and if there is a way to do business I will write you to come, if not I will come back here where we already have a reputation." And so it was decided.

My brother left for Egypt: there the cholera was over, and it was instead beginning in Marseilles and, after the departure of my brother, it was becoming stronger every day. I had begun to work in two or three places and I was going early in the morning to put the men at work; passing through the old quarter of the town I could see funeral coaches parked or in march, everywhere coffins where carried down the stairs with the corpse of the poor unfortunates who died in the cholera, and many were falling to the ground in the streets and in the districts. Despite the quarantine line lying around Marseilles, about two-thirds of the inhabitants had fled, and one could see the empty boulevards and the districts, except someone coming and going for his extreme business.

I was very brave, and my dear mother almost more than me. I had a friend pharmacist who gave me bottles of anti-cholera medicine and I was beginning in the morning on an empty stomach to drink a full glass and I would encourage the dear mother to drink too, which she did not fail to do, and indeed she was encouraging me and I was encouraging her in return, without fear. When we would eat, our dear mother would say, sighing: "Who knows which trip made my Giuseppe, if nothing wrong happened to him?" And I said to her, to encourage her, "No, Mom, because in Alexandria the cholera is over and there is nothing to fear. "

The plague of cholera began with a hundred deaths per day, then two hundred, five hundred, and at the peak one thousand two hundred a day, and it lasted about three months.

Towards the end of the cholera the desired letter from my dear brother arrived; it was a relief for my mom and me: he wrote that he had a great trip, that he had been a little seasick but now it was over, he was fine, and he wrote: "Dear brother, business is good in our profession. I have already got a good job: a palace of the consul of Denmark, through the intermediary of his friend Giovanni Fietta; he hardly knew me, but when he saw your letter he exclaimed: "Ah! You are the brother of Giacomo! We liked each other so much in our childhood: well, write immediately to Giacomo: I have been here for eight years as a salesman and I know a lot of people, and I will get you as much work as you want. '" And with the same letter my brother wrote me to liquidate everything and leave as soon as possible with all the tools.

And so I did, only I still had a great sorrow for the dear mother, for this long sea voyage, I did not know what to say and what to do, whether to tell my mother to return home, in Italy, and part from her, that I loved so much. I ended up asking her what she was determined to do: she got up, hugged me and said, "Dear son, do you expect me to have the courage to leave you and Giuseppe, of which I do not have anything dearest in the world? I am determined to die with my children, "I assure you that was a great consolation for me to see my mother so determined.


In Alexandria, Egypt

I then finished to liquidate all my business and I booked the ship; immediately we left for Alexandria with my mom and other friends on the steamboat, the Duranza: it was a very long boat, but a little bit old, so there was reason to fear a shipwreck; being heavily loaded, the bridge was about a meter above the water surface.

Finally, thanks to the supreme God, we arrived in Alexandria very well, in twelve days. Arrived in the harbor we saw several boats approaching, aboard one of which I saw my brother: my mom was not far from me, I turned and said, "Here comes Giuseppe." He approached the stairs; there he arrived on the bridge: my mom rushed to hug him affectionately. There was then the medical inspection, but since our ship's doctor had made his statement that he had nobody ill during the trip and we were all in good health, we did only six hours of quarantine.


Here we landed: we took an old Arab coach who led us to our accommodation, and here I found the friend Giovanni Fietta who told me that he could not come on board because of his urgent business. Then came our stuff and we settled into our accommodation. And here we are resident in Alexandria, Egypt.

Therefore we continued the work already acquired by my brother; at that time, work and trade were going really well, we struggled to find good workers paying eight or ten francs a day.

There was already a large company of which was member the first Viceroy of Egypt, Ismail Pasha *, and many other pashas and beys and some European notable. This company was called Agricultural Society, and its general manager was an Italian, Baselli.

* Ismail Pasha came to the throne of Egypt on 18.1.1863 and reigned until 1879. In 1867 he was awarded the title of Khedive by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Azia. Ismail had the ambition to transform Egypt into a modern industrialized country such as Europe and to make of the Cairo and Alexandria two centers such as those in Europe, and he employed European specialists to implement his construction plan.


This Baselli, at the beginning in Alexandria, was employed as a "squire" and his boss for some years had a carpentry workshop with some small steam machine. Baselli, being smart, for some time served as a director for his boss, and having made acquaintance with Ismail Pasha and many other pashas and beys, upon the death of his boss he got hold of all the work: hence the said Agricultural Society was formed for work of all kinds and the viceroy appointed him as director.

And at the time that the Agricultural Society was functioning, work of all types was marching very well, everything was in movement, in Cairo and Alexandria there were almost more directors and engineers and clerks and foremen and supervisors than workers, and all with high wages. So after two years, the company was found to have spent many millions and little work was done, and therefore, after having drawn a balance sheet, since the expenses were eating the capital, the company went into liquidation and Mr. Baselli retired well with honor, and left for Italy, it is said, with nearly two million and more.

After the liquidation of the Agricultural Society in Egypt the work decreased a lot and has always gone from bad to worse. We must also say that Ismail Pasha was a great nobleman for his grandeur and the Europeans who came to Egypt, at least those who could approach him, have almost all made a fortune, but in the end the Viceroy found himself burdened with court trials in Europe, and many unjust, so he ended up disgusted and the work suffered and from day to day everything was in decline.


We have continued to work with our orders. We finished the house of the brothers Dumreicher: the ground floor and the first floor and some work on the second floor, after which the honorable gentlemen Dumreicher were forced to suspend the work for their own reasons, and we in this first work we have begun to make a twenty thousand francs of earnings. And we went on with other business and we ended up having very good customers with the best practices of Alexandria. But prices began to decline because lots of workers were arriving, but we did not lack work.

In this period came also quantities of crooks and thieves, and with the arrival of these bands of gentlemen, no night would pass without thefts and almost always murders. At the end it was indescribable the amount of theft and murder, and not a day passed without finding murdered people in the streets and homes. These bands were formed by some European and for the most part from the Greeks, and it was discovered that the Turkish police was holding his hand to the gang of thieves. So Ismail Pasha, getting constantly reproach by the consuls, he decided to bring in the European police forces, and the police chief was an Italian, coming from Milan, he introduced himself by His Highness Ismail Pasha, who told him: "Are you able to clean up this mob in my country? "And the police chief replied," Yes, Your Excellency! Give me this power and I will get the job done." He was granted power and a police force of European style was organized, very severe: it was built a large boat with an opening into the lower half; these good people, freshly picked and arrested, were immediately judged and were taken to the boat, and according to the quantity of the condemned they were placed not more than five or six at a time into the stern below the boat: each was set with a big ball of cast iron at his feet, well bound, separated from each other; the stern would close and the boat was made to travel for an hour or two out of the harbor and then a spring would be activated, the stern would split in two and the good friends would sink facing the most cruel death.


This cruel practice lasted the space of six to eight months and many hundreds have undergone the said inhumane punishment. In this regard, we must explain it well: some European who was in the company was sent back to his government in Europe, only the Greeks and Turks were subject to such a cruel sentence. Because Greece, after the war of Heraklion * with Turkey in 1866 that the Greeks have lost, became a Turkish colony protected by the Sultan of Constantinople, and for the intervention of the European powers, the Turks were forced to retreat otherwise they would demolish Greece.

* Heraklion, the capital of the island of Crete in 1866 rose up against the Ottoman rule, Greece favored in every way the uprising, but this was easily crushed by Turkey.

At that time I was lodged near the sea around the French Consulate and next to me were two or three Greek cafes and I saw morning and evening full of great Greek gentlemen, always well dressed, with gold chains, and I would go to work in the morning and at noon and I always saw them here playing their game and smoking the narghile, and I said to my dear mother and my brother: "Here I always see the cafes full of great Greek gentlemen, always well-dressed, having a good time from evening to morning: in my opinion - I said - these people cannot be part of the gang of criminals." In fact, as soon as the European police force arrived, in part they have been arrested and passed to the boat, in part they fled. At the end of six or seven months all these great gentlemen whom I would see in the evening and in the morning around the Greek cafes are gone, and so it was discovered that most of the criminals were Greek.

The tramps, full of vices and lovers of the game and the entertainment and of every debauchery, cannot help but be criminals and thieves.

And then we went on with our work; here Alexandria became quieter, so we decided to buy some land to build our laboratory and house. And so we did: we bought one hundred and fifty square meters on the Hay Square and immediately we built the lab and our accommodation, all in wood: and here we settled down in our house.

During this time died a certain Cajak, Frenchman, who had the only carpentry workshop with some steam machine, and our supplier of timber was a certain Popolane, a Levantine that also served as consul of Portugal: since he knew us well, he asked us to partner with him to carry on this workshop; he was already a partner of the deceased Cajak, so my brother and I we made a deal with him: three hundred francs a month each, and fifteen percent of the gain, and he promised that we would be assigned all the work of the Egyptian government.

For one year things proceeded very well, but then came the bill of the creditors of the deceased Cajak. In fact, we received a notice from the French consul not to take more jobs, to liquidate everything, because the factory was impounded by creditors of the deceased, and then we stopped working. And for our losses we turned to our association with Popolane, because we had nothing to do with the deceased and with his debts, we did not know anybody but our partner, to whom we turned to have our possessions back, which amounted to twenty-two thousand francs.

The trial took place through the Italian Consulate, and at the end our opponent Popolane was sentenced to pay us our capital, to be established by an appraisal. He rejected the sentence and appealed in Italy, in Ancona, but at the end the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Ancona arrived, who did nothing but confirm the judgment of the court of Alexandria, given and confirmed the judgment of the President cavalier Cavallo. But on the day of receipt of the notice of the judgment in our favor, the news arrived that our opponent Popolane had declared bankruptcy in a rather fraudulent way. After which he was demoted from consul and the Portuguese consulate was transferred to the Italian Chancery.

I cannot forget the excellent Cavalier Cavallo, president of the Court of Justice of Alexandria, and his good assistance used in our favor in this dispute. Although we had lost everything, after eight years came the liquidation of the bankruptcy and we took six hundred francs, having spent more than three thousand.

In the meantime, the project of the Italian College appeared, and was announced that only Italian citizens could participate. Having taken knowledge of the drawings and instructions, we proposed our prices for carpentry and woodwork and we produced them on the day of tender. It turned out that our prices, compared to those of other competitors, were lower than five percent for the woodwork and the highest five percent for carpentry, but the committee has deliberated and decided to assign the entire work to us, carpentry and woodwork, that is all those parts concerning the timber.

The masonry work was started immediately and run up to a meter and a half above the ground, but it was realized that the design engineer was very wrong, by almost fifty percent of the cost needed to complete it, because the project was too grandiose. In addition, the subscription had not been as successful as was hoped, but it must be said that trade and business were not as bright as before; many had subscribed a large sum which became small. For which the College Committee reviewed its budget and decided to stop the construction of the colossal college. However, by law, entrepreneurs must have got compensation as an indemnity. In fact it was established to give ten thousand francs' worth of compensation to the construction entrepreneur, and to us, as the work of carpentry and woodwork had not yet begun, they decided to give us allowances at the beginning of five thousand francs, and then they asked us to make some rebate, to make a sacrifice in the name of Italy’s honor.

After a few days my brother Giuseppe, for other reasons, went to the consulate, and came back saying: "You know, Giacomo, the attorney Ungoro, the chairman of the College, asked me to accept, as good Italians, an allowance of two thousand francs . What should we do?" I thought well about it and said," Do you want us to bring our Consulate into Justice? This is not appropriate for a good Italian. Already by law we are right, but since the subscription for the college went wrong we must be consensual; so far we do not have put in anything, so to make known to the committee that we are good Italian, I think you'll be of my same opinion, that is, to return them these two thousand francs, under agreement, however, that if they will still build the college we will have the priority. What do you say? "My brother answered," I am of your opinion." And so it was agreed with the Committee, from which we received compliments as good Italians.

And we went on with our work.


In 1869 there was the inauguration of the Suez Canal. *

* It was opened November 17, 1869 in the midst of great parties given by the Khedive Ismail Pasha, which were attended by kings, princes and celebrities from the main nations of the world.


Since some time my dear mother was not feeling in good health and the doctors had advised her to change climate. It was therefore decided that one of us would leave to take her up to the village, my father would come to pick her up, but she was afraid of the sea. But our young friend Fietta, who was also worried about my mother, came and said: 'I need a change of climate too, I'm leaving for the village: my dear, none of you need to leave to accompany his mother, which I consider a bit also my mother; you who have work to do should stay here, do not have fear and remorse, I will take all possible care of her. "

Since my mother’s health was not worsened and actually she was rather well, it was agreed that she would leave with the good friend Fietta. So one Saturday we prepared the coaches to go to the harbor: I and my brother and my mom in a coach, Fietta, his wife and other friends in others.

Here we boarded! Arrived on board we took the coffers and chests in the small bedroom and then we started to walk on the deck talking and chatting also with our friends. But I must confess that, although I've always been brave of heart, when I saw the machine on and ready to leave, in having to leave my dear mother, I felt moved in my heart and I thought, "I wonder if the supreme God will allow me to hug my mom again? "

Here the steam began to move for the departure. In parting we exchanged a lot of kisses, both me and my mom moved and speechless. But I knew well that my mother was very brave but full of good heart and with her good manners could be loved by everybody. So here is my mother left for Italy in the company of good friend John Fietta and his wife.

And so we went on with the work. We worked at four spiral staircase for the palace of the viceroy that was intended for the inauguration of the Suez Canal, and at other work that were urgent for the same purpose. All work was completed in time for the opening ceremony, at which there was a member of every royal family in Europe, and all the princes and kings and emperors who came were forced to go first to Constantinople to extend the first greeting to the sultan.

The first to arrive was the Emperor Napoleon, who received on board for first Mr. Delosez, then came the Emperor of Austria, then a prince of Germany, etc..

From the House of Savoy came the Prince Amedeo: good and unlucky, he arrived to Alexandria with the princess his wife, but had just enough time to visit a little bit Alexandria when a telegram arrived from Florence telling him to return as quickly as possible to Rome for his father, the “Gentleman King” Vittorio Emanuele, had an attack of apoplexy and was sick *. And the good Prince Amedeo and his wife, as soon as he received this dispatch, with all haste returned on board his ship, of which he had the function of admiral, and left immediately to Rome and abandoned his mission at the channel, because the fate of his father was more important to him.

* Indeed Vittorio Emanuele II became ill for the cold caught while hunting in San Rossore and 7 November 1869 he received the sacraments but he improved rapidly so that on November 9 he morganatically married the Countess of Mirafiori Rosa Vercellana. (A. Comandini, L’Italia nei cento anni del secolo XIX (Italy during the hundred years of the nineteenth century)-1861-1870, Milan, A.Vallauri, 1929, vol. IV) p. 1153.


It was then made a solemn inauguration, because a work of such importance and magnitude is performed only once in many centuries. The first honors for this operation would be due to Napoleon the Third, and to Lesseps * who had spoken before with the great monarch Ismail Pasha, who was a great man who knew how to make a reputation for sumptuous ceremonies. But I think he didn’t take into consideration the costs, whose magnitude was greater than the possibility of Egypt, so after a few years, finding it impossible to cope with payments of the many loans made, he was forced to leave the throne to his son, Tewfiq Pasha.

* Luigi Negrelli was the first to conceive the cutting of the Suez Canal. Lesseps used Negrelli’s plans and was more successful in implementing the program. (See A. Scaglione, Luigi Negrelli and the Suez Canal, Rome, Spruce, 1971-1972, 2 vols.)


I talked about our last work done for the inauguration.

After that, since my brother Giuseppe had been sick for some time and the doctors had advised him to leave Alexandria for some time until the healing of his disease, we did agree to leave as soon as possible to the native country, where for seven months my mom was recovering and we had received news that she had recovered and was well and ready to go again to Alexandria; then we wrote her to wait because Giuseppe wanted to go himself to spend a few days of convalescence in the village.

Eight days before leaving my brother made a trip to Cairo, and once back I said, "Look, Giacomo, I made the acquaintance of Monsieur Godineau [see Biographies], a very good engineer well known in Egypt, who told me that he has a great project to make the Stock Exchange here in Alexandria; I told him I was going to go to Italy for a few days of convalescence, but he could deal with you, which is the same thing, so if by chance he comes, treat him well and see if you can get an agreement on the work: I will try to return as soon as possible. "


My brother left on a Saturday and I accompanied him on board the boat with a few friends. We were on board and I saw the moment of our separation, and my heart was throbbing and I said to myself: who knows if I will have the joy of hugging again my dear brother, though I saw him in not much worse health. And here's the steamer ready to go: there was a great exchange of kisses, and I found myself deeply dejected having to leave my brother and aware of an uncertain future, I said to myself: Providence is great, the Supreme shall not abandon me!

Then I returned home in the company of the friends and I felt a great surprise: the house seemed empty and I immediately began to think of my dear mother and my dear brother, but with my distinguished brave soul I ended up soon calming down and getting over it.


The meeting with the engineer Godineau

And I went on with my work that I had already begun, when a few days later, at nine o'clock, I saw coming monsieur Godineau de la Bretonnerie, who came from Cairo by means of the railway. He came, he knocked on the door and said, "Is there Mr. Giacomo Naretti?", and my Arab servant said to him, "Yes, he is here, enter." I saw then enter a brilliant man, with a distinct and remarkable outlook, who said: "You are the brother of my friend Giuseppe Naretti?" I replied yes and he said: "Your brother didn’t tell you about me?" "Yes”, he told me - I said,-“Please, have a seat."

I had just finished lunch, as I was alone I had dinner and lunch brought to me at home from a inn by my Arab servant, and offered him to eat something. He said yes and I immediately ordered my servant to tell the innkeeper to prepare a nice dinner for one person, and this was immediately prepared and brought in. After dinner we spoke at length of the work and the great project of the Exchange, and he said, "Don’t you have a nice bright room where you can draw?" I told him that there was nothing but an unfinished room, above the shop, which I would show him the next day.

And after much talk he went to his quarters at the Hôtel des Voyageurs, and I remarked in him a distinct person, but I had some doubts.

Finally he came the day after and I showed him the unfinished room, and he said to me: "Where will you ever find a drawing room better than this? Nowhere!” and he begged me to make a division because he wanted to make of it his bedroom and his drawing room, and he told me "Here I will be  lodged like a prince." I did do everything immediately to his liking and he immediately settled down and began to draw the Stock Exchange of Alexandria.


In the meantime, I received a letter from my brother from Venice, who said that his conditions had worsened, that he had gone to Venice just for curiosity, to visit it, the doctor told him to go immediately to the hospital or to leave the country, and that once finished the letter, he would leave for Parella, and I became sad at this news. I wrote immediately to my mom to give me news of my brother Giuseppe, how was his illness, and my mom found it very difficult to answer because my brother was very ill, under the care of a nice young doctor, but by the advice of three doctors he had already been given for "shipped". And my poor mother did not know what to answer; she did not want to write this story not to upset me because she knew that I was very fond of him, and then what she invented? She wrote me that my brother was better; he had gone to Pecco by a friend of his that I knew to change air, that she had recovered well, that she was just waiting for Giuseppe to recover well to go with him and come to join me. I believed her and it was a joy for me.


This way we kept on working.

Godineau in Cairo had a mistress who was called Mademoiselle Marie and he told me, "Naretti, it is better that we let my servant come here to cook because eating in the inn is too expensive, and we will do and economy and will be better." I agreed and said, "All right, let her come." She came: she cooked very well, she had good qualities, was highly educated but she was a great busybody.

Godineau finished his design of the Exchange and we made the respective prices of each body of work that could exist in the project. Godineau presented them to the Committee of the Khedive *: the design and the prices were accepted and the preference was given to us above all others.

* Khedive = Turkish Viceroy who ruled Egypt from 1867 to 1914.

Unfortunately the viceroy Ismail suspended the project because the Sultan had asked him to go to Constantinople and bring with him a few million, Ismail with his cunning made it known to all the consuls that spending such a sum would weaken Egypt, on the other hand he was afraid to drink the coffee that all the other viceroys had drunk from the hand of the sultan, a coffee that would leave him at most five or six months of life.

Ismail arrived in Alexandria with his steamboat, ready to obey the Sultan; he got off board ready to leave for Constantinople. But there came an order from the consulates of Alexandria, saying "Your highness cannot go to Constantinople, order to go back." And he went back without worrying, but with this the work remained suspended forever.

And here I got the desired letter from my brother saying that thank God he was healed and well restored, that her mother was fine and that in a short time they would leave to reach me.


"This is the beginning of the destiny of the departure for Abyssinia."

Two Abyssinian ambassadors arrived in Alexandria, sent by Prince Cassa (see Johannes in Biographies), the current King of Tigray, to bring gifts for the Queen of England, among which was a small column of gold decorated with some work Abyssinian style.

At that time, 1869, there was cholera in London, so that the British consul advised the ambassadors to leave him the gifts and return to Abyssinia. And so they did, but in a few months of their stay in Alexandria, a certain Coptic Vincent and Godineau became acquainted with these two Abyssinian ambassadors, of which the one in charge of the mission was a Aleka Biru *, and Mercia ** was only the dragoman, he was of Armenian race, he was white and very good looking.


* Naretti calls him Alicabro, but his name was Aleka Biru Wolde (see Biographies).

** Mercia Vorqe, son of an Armenian goldsmith, educated as a priest in Bombay, director of a school for boys, was used as an interpreter by Johannes when he received diplomatic missions.

Finally Godineau one evening he came home and said: "Oh what a nice discovery Costa and I did! - He said - We got acquainted with the Abyssinian ambassadors who came to look for an engineer and craftsmen to make them work, and the prince Cassa wants to build railways and put the telegraph - and he told me - Oh, what a discovery! It will be a colossal job, perhaps greater than that of the Suez Canal. " With his arrogance he seemed already to be lucky, and indeed what gave me more confidence and more security, and I felt that it was not only boast, was that after two or three days the two ambassadors, much talked about in the newspapers, were conducted by Godineau and Costa in my establishment, and since at that time I had many beautiful finished works, and what's more I had a bow saw for ornamental fretwork, which at that time was the only bow saw in Alexandria, after visiting the laboratory, they began tearing their hair and looked at the sky to see that God would listen to them, and through the Russian vice-consul, who spoke the Abyssinian language very well, he told me: "If you come to us in Abyssinia you will be loaded with gold. "

After three days I was invited to lunch in the company of the engineer Godineau and the Russian vice-consul, Mr. Baidi, a man who had a good regal look; they came to get me in the coach and they took me to the palace of the viceroy Ismail Pasha. Of course Ismail Pasha was in Cairo, but we were received by Mustafa bey with great ceremony, and we had lunch with eunuchs as waiters.

Lunch consisted of about twenty dishes but all cooked with the sweet flavor. After lunch we continued still at least an hour with the marmalade sweet: I could not specify the courses but there were still at least another twenty. At the end the lunch lasted at least four hours: according to the Turkish custom, between a plate and the other there was time to do the digestion.

Leaving that place, we went to the cafe of France on the square of the Consuls, and there was talk of forming a corporation; this ambassador had his companion Mercia who spoke very good English and Arabic, and then the Russian vice-consul spoke ten languages, so we could understand each other quite well. Ambassador Aleka Biru proposed to form a company on a large scale, with a shipment of workers to perform the work to construct a railway and telegraph; moreover he wanted three hundred soldiers, and he promised that upon our arrival in Abyssinia, in Tigray, where was (as they named them) the prince Cassa, which is the current king of Tigray, we would receive a very good reward for our work.

Since it seemed to me a good business, and since I had already received good news from my brother, who had recovered well from his illness, and so from my dear mother, who left to Italy five months before my brother, to convalesce at the village, she too had recovered, I wrote a letter to my brother informing him of the project and asked if he agreed. And he said: "If you see that the deal is good, you can advance the money, I am too of your opinion. “

As I judged this a good business and I had the consent of my brother, the engineer Godineau, who did not enjoy a lot of credit on the square of Alexandria, made me beg by a third person to start myself to found the company at the Caprera bank and to begin the sale of the shares. And so I began the first to deposit ten thousand lire, and immediately another Frenchman, Mr. Plosu, some ten thousand lire and many others have promised. Seeing how things were going, an expedition was formed composed of 17 men, including the engineer Godineau and I and Plosu, members of the executive cabinet in Alexandria, with the same rights as my brother Giuseppe; my brother and Plosu executors of the company in Alexandria, the secretary was Mr. Arnoux, a Frenchman, introduced by his friend Godineau, and the craftsmen members of the expedition were: first Mr. Borghese, one of the first craftsmen blacksmith of Alexandria, a master already settled here a few years ago, he left his laboratory only for the confidence he had in me, because we were good friends, and another, also a good craftsman carpenter and my friend, Scala Giovanni from Strambinello *, another the baker Nigra Antonio from Castellamonte **; Lamar Luigi, machinist and experienced in several trades; the baker and marine cook Augusto Grim, Frenchman from Marseilles, a man of extraordinary strength: he would grab an ox by the horns, gave him a twist and threw him to the ground to kill him. Another was Mr. Demerci Giovanni, formerly cashier of the French consulate in Algeria where he took care of the French agricultural business; another Costa Augusto, a Frenchman, trade agent in Alexandria, a very smart tradesman; another Desire Luigi, tradesman; the Secretary Busio Antonio, born in Alexandria to a French father and an Italian mother, he spoke five languages: English, Arabic, Turkish and the other two are known; another Messi Luigi, manufacturer of bricks and tiles, from Switzerland.

* Strambinello, a village two kilometers from Parella, with 305 inhabitants in 1864.

** Castellamonte, a town 8 km from Parella, with 5620 inhabitants in 1860 and about 9000 inhabitants in 2010.

So, since my brother, after seven months of convalescence in Parella had recovered from his illness, and so did my mother after a year, I wrote them to come as soon as possible informing them of the project put into operation, and my dear mother and my esteemed brother arrived five days before the New Year of 1871.

Having received the notice that they were coming the way of Brindisi, and the time of arrival of the steamboat, I went with some friends on board to receive them. Although I loved my brother, my mother was the dearest thing I had in the world, and as soon as I approached the steamboat I saw for first my dear mother who was on the bridge and looked at me with tears in her eyes already, so he went up on the bridge, hugged her, and my brother was close but I had not seen him yet. Finally, after embracing my brother, there was a moment without speaking, moved by the pleasure, and then I brought down the luggage in my boat. Once landed we took an Arabic coach: we arrived in our home and Mr. Godineau’s maid had already prepared lunch while he had come with me to the meeting with my relatives. After a quarter of an hour the dinner was ready, and during the meal we talked of nothing but the project of the company, of the expedition to Abyssinia, and my brother and my mom were almost satisfied and happy.

After two days the Abyssinian ambassador came to visit my brother and my mom, whom he reassured, as a certain thing, that this was a good deal. We then put ourselves in action to arrange the expedition as soon as possible. On 15 January 1871 we were ready to go: ten days before we had already sent Mr. Desire to Massawa with a large amount of liquor and some file to begin to organize a permanent office in Massawa. In fact two days before my brother had left for Suez to accompany the instruments, tools and supplies for the trip. And the last day before leaving my dear mother (the saddest thing for me was to leave my mother, though, in truth, we agreed to stay only two years to see how things were going and then return to Alexandria in Egypt), my mom so made a remark, she said, "Listen to what I tell you: Mr. Godineau is not a sincere man, he will try to betray you." And again: "What are you going to do in Abyssinia? What more do you want: you are not happy with the beautiful position you have here, at home and well known?" Basically my mom tried to discourage me, and I told her: "Now it's done, the money has been committed, I must leave to follow our interests: I beg you, dear mother, do not get into a bad mood, for I will be back soon."

The next day, the 15th, here we were all ready to go to Suez: with us was also leaving Aleka Biru, the Abyssinian ambassador, to accompany us and lead us on the place and introduce us to the prince Cassa of Tigray, the dragoman Mercia instead still remained in Alexandria.

On the 15th, at about nine o'clock, we arrived at the train station, and getting out of the car, me, my mom and Godineau, placing the foot on the ground, I realized that I had to leave in a few minutes what was most dear to me, my mom. After two or three minutes while parting there was a long kiss, without interruption, and I realized that our separation would not make sense. Then Godineau’s girlfriend took my mom and Godineau took me: we are separate, and it makes no sense. When I got on the train it departed and I realized that if I had known the sorrow I would go through by leaving my dear mother I would never have engaged myself in the Abyssinian company.


We arrived at Suez where we found my brother Giuseppe, who had left three days before to dispatch and to load on board all the supplies and tools and luggage of the expedition. It had been agreed to leave on January 17 with a Khedive steamboat, but we heard from my brother that the steamboat had not yet arrived, it was already a day late. What to do? We had to wait.

Three days later the news came that the Zachesir, the steamboat that would bring us to Massawa coming from Jeddah, had been wrecked. And here we were in the Hôtel de Colonie, twelve men on costs, only six days later came a British steamboat carrying coal and pilgrims to Jeddah, and we, in the uncertainty, decided to begin taking the English steamboat up to Jeddah and then from there take another one of the Khedive on his way to Suakin and Massawa, and so we did.

On the 28th, here we are leaving, embarked on the English steamer to Jeddah, my brother came on board to accompany us: first he saluted all the gentlemen of the expedition and then, while parting from me, there was a long kiss and a handshake, but the emotion felt in parting from him was much less than that experienced with my mother, and I believe this generally happens to everybody.

And off we went to Jeddah, in the company of six hundred Muslim pilgrims going to Mecca, being the port of Jeddah, the only entrance to Mecca by sea. We were surrounded by pilgrims and it was a big problem to go over the bridge, where there was hardly room to put a foot, one had to make his way in the midst of great confusion. Many pilgrims were sick: for the Arabs who have a true faith, the Koran assures that patients who go to Mecca to find their God Muhammad * return healed, but that did not prevent that in the space of four days we put about a half dozen dead in a bag and throw them into the sea. So this pilgrimage to Mecca by pilgrims already half-rotten is always cause of cholera epidemic in the Red Sea, because they come from all parts of Africa and western Asia and a mixture of all kinds of diseases is formed.

* It's clear that Naretti confused Allah with his prophet Muhammad.

Therefore, during our trip we have all ever stopped in the first room at the bottom, and with us were only three Arabs but very well dressed, and very clean; on the bridge we could not go because there was a terrible stench. We had a young English captain, very kind, with whom we always play our card game: I and the good friend Borghese and the friend Scala and a Swiss Messi, and all the moments we would taste British beer, and almost always the good captain wanted to pay because he was having fun with us.


In Jeddah

We arrived in Jeddah, a very difficult harbor, where it was very dangerous to enter, so the ships stopped at about two kilometers from the city. Here we are still in the harbor, shortly after came the health check visit; we 11 Europeans, who were healthy and in good shape, we disembarked after two hours, the Arab pilgrims made instead twenty-four hours of quarantine.

The English steamboat took us only to Jeddah, where we were obliged to transship our stuff; according to the time of departure of the steamboats in the same day had to leave another Khedive steamer from Jeddah to Suakin and Massawa, but we were unlucky another time: since our steamboat had delayed more than eight hours having taken a wrong turn, upon our arrival the steamboat was gone. And here we are, stuck again, having to stop fifteen days in Jeddah, so we were forced to rent accommodation near the French consulate, and I said, like everyone else: it seems to me that the beginning of the adventure is unlucky.

After eight days, our leader, the engineer Godineau, who had made friends with a fellow Frenchman, the French consul, came to know of a project of the Pasha of Jeddah, who had the intention of bringing clean water to Jeddah; Godineau was introduced to the pasha and immediately agreed to go and see where the source of water was. In fact Godineau came home and said to everyone: "Mes chers, j'ai découvert une grande affaire de gagner un peu d'argent *." And he said to me: "We agreed with the pasha to go tomorrow, with you and the doctor of the hospital, to see the source of water, and since it is near Mecca, where no European ever went according to the order of the Koran, the pasha will give us an escort."

* "My dear, I discovered a great business to earn a little money."

In fact, the next day the Pasha was waiting for us to take coffee with him: early in the morning, at dawn, when we arrived at his house, coffee with biscuits was ready, according to the Arabic custom. After taking the coffee we went out, and I told Godineau and the doctor, "Where is our escort?" I did not see any soldiers, I only saw a handsome man, very well dressed according to Muslim religious customs, and Jeddah's doctor told me, "This is the sheik" - the head of the Muslim Koran - "in Jeddah, and this is enough: it's better having him than a regiment of soldiers." And we saw four beautiful donkeys arrive with a beautiful harness; the most beautiful harness, golden, was the sheikh’s one; so I and Godineau and the doctor we mounted a horse and left. The sheikh had three other servants on foot marching in front of him, and we were following him; we took the road north to get to the coast, about 10 kilometers across a plain with no vegetation.

It was stiflingly hot and we could not breathe. Finally Godineau, halfway, gave a cry: for he was about to fall unconscious, and immediately the doctor and I dismounted and took him to come down from the mule had already fainted, without a word, and was about to fall. We laid him down on the ground, above the burning soil: since the doctor was equipped with all the necessary he gave Godineau a small drop to drink and another to smell. After a few minutes he recovered consciousness and was able to talk, saying: "Dear Naretti, I'm going back, I cannot continue because I would be in your way.' And I said, "Dear Godineau, it was you to accept this challenge, now we must be brave and go forward, we are already halfway, the rest will be nothing." And also the doctor gave him courage, and we decided to continue our journey.

Coming between the gorges of the mountains the heat began to decline: the hills were small but we could march amongst then in a plain, no uphill, and we were beginning to find some vegetation and cultivation. As we approached the source of the water we saw a crowd of people on both sides of our passage, approaching with a stick in their hand and some with edged weapons, almost naked: they seemed the effigy of the Pharisees who crucified Jesus Christ and I wondered how we would have passed. But soon I saw that our sheikh sent forward a servant running, he approached the crowd and then stopped, gave the watchword of the sheik and saw that all of a sudden the crowd on both sides knelt to kiss the ground and then got up and we continued on our way. Our sheikh turned his head back toward us and told us not to be afraid, and when they approached I saw that again they kissed the ground, and then they stood in a line, and without stopping we continued our journey behind the sheikh. To tell the truth, I, and certainly also my companions, "we had the tail down." Eventually they got up from the ground, lined up on both sides of the road and came to us without a cane and without arms, and those of the right row there kissing the right foot and those on the left were kissing his left foot, before the sheikh and then to all of us, then we began to breathe easier.

Continuing our journey after four hours of march we came to a small plain with a bit of green grass and a few plants: here we found a large tank, better to say a big well of eleven meters in diameter and eight meters deep approximately, with five meters of water that was not sufficient to supply the pipes to arrive to Djidda. In front of us at north-east, still about three hours of walking, we saw the great mountain of Mecca where Mohammed fled, the god of the Muslims, who made an oath on the Koran to kill the first Christian found at Mecca and all those that he would found.


After a preliminary calculation to execute the project in question and after a lunch on the grass with what we had brought with us and having rested a little, towards evening the five of us we set off for Jeddah, glancing at the hills near the town, where there are only the shepherds, who mostly have sheep and goat, a few oxen on the side of the sea, and an abundance of camels which are their main means of transport to bring water from wells that collect rainwater, so at that time the whole city of Jeddah did not drink anything but rainwater collected in reservoirs.

In a city of about eighteen thousand inhabitants, all Muslims, it was almost impossible to even pronounce the word European because of Muslim fanaticism; the few Europeans who lived here were forced, if they wanted to drink wine or spirits, to let them contraband and then sell them secretly in closed chambers, otherwise the whole store would be confiscated.

In recent days, we were invited by the French vice-consul, who showed us the toilet where the daughter of the French vice-consul took refuge in 1859, when there was a revolt of the Arabs against Christians, where Christians were all massacred, only the daughter of the vice-consul was lucky, she locked herself in the toilet and stayed there for three days, and all were massacred. Then there was the bombing of the city of Jeddah by an English squadron, a few hours before four Arabs visited the home of the French vice-consul, his daughter was alone in the house, armed with a revolver, when she heard a noise on the stairs the brave girl came up behind the door and managed to make a hole in the belly with a revolver bullet to everyone who entered the room, and fortunately all four fell to the ground dying; at the very moment that the bombardment by the English team began and cannon balls began to drop in the city, all the people began to flee. After three hours of fighting the city hall raised the flag of surrender and after a few hours it was decided to bring the perpetrators to the command of the English team: five sheikhs were handed, "the leaders of the Muslim Koran," and two of the most influential people in the city of Jeddah, which were brought to Cairo, after being forced to carry all the treasure they possessed to the Viceroy. The great Tewfik Pasha ordered to cut off all their heads.

This bad news was told to me and documented by the French consul.

After fifteen days waiting for the ship to leave for Massawa, we boarded on February 16: we left the Asian coast in the North to return to the coast of Africa to the south-east, making the crossing of the Red Sea to get to Suakin. The sea was almost always rough and in the end we danced a little. We arrived in Suakin, which has the appearance of a very original small town, and since we had to stop twenty-four hours we went ashore and we made acquaintance with the agent of the Khedive, a certain Pezza, from Piedmont, a man of good heart and good company, who had married a very kind Syrian woman, and we visited all Suakin, inhabited by more than half by the Bedouins of the coast, who looked like true brigands.

At that time there were still no consular representations but only an English consular officer.

In the evening, at about eight o'clock we went on board our Sachezie, an old Egyptian steamboat, whose servants were all Egyptians and Turks from first to last.

The next day we left for Massawa at six o'clock and we came in sight of Massawa the day after at about five o'clock in the evening, always skirting the coast of Africa, and getting closer to Massawa we saw that it was situated in a good location. Arriving at the port we saw our two delegates, Mr. Costa and Disire, already established here for forty days, and they came to meet us.


In Massawa, and the subsequent departure to Ethiopia

This is the first chapter about the land of Abyssinia.

Then we went ashore and found everything already prepared for us; Desire stopped on the steamboat to download all the stuff at the Customs, and we were carried to a certain Costan, a Frenchman, who had a large restaurant. After a trip around to visit Massawa we went back to our accommodation.


At that time we did not have the pleasure of seeing a single Italian in Massawa, where instead there were already many Greeks, some French and some Swiss, and for the greater part "banian" Indian, British subjects. The trade was only constituted by drapery and clothes, canvas of the lighter type for Abyssinian use, cotton, carpets and silk, and also many spirits, especially absinthe and cognac, for the trade in Abyssinia.

When we arrived at Massawa, Aleka Biru, our Abyssinian ambassador, began to get “out of his cage”, because many Abyssinians began to arrive to greet him, and he, who was a first rank clever man, immediately began to deal seriously with that. Just arrived in Massawa, and heard news of the prince Cassa, so that we do not become aware of the tricks and intrigues of the prince, he begged us to establish our camp at Taulud *. We had three tents beside the kitchen: after being busy all morning to cross the harbor to carry our stuff, at about three o'clock in the afternoon we had completed our camp, and then, since I had been appointed steward, I put out the food for dinner, wine and everything you need, and handed them to the chef Augusto so that he could prepare dinner for the evening, having had a good breakfast in the morning in the city. And here is our first camp in our departure for Abyssinia; and I, my friend Borghese and Godineau and Disire returned to Massawa to run our errands.

* One of the two islands that make up the port of Massawa.

Since at that time there was still no concrete bridge, and not even the palace of the command of the Egyptian government, in Taulud one could cross only by boat; then in Massawa one could only find Arabic bread badly baked and of poor quality: it was not even a real Arabic country and at the time the few Europeans were making a lot of money.

Finally the evening Scala came and said, "There is Dimersi that is drunk." As Godineau was nowhere to find, and Scala and Borghese were in town, I and Disire left to check the camp and as soon as we arrived, when the drunken Dimersi saw us, he began to yell at me saying: "Here come the master of the keys who deserves to break his head." and at question “why?” he replied: " You have taken away the key of the wine and I die of thirst, the water here is not good." But the cook told us that of the wine he had taken out, Dimersi alone had drunk four bottles, and had the courage to say that he was dying of thirst. I realized that it was a bad drunk, that he still wanted to be right, so I left him, also according to the counsels of the cook and of our accountant Disire, and returned to town with the Disire, because you have to put up with drunks and take their offence.

Immediately we took our boat and arrived at our office station of Massawa, we found Luigi Costa and soon after arrived Borghese, La Scala and Messi, and then came a certain Costan, a French shopkeeper, a kind person, already a friend of Disire, and we had a dinner without Godineau and our conductor Aleka Biru that we had lost.

Around midnight, when we were all lying on our bed, Godineau and Aleka Biru arrived, and the latter made us say via our young dragoman Pietrino that he had already arranged everything with the Naib * of Archico and then we had to remove the camp immediately in the morning and set our camp in Archico waiting for the Prince Cassa to send the riding and transport mules. So the next day we were all in the camp of Taulud where we found already our transport camels sent by the Naib of Archico.

* Naib = "deputy", a title given by the Turks to Ethiopian leaders of Massawa.

We lifted the camp on February 24 [1871]: it was very hot but we could endure, and after loading the camels we mounted one or two per camel, and left for Archico; traveling on a camel you have the same shaking you have on a ship when the sea is stormy. After about two hours we arrived at Archico: the Naib had already prepared the houses, and we began to see the method of construction of the cabins: round wooden poles with a diameter of 8 to 18 cm, from two fifty to three meters high, planted in the ground at a distance of eight to ten centimeters from each other, and then covered entirely, both the wall and the roof, with mats made of grass, through which the air passes everywhere. And then they had prepared a angarem (this is the name in Arabic, algà in the Abyssinian language), which is simply a bed with four feet and four beams, with woven leather strips and a back rest behind, according to the Arabic use. Finally we settled in, waiting for the arrival of the riding and transport mules sent by the prince Cassa, and immediately we walked around the village: we saw a small fortress in the south-east, uninhabited, with four cannons, almost all in ruins, and then many other tukul * Abyssinian -style and a few wells with a little water, with little vegetation, at about two kilometers from the foot of the Abyssinian mountain, and the number of inhabitants was seven or eight hundred.

* Tukul: type of primitive dwelling characteristic of Ethiopia; it has a conical-cylindrical shape, clay walls on a frame of poles and a thatched roof. (Encyclopedia Pomba, UTET, Turin, 1965, V vol.), P. 591.


At that time in Massawa there was only the French vice-consul, a certain Munzinger (see Introduction-Chapter 6), a Swiss who held the post of French vice-consul, and we needed him to get some information, but the day before he fled to Keren, the village of his wife, just to avoid seeing us.

After two days this Dimersi was once again drunk, he attacked me again saying that I was preventing him from drinking and eating, and he said that he wanted to break my head and spoke loudly in the courtyard, and he was the only one who was complaining. Since I and Godineau we were in a cabin alone, Godineau told me "Did you hear what that coward of Dimersi is saying?” - and he added – “Wait a moment, I am going to fix him “, he took his revolver and put it in his pocket, he took also my revolver, so I could not tranquilize him: he stepped into the courtyard and approached Dimersi saying, " You are not insulting Naretti, but me: what you want, that someone breaks your head? " and he picked up the revolver and said " If you do not stop behaving like that I will burn your brains". And so they fought with each other, but since we were all standing around they were quickly disarmed and separated.

Our conductor Aleka Biru, given the situation, he sent to call the guvas, Egyptian soldiers: after a while we saw arriving a score of soldiers and Aleka Biru approached me and said, "I want Dimersi to be chained, and Costa, who held Dimersi’s hand, because it not is nice that it becomes known about this disunity in the company, we have to expel them. " We agreed, and the two were put under arrest. The next day, after having digested the wine, they asked us to forgive them: the agent of the French vice-consul arrived, a certain Wolkait Burru, a pretty black Abyssinian who spoke very good French, who later became my brother-in-law, what I would not even have dreamed of, and he said, "I represent the vice-consul, and I am compelled to know what this quarrel is about.” We told him everything and he said, "You have done well, but now it would be good to make peace because it has already been announced to the prince Cassa the number of members of the company, and you would make a bad impression." They were also the friend Borghese, and Scala, Messi and the cook; finally all came to beg us saying that Dimersi and Costa were willing to apologize and assured that they would never raise issues in the company. Godineau was not willing to accept, but I advised him to make peace, that this was better. Finally, after reasoning, we accepted the peace with the promise that there would no longer be any disagreement that could compromise our mission. We introduced ourselves to Aleka Biru and peace was made in the presence of all.

The next day Dimersi and Costa invited me to go hunting with them; someone advised me not to go, but I said there was no reason to refuse: I had a gun like them and was I not a man like them? So early the next morning we left for the hunting to the east, in the direction of Zula. Dimersi after a few minutes ferreted out a hare, he shot it and killed it on the spot: we should say that Dimersi was a good hunter, the best of us all. We advanced towards Zula: it was nearly ten o'clock and it began to get hot. We returned to the foot of the mountain, I saw some guinea fowl, I shot, I caught one, and so did Costa, and then some mountain bird, beating the slope where there were several bushes and a few plants of the family of juniper, all together nothing important. At around 11 we went back to our camp, all wet with sweat, we entered our cabin being nearly more thirsty than hungry, and Godineau immediately asked how it went, "well, a strict friendship, good, good."

The Naib was often coming to visit us; he had begun to treat us very well giving us a cow and a few goats. He was the governor of all the coast, an authority since ancient times enjoyed by his family, very influential and almost always supportive of the rulers of Abyssinia to protect the commerce between Abyssinia and the Turkish territory; he was the one who would lead us to the Abyssinian border, the one that still exists today. And the Naib came to tell us that he was ready and that the transport camels had arrived.


We made the account of the loads: 110 packages, we were in need of at least 20 camels. A good camel carries the load of three mules and an average camel carries the load of two mules. In addition Aleka Biru came to tell us that he had got hold of eight mules, but we were eleven: he promised us that three more mules would arrive in two or three stages, and we all decided to leave the next day. But we had already come to understand the tricks of our conductor, Ambassador Aleka Biru, he made us leave immediately from Massawa only because he was afraid that someone of Massawa discovered the lies regarding his promises of agreement with Prince Cassa.

The next day, March 29, we lifted the camp and headed towards south-east, in the direction of the mountain of Zula. After an hour of march the engineer Godineau felt sick: we lowered him from the mule and he stood on the ground at least an hour, then he recovered, and we did continue our caravan up to Ghedem, a march of three and a half hours. Since our caravan was not well organized, we pitched our camp in a small square of sand, surrounded by many bushes, it was very hot. The Naib was marching with us as a guide and as a guarantor and responsible for us and our belongings; and in the evening he brought us a very fat beef for our dinner, and then Dimersi and others brought four hares from hunting and some guinea fowl: a feast!

The next day we lifted the camp and we had a long stage of about seven hours. We arrived at Aràfali, we passed it leaving it on the north, and we arrived at Halliam: we placed our camp there. We were very tired, the road was almost all flat but we were almost always marching in the sand. Once settled the camp, as we all had a good appetite, immediately our chef Augusto prepared some beefsteak and with the rest, especially with a good appetite, we ate very well.

Shortly thereafter, in the night, there was a big storm, many were already sleeping when a heavy rain began with a strong wind, and all of a sudden two tents were overturned, only one was left standing, the one were Godineau, Borghese, Costa and I were staying, but also this tent was already half upside down. With great difficulty, with everybody’s help, we put the tent back on its feet and we spent the night as best as we could, but on the other hand we were pretty happy with the coolness, in the middle of the bushes. In the morning we reviewed our food and all our stuff to see if anything had gone broken; the first thing we checked our biscuits and we saw that they were all wet. What to do? It was the most precious thing for us, because we did not know what kind of bread we would find. We opened the coffers, we put the biscuits in the sun and that's why we had to spend the whole day there and leave the next day because of a lot of wet stuff.

Finally, the day after we lifted our camp, leaving the mountain of Zula and heading south, always in the plain. As we advanced inland we always met vegetation, wood of many qualities, shrubs and very large trees: we marched for three hours to the south, heading towards Arrho, the salt lake, a flat area. Borghese and I were almost always the first of the caravan, on the mule with our rifle over the shoulder: we saw crossing in front of us two beautiful ostriches and immediately Borghese and I got off the mule with our rifle, we began to run after the two ostriches but for little time, because they had legs longer than ours and they disappeared into the great plain that stretched before us, called Arrho, the salt plain, the only resource of the whole of Abyssinia. *

* In fact, the salt was not the only one, but certainly one of the main resources of Ethiopia, so that "the bars of salt, or “amole”, have been the currency of Ethiopia for at least 15 centuries and ... in the province of Tigray they were up to the 1960s." (ETHIOPIA-Guide in 209 photographs and 11 maps, Book Center, Arbizzano (VR), 1996) p. 292.


After about two hours we reached the gorges in the mountains, with an abundant source of water, and we camped, as soon as we could to recover the lost night; the day after we arrived at the foot of the mountain of Akkele Guzay *, the highest mountain chain overlooking the Red Sea. We climbed for about three hundred meters in the middle of the gorges where in several narrow passages, you could not see the sun because we had on both sides the high mountains and we were almost always marching along a stream of spring water, with a gentle slope. Finally, we camped at the foot of the mountain in a small clearing, about fifty yards wide, and we saw the sun for no more than two hours a day.

* Naretti often quotes Colecazei as the mountains, as a region and as a country; the real name of the region is Akkele Guzay.

In the evening, after having formed a camp and just after dinner, we saw arrive at least thirty natives of the coast, called Saho, all naked, with only a belt around the waist, with long curly hair tumbling all around the head, all with an appearance of real robbers, armed with spears with shield and sword, and saw that they began to dance and jump back and forth coming in our direction, singing with their spear in his hand, and when they were dancing towards us they were swinging their spear in their hand as if to hurl. Although the good Naib had ensured that there were his subjects, who came just to honor us, and they were only signs of friendship, all of us, as a measure of precaution, we took our rifle and our revolver in the pocket, because these were greetings to which we were not accustomed.


And since the Naib could no longer continue with the camels to transport because of the steep slope of the ascent to the mountain, and also the transport with mules was very difficult, our ambassador Aleka Biru had already warned the inhabitants of the high villages of Akkele Guzay to come to us to take our equipment and take it to the region of Akkele Guzay over the mountain.

Meanwhile five days elapsed and during that time we finished to understand why we had to go through that ugly and difficult road: there was a rebel, very powerful, blocking the passage of the Hamasien and Gura, the rebel was a certain Cassa Abba Kaisi, the son-in-law of the explorer Schimper *, a German who for thirty years was in Abyssinia; said Abba Kaisi, an Abyssinian, tried to contrast the prince Cassa because he claimed to have about equal rights. For this reason Aleka Biru forced us to travel that road that very few Europeans had known.

* The Dr. W. Schimper was a botanist interested in the flora of Ethiopia. Arrived in 1830 in Ethiopia, where he died, he took part in the politics of the country. He introduced the potato in Ethiopia.


Since we had brought with us some fireworks, Godineau, not knowing yet the height of the mountain, he ordered to shoot the fireworks on the plain just above our camp: we pulled about 24 different shots and Godineau screamed saying: "The Prince Cassa can already see we're coming." And Aleka Biru was happy, and he also asked if we had brought with us some fruit trees that could ripen the fruit in a month, and we said no, but we said that we would let them come.

During our stay we saw many monkeys: Borghese and I went hunting and we saw not far from the camp a great escape of apes climbing along the mountain: because monkeys are very often going after the female, Bourgeois fired a shot and took the female while she was under the male, this still tried to take away the already almost dead female; it was only for the fear caused by other shots that this was abandoned in a roar of shouts and screams, and we took her to our camp to carry her to a medical examination.

The day after came the men to carry our stuff and the completion of the saddled mules for all the staff, and we started to load the most important coffers to make them leave before us, and we marched climbing the mountain after a good breakfast.

As soon as we finished climbing up a mountain immediately we were at the foot of another; when we thought we were at the end, it was the beginning of another ascent. Finally, after about six hours of steep climb, made in part on the mule and in part on foot, we reached the top of the mountain, on a small plateau Akkele Guzay, no less than 2400 meters above sea level, and beyond we have seen a large part of Tigray and we started to see the mountains of Adwa. Truly a beautiful sight, with many lower mountains. Finally, after a descent of at least three hundred meters, we reached the village of Akkele Guzay, where they gave us the house of a leader of the country, kantiba * Tacle. Since our main luggage had already arrived, we settled in the house, an old building supported by wooden columns, a part of which was sheltering some cattle. Now the head of the village brought a rather fat cow, which was immediately killed and skinned, and so we began to see eating raw meat. Our chef Augustus handed a few pieces to a servant, and this wielded his sword and cut small pieces of raw meat, that he dipped in salt and ate like a mad dog.

* Kantiba: mayor of Gondar, then extended to other important urban centers.


We began to have a few visits: the first was that of our bishop, Monsignor Touvier, with the missionary Mr. Duflos, who were there that day at their mission, teaching to the natives the duty of the Catholic religion. They invited us for the next day to drink tej with them. Finally we spent the evening and we went to sleep being rather tired; we already felt chilly, but in the morning it was even cold, there were about 7 degrees, while a few days earlier in Archico, on March 28, we had about thirty-seven degrees. In the morning we were obliged to light a fire to keep us warm.

After being heated well we went to see the poor village, with all the streets clogged with manure from cows, sheep and mules, etc., and not only in the streets but also in the courts and outside the yards, and then we began to see that people had no criteria of cleanliness or health. It's true that their land did not need to be fertilized with manure being virgin land, as they said, but it was obvious that their lack of cleanliness was rather due to laziness, unwillingness to work: in their homes, for greater part of the inhabitants, we saw the owners sleep together with cows, sheep, chickens, and so on.

Finished our tour we returned home. On the way back Nigra began to complain of the village: it was me and Borghese and Nigra and Scala and Messi and Pietrino, and I began to say: "You see, Nigra, what a beautiful picturesque location and beautiful mountains!", But he began to curse: "When you see a country so poor and so dirty how can you care about the beautiful view and beautiful mountains! We came here to make a fortune, and people always run after us asking " baksheesh, baksheesh " alms! How can we make a fortune in a so poor a country? "We encouraged him:" Do not worry, this is only the first village, we shall come to other rich villages. "

We entered the house under our roof, and here we saw that our good cook Augustus had already prepared lunch and found Godineau and Costa with the bishop Touvier and Duflos, and we had lunch together; and after the bishop graciously invited us to drink tej at the mission. Here they brought us a big gombo of tej: it was the first time that we have begun to taste the wine of the country, and the good bishop told us, "I'm glad to have been the first to make you taste the wine of hydromel, made with pure honey and the leaf of gesho: in four days its fermentation ends and on the fifth day you can drink it." We all found it very good, and then Dimersi had not enough, he liked it so much.


Then I wrote to my mother and to my brother about our arrival to Akkele Guzay, the first Abyssinian village, while Godineau made the report of our trip to be sent to the management of the company in Alexandria. Godineau was convinced that it was a great business but he also believed that our ambassador Aleka Biru, who accompanied us, was smarter than all of us.


In the evening Godineau took me aside and asked me what we should do about Mr. Costa, because Costa was a man who could have put the discord in the expedition, and he said, "My advice is to put him in chains and forget about him" I already knew that Godineau was much in awe of him, because Costa was a very open tradesman and caused him discomfort in his manipulative operations, so I gave my advice to Godineau, as I had the right, because without my signature his was not valid, and I told him: "Dear Godineau, you believe to be here in another world and that no one can accuse you of wanting to take advantage of the power that you think you have to chain up an innocent person without giving evidence that he is a criminal. Do you wish to violate our laws? How do you think we can go on like this? This injustice would put discord throughout our expedition." And Godineau said, "Then what shall we do?" "My idea would be to bring back Costa paying his trip up to Alexandria, unless he is willing to accept to stay in Massawa with own Disire to take care of the accounting."

And so we did and Costa agreed.

Since our luggage had not completely arrived from the bottom of the mountain, and after four days we were still waiting, the whole village was thrown into revolution. Finally we were expecting a chief of the prince Cassa that would pick us up, because we were not too sure: Prince Cassa had little influence, because there were two strong rebels, Cassa Abba Caisi and Wolde Mikael, so that, therefore, when after five days we saw arrive the governor of Adwa with two other leaders, coming from afar and saw an army of soldiers with rifles and spears, we thought it was some robber come to kill us. But immediately Aleka Biru, our host, told us: "This is the governor of Adwa and other chiefs that Prince Cassa sends to welcome us." We were all very happy and we went on a nice little square at the top to see the arrival of the Abyssinian army, with great pleasure, and as they were advancing we were beginning to distinguish the leaders from their umbrella, and we began to realize that there was no military discipline.

As they approached felt a kind of music that sounded "full breath", because they were nothing else but wind instruments consisting of a piece of cane 150 centimeters like a clarinet, with drums of all sizes. We realized then that it was the band of the Prince Cassa. When they got about a mile away in a small plateau they formed their camp, and we saw them mounting their tents, they were very beautiful. As soon as they planted the camp, our conductor Aleka Biru, as soon as he saw them, he saddled his mule and went to meet the governor.

Once installed the camp, the governor sent for us all. We arrived at the camp and we saw that a large man, dressed in red silk, was coming at our encounter: he was on foot, surrounded by many soldiers, and had with him Aleka Biru. First he shook hands with our leader, Mr. Godineau, and then to all of us, and then he made us enter into his tent, very large, furnished with carpets on the floor, the one on which he sat was very rich; and he let us sit down and bring to all of us tej to drink. I examined at the figure of the governor, around which sat all of them: he was blind in his left eye, but he was a man who presented himself well and in him there were traits of civilization for the kindness of his nice ways to receive and to treat people. Behind him, two soldiers remained standing with a rifle and four others with spears and shield. He entertained us for over an hour and in the end we let us know, through our dragoman, that by order of the prince Cassa he had come to receive us and accompany us until Adwa, and that the next day we had to leave to Adwa, and to get ready for departure. He asked if our luggage was all arrived and we responded that some heavy chest had still remained behind, and immediately he gave the order to make them come immediately.

Since at the camp there were already all the leaders of the small surrounding villages, who had to bring food for all (at least two thousand people, including soldiers, women and children), the inhabitants have been quick to take our luggage to get rid of the expenses. As soon as he arrived at the camp the governor had ordered the villagers to bring food for us, and we, after greeting him, we returned to our house, and the governor ordered that we should be accompanied by thirty soldiers, most armed with spears because at that time guns were rare.

We began immediately to prepare for the next day and the day of departure we agreed with the good bishop, Monsignor Touvier, to give us two dragomans, two Abyssinians brothers who had long been at the school of the Catholic mission to become missionaries and spoke and wrote very well French. It can be said that the bishop has given us a really great service but I think it also returned to their advantage for the image of the Catholic religious civilization. We must also say a word, since some traveler criticizes the Catholic missions: in my opinion, based on facts, not only in Abyssinia but throughout the world, in all parts of the most dangerous foreign countries, almost in the wilderness, it was always them, the missionaries of religious propaganda, which have pushed themselves in any danger while taking huge risks to leave some trace of their sacred tradition, and this has always been the first step toward civilization in foreign uncultivated lands.

The day after there was a crowd of villagers to carry our luggage, since we had some heavy package nobody wanted to take it, but the soldiers forced them to take it by force of threats if they did not want to take a beating in form of pay. At the end we were able to leave and to start walking to Adwa, to the south-east. Since according to local use at each village we had to exchange carriers, three hours later we were again stuck, awaiting the arrival of other carriers.

It was in the evening and there were many hassles to call the carriers and to bring them together, because the villages were very scattered and the poor villagers not only had to work for free, but they also had to carry supplies for all of us and for all the soldiers. Though we had our supplies to arrive until Adwa, every day he would bring us a cow and a large amount of injera, which is the bread of the country, of a thickness of at most one centimeter and forty centimeters wide, made of grains of teff, of barley and dagussa, which are most of the crops of the beginning of the Tigray; they would bring us that bread, which was like uncooked dough, in straw baskets covered with a greasy black cloth, which was also used as garment, but this, however, for the staff; for us the Governor forced them to wear a tunic of red cloth, very clean. We all wondered: "Will we never get used to this bread?" And I said to myself that for nothing in the world I could ever get used.


Finally we went on making small stages: to go from Akkele Guzay to Enticho, three hours away from Adwa, for a journey of four days we spent nine days. We camped at Enticho because Aleka Biru told us that you had to stop for a day to wait for prince Cassa's orders.


Welcome to Adwa!

In fact, in the evening we saw two knights arrive and one carrying a letter from the prince Cassa, addressed to the head of the expedition, which contained the following sentences:

"I, by the grace of God Dedjatch Cassa, greet you all. How was your journey? How is your health? Me and my army, thank God, we're fine. You have come from afar to see me, for the will of God. My wife is dead and I have only one child, but you will be all like my second children, come."

At the beginning of 1871, Saturday, April 21, the day of the market of Adwa, at about seven o'clock in the morning we lifted our camp on the orders of Aleka Biru: we were all happy, and we were always accompanied by many people including soldiers and women, and we were ordered by Aleka Biru to change our clothes and put us all in a decent dress. And so we did and we started to march to Adwa, all so eager to see that city and His Excellency Prince Cassa.

After an hour and a half we came to a small hill and there we discovered Adwa, very well situated in a narrow plain; entering from the north-east we saw from a distance a crowd of people near Adwa and asked what it was: it was the day market.

As we approach the plain we saw a mass of soldiers who were expecting us to receive us, and when we approached we saw a general, dressed in gala uniform like a European general, who opened the column in two rows leaving a wide passage in the middle, and while we passed he made them do a present arms, and we were left stunned by such a reception so orderly in that country. After passing through the column they made us come down from the mule and to each of us they presented a magnificent saddled horse, telling us that we should leave the mule and mount on horseback. What to do? Though some of us were not practical, we all mounted on horseback, but since we were not practical keeping the bridle the indigenous way, the horses went crazy and we could not hold them. To put it frankly, I for first was afraid to break my neck. I made myself courage not to fail, as so did also my friends, and we hurled ourselves running to the way indicated to the palace of the prince Cassa, passing in the middle of the market with our horses that we could not hold back: everyone was running away making room, and we were really impressed seeing all those natives, a good third of which almost completely naked, with only a piece of black cloth half torn around the waist. Finally, we climbed a little and then we found ourselves in sight of the enclosure of the house of Prince Cassa. There they made us dismount the horses and we proceeded on foot; there was a large tent at the end of the courtyard, next to a small house, and before arriving at the entrance to the tent there was on both sides a row of soldiers with a sniper rifle English type [Remington]. We entered the tent and we saw the prince Cassa on a small throne, dressed in full uniform, which immediately with a nod of his head told us to get closer and to each he shook hands.

After shaking hands with everyone he fired six gun shots and immediately asked us how was our trip: he spoke to us through his dragoman, an Abyssinian named Madregal who could speak French very well, and then we did say that we could go to lunch and then to rest. We all left, only Godineau was behind, but I had not yet passed the door of the tent that Aleka Biru told me to go back. Aleka Biru did bring two chairs and made me and Godineau sit. The prince did bring a horn of brandy * with three glasses and filled his glass. We tasted the brandy: it was very strong, with a wonderful aroma, and asked the dragoman Madregal where he came from and he said it was home-made brandy from Dedjatch Cassa (“Dedjatch” was what we called “prince”).

* Container made from a cow horn.


Then he asked us if we liked the country, if we found it nice, and what could we say: that it was ugly? We said that we liked it and it that was nice, we just said what it was: the land and location were nice but the houses needed to be gradually reformed to make them like in Europe. He answered, "If God wants we shall do everything."

Then we told him goodbye and we went away; just outside we found the general Kirkham [see Introduction-Chapter 6], what had come to meet us, commander of the troops, who took us under his arm and said: "Today you will do me the pleasure to go to lunch with me, and all your friends are already at my house waiting for you for lunch."

We walked around behind the house of Dedjatch Cassa and we found a long roof covered with white canvas with a large table made of wood planted in the ground and some table above packing cases, all in all, given the means of those countries, very well adjusted, and all the members of the expedition were there waiting for us and drinking tej. Kirkham, who to receive us had worn the general's uniform, asked us to sit at the table. First were served some roots with fresh butter and some tins of sardines; we did not understand how he managed to put together so many dishes. Finally we sat down to eat.

It would be very long to describe the preparations, and only near the end they brought us two large ox thighs, really according to the English usage, with large pieces on the table. After lunch we made a toast in honor of the prince Cassa’s progress, which the natives called Dedjatch Cassa, which means the governor of his provinces of Tigray.

The day passed very happily and Dedjatch Cassa had already cleared and prepared our homes at Adwa. Towards the evening we descended the mound, five minutes away, and they accompanied us to the homes that they had intended for us: they were three different houses, one for Godineau, me and Borghese, another room in the lower floor for Nigra and dragoman Pietrino and Messi, and another house not far for Dimersi, Lamar, the cook Augusto and the secretary Busio.

Towards evening we saw our food arrive: a line of women with a large basket on her head, covered with red cloth, five other women brought on their back a gombo well covered with red cloth, and just as many with a plate in their hand, also covered with red, and others who carried the firewood and more grass for the mules, so all in all they almost formed a company. After all this they brought three "farida", which are fat cows, and six sheep, in short, an abundance of food. In the evening we let kill a "farida" and a sheep, because we had already taken some Abyssinian servants. Now our strong cook took the "farida" by the horns and gave her a turn, overthrew it on the ground: the natives were astonished and said, "What strength have these frangi! *", believing that they all had similar strength.

* Frangi or afrangi: Abyssinian popular name literally referring to the French but used in Ethiopia for all foreigners.

We spent the day very well, but immediately we looked at the houses of Adwa: though our houses where selected, they were not worth the stables where we lock sheep.

Dedjatch Cassa let us rest for two days before talking business. On Tuesday came Aleka Biru and asked me and Godineau to visit Dedjatch Cassa, who, just arrived, greeted us and shook our hands and then graciously asked us how was our health, as we found this country, and we said: "The land and climate are very good, but there is everything to do: the streets are missing, and houses are to be redone, little by little." He, as usual, said, "If God wants we shall do everything." And let us say the interpreter: "It's understood that you Europeans are all good soldiers," and Godineau answered to the dragoman: "Tell His Majesty that we fight like lions". I did not give any response, I was silent: I quickly realized that it was not for the work that he made us come. So he said goodbye and we went home: everyone wanted to know what Dedjatch Cassa had said, and we answered, "It seems everything will be fine."

The day before we received the visit of the old Schimper, a German womanizer who for 36 years had traveled through Abyssinia, a resident of Adwa, already married to his second Abyssinian wife, with five children, and even a visit of the Protestant missionary Maier and another visit of the missionary Bender, son of the old Schimper, all Germans, all married with Abyssinian women and large families, and they all gave us good advice.

On the same day we received a visit from a Mr. Volan, a French dandy who since three years was employed by the prince Cassa in quality of gunsmith: immediately it was evident that he was jealous for our arrival and he spoke very badly of the prince; even if he had reason he should not have done so.


Ras Kassa in war against ras Tekle Giyorgis

In the evening our young dragoman Pietrino, who spoke English, Arabic and Turkish, came home and told Nigra and Messi, his roommates, that he had heard that we had been betrayed, that they had only one purpose, to make us all soldiers. We spent then the third night without saying anything to other comrades.

The next day was celebrated the feast of Medhanie Alem, which means Savior.

Godineau and I had a room on the first floor exposed to the northeast and on the ground floor was the dragoman Pietrino with Nigra and Messi. On Thursday, March 27, 1871 came the general Kirkham with Aleka Biru, who had brought from his home some good tej, and so talking along they drank: it was about three in the afternoon and also Pietrino drank in the company of all of us, and that is Aleka Biru, Kirkham, I, Godineau, Dimersi, Lamar, Borghese and Messi: they were all drinking and talking about the work that we could do.

Here happened a first very serious fact: the young Pietrino, who acted as interpreter in English and French between Godineau and Kirkham, asked permission to the chief Godineau to go for a moment to "make water" and went down the eight steps of the stairs to go to the courtyard; the staircase would pass in front of his room on the ground floor; Messi saw him and he came out as well but without going down, instead he went, through our apartment, over the roof of Pietrino’s room which was covered with earth and formed a terrace. While Luigi Messi was walking on the terrace he saw the unfortunate who was coming from the countryside and unbuttoned his pants in the middle of the courtyard, and then paused for a moment and stared at Luigi Messi and said: "Messi, Messi, tell Godineau to write to my father that I am dead. ", then he went into his room on the ground floor. Messi, as he knew that he liked to joke and make jests, took no notice, but after a minute he heard two shots from a revolver and he came immediately inside saying: "I think Pietrino killed himself in his room."

He had no time to say anything else, we immediately went out, walked into Pietrino’s room and found him lying on his travel cot with the eyes upturned, with his small revolver clutched in his right hand; the hand hanging from the bed but still holding the pocket revolver. We took him, lifted him on his foot, he was not bleeding but unconscious, he could not move a finger; and finally we saw where the wound was located, above  his temple, you could still touch the ball. Someone said we should perform a surgery, to remove the ball, but then we discussed it and we decided that was better not to remove it immediately, but wait a few hours to see what would happen. After an hour the poor man died and it was really a big disappointment for all of us: he was a young man of twenty years, strong, always cheerful, who loved to play and joke, of good company.

We then came to know the reason why the poor wretch had murdered himself: someone in Adwa had scared him by telling him that we had been betrayed, that they would make us all go to war, and he, being a young man accustomed to a fun life and moreover in a moment of weakness of character, perhaps because of a few glasses of tej, which took away all good sense of divine duty, let himself be possessed by the most brutal thought. After this misfortune entered into us a great melancholy seeing such a bad omen.

The prince ordered him to do an official funeral but the Coptic priests made it difficult to bury him in the cemetery of the church, but then the prince Cassa gave the order to make no difference, because we were all Christians, because we believed in one God. Finally the corpse was buried with great honor in the church of Medhanie Alem which means the Savior.

Later we spent a few restless days: while we thought about what we should decide, we already saw that nothing of what we had been promised by our conductor Aleka Biru was true, and then we understood what "Aleka" means, it means a religious leader, and this was our conductor who came to Alexandria to pick us up making us a lot of false promises, and he was the intimate friend of the Prince Cassa. So Godineau and I, seeing that we were in a sad position in relation to the expenditures made, and according to the statute of our company it was not possible to incur in such expenses, we took the resolution to dissolve the company. Since in our regulations for the employment of the staff it was contemplated the case that the promises of works were void, and according to Article 7 we could dissolve the company paying for the return trip, so we dissolved the partnership leaving the staff free if he wanted to, each on his own, to remain at the service of the prince or return: they were free to do as they pleased.


I had already noticed that Godineau de la Bretonnerie was going alone to Prince Cassa to intrigue in order to form another company in his name and in the name of a lawyer in Alexandria, outside of the founders - the Naretti brothers and Plosu- saying to the prince Cassia that, if he had not enough money for the work, he could give him the province of Bogos and Keren, that he would do all the work and modernize the country, that he had all the banks of France at his disposal, that he would fill his country of gold and napoleon coins if the prince gave him the concession of Bogos and Keren.

At that time I had already started two doors for the house of the prince, where he was sleeping and that he used as a bedroom, reception room and stables for his horses: round, built with a wall of earth and covered with straw. It was Aleka Biru who had advised me to make the two doors, because the prince did not realize he needed them: for him it was enough with the doors made of "sanbuc", that is canes attached with strips of leather.

Although all the staff of the company was demoralized and the company was dissolved, and despite the fact that the prince had no idea of ​​the work to do, not knowing any need for him (his only need was to make war on his opponent, the Prince of Gondar, Tekle Giyorgis), I had taken into account the advice of Aleka Biru. So I prayed the good friend Borghese, master blacksmith, and Scala from Strambinello, both of Piedmont, and Lamar, French and very good man, to be brave and start the two doors to give a good example of our work, and they, good men, immediately have joined. And then we removed our tools from the coffers of we began to build the two doors.

Meanwhile it happened that the already named Volan, a French gunsmith who worked for three years for the prince Cassa, having started to speak ill of the prince, he was summoned by him, in the presence of all Europeans who were in Adwa; I already knew what this was about, and that morning I gave myself for sick, and so did Borghese and two other students. That morning Volan was called before the prince, and he found himself in the presence of Godineau, Dimersi, Augusto, Messi, Kirkham, Schimper, Binder and Maier: Prince Cassa asked him what he had to complain about him in Adwa, and Volan answered that it was because he had not paid for his work, the prince said, "You have done this work and have received so much." Volan jumped in anger, took his hat and threw it on the ground in front of the prince, who was offended and asked all Europeans what would have happened in Europe for such an insult. Godineau, the coward, immediately said: "In Europe our king would cut off your head." The prince stopped his speech, sent everybody out and gave the order to chain Volan and take him to his consul in Massawa, letting him not even to see his house, and immediately sent him to seize all that he had in his home. Here is the effect of a word from a villain against a fellow French, as well as to discredit the European brotherhood and give an example contrary to humanity, far from civilization.

Once the poor Volan left after conviction, Prince Cassa gave me the Volan’s house for our laboratory, where we installed ourselves and we organized to begin our work, but we did struggle to find all the aged wood to make two doors. But in the end, by dint of searching, I was able to find everything we needed, and we began our work, I, Scala, Lamar and Borghese, and then we organized to produce the hardware, and we went on with our work.

In the meantime, here came the companion of Godineau, Mademoiselle Marie, a 38 years old Mademoiselle who had already made all her campaigns, but "was the heart of Godineau", a highly educated Alsatian, who possessed all the good qualities of a partner as well as being a leech sucking blood, no matter for what purpose, it does not matter anyway. She "approached" everything; she believed firmly in Aleka Biru’s dragoman, certain Mercia Vorqe, who spoke English and Arabic, born in Abyssinia, Armenian race, whose father died at the age of 99 in Adwa. Said Dragoman, at the time when he was in Alexandria, fooled Mademoiselle Marie (to cheat her a few hundred lire) telling her that with her intelligence she surely would have married Prince Cassa, the current king.

Two days after her arrival, as I and Godineau were sleeping together in the same room, I saw Miss Marie to get up early because she obtained to be received by the prince that day, and I saw that she measured clothes in front of her mirror to see what was suiting her the best, and finally she took at least two hours to make her make-up. I had already heard that amongst themselves, she and Godineau, they had already done their calculation; he told her: "You, when you will be queen, you will appoint me Minister of Finance." And she said, "Yes, yes.” all already planned and organized.

She and Godineau had invited Colonel Kirkham to accompany them to the prince, and he wore the uniform of general; by that time I had already some work in the house of the prince, where I went before them. The prince, who at that time was called Dedjatch Cassa, was out in the yard and administering the tribunal: I saw Godineau coming and Mademoiselle Marie, and Colonel Kirkham had under his arm mademoiselle wearing a princess dress with a tail at least two meters long dragging behind her, and the prince sitting on a angarem in the tribunal court. The dragoman passed to the end of the courtyard in front of me, showed up and announced the visit of Mademoiselle Marie, who was already at his side in the court. Then the prince turned his head, saw her, he turned back to his place and sent her many regards; Mademoiselle Marie presented him with a few bottles of cologne and a medallion of Jerusalem for the dragoman. The prince turned his head, thanked her and told her to go to her house to rest, and in the meantime he ordered a cow and four sheep and two gombo of tej for her, as was the custom. She went home, and when she saw the cow, four sheep and two of gombo of tej the uttered: "You see that I was treated as a great lady, oh, I like that king, he has beautiful eyes and he is a good looking man. "

Since we had dissolved the company and in order to define all the pending issues of the first company to form another, in the not very favorable condition where we were, having remained still nine that is Godineau, Naretti, Borghese, Scala, the French Lamar, Augusto and Buru, Nigra and the Swiss Messi, the board had a meeting with the staff and concluded to appoint Naretti as cashier and Godineau as leader. At the time Godineau agreed, but after talking to Mademoiselle Marie the next day he said that he did not want it this way, he didn’t bend and "he wanted to be everything." So everything went dispersed, and it was so, but we, I and the good Borghese and Scala and Lamar, we continued to work.

One morning I saw bageron Gebrselassie arrive, the man of confidence of the prince, with the dragoman Madregal, he also employed by the prince, they called me, they made me go in a room alone and told me: "We have a serious word to say to you on behalf of the Prince, we were sent to tell you that the prince Cassa appoints you head of the company and does not want to hear about Godineau. » I replied that I could not accept, but then interrogated all the staff, except Godineau, proposing the offer made to me that I did not want to accept, and all begged me to accept because that was their desire as well as being the will of the prince, saying it was the best thing for the good of everyone, so I agreed. The Minister of the prince immediately said, "From today onwards the prince will send food to you and you will distribute it to all the way you believe."

Then we made another meeting and I said, "How do we do with the part of Godineau? I would think that the amount that we shall decide to send Godineau should be divided, and not to shame him so much that it was sent directly from the house of the prince: what do you say?" "Yes, let’s do that." "And what should we send? For the bread there are no problems, we have to spare." Since we received almost every day a cow and two sheep, butter and berberiè and firewood, small wax candles and five gombo of tej, for the rest everything was agreed, but for tej, which was our wine, since we had combined to live together even though we had individual accommodation, it was a matter of sending to Godineau only his share of it, and since we were nine, we made the calculation: it was about half gombo each, but we decided, in order to honor our leader, to send him a gombo, which is equivalent to about ten liters. That's all agreed and organized, so I wrote our resolution and then I left to announce our agreement to the prince, and the prince was very happy with our meeting.


In the evening Godineau, seeing that only his part arrived, took counsel with his partner Mademoiselle Marie; and Marie immediately told him: "You say that Naretti is a "bon garçon", a good guy, see what he did to you? And it’s himself who has cut the ground from under your feet. " Instead I had never dreamed of making intrigues, only I was active in my work, I was not going to bother the prince every day as he did, to tell him about so many intrigues, to fill his head with projects.

Immediately the next morning Godineau wore the best outfit he had and Mademoiselle Marie hung a medallion of Jerusalem to show that it was decorated, and they presented himself to the prince with his dragoman Giuseppe, brother of my dragoman. Just arrived at the prince, in anger he told him: "Your Majesty, who is the head of the company that you have known?" The prince replied, "It is you, well, what do you want?" Godineau said, "Why your majesty sends the food supplies to my subordinate Naretti?" The prince replied:" Have they not sent you your part? Well, if you do not have enough, I will send you more, you can go in peace". So Godineau, not seeing the situation improve, after two days he sent Mademoiselle Marie to the prince, but she had to return back without seeing the prince, her beloved husband-to-be.

In the meantime we had finished the two doors, one of which, with two shutters for the entrance of the prince’s house, was very striking, and while Borghese finished placing his good hardware, I got myself Scala and Lamar and we went the prince’s house in the south-east of Adwa, a climb of at least 50 meters. Upon arriving I immediately put Scala on one side and Lamar on the other to make a cleavage in the frame with a chisel, since the frame had already been laid by the Abyssinians, but they only worked with the ax because they had never seen a planer, so the two Abyssinians carpenters who were there, seeing Lamar and Scala, one on each side, which were making the cleavage and struggling to work in a standing position, the two carpenters, as later the dragoman told me, they said among themselves, "See how they work these frangi, they come here to teach us how to work, but we can do better than them. " I said to the dragoman: "Let them talk, I will explain you later the pride of the Abyssinians."

Immediately I asked the head of the house to give me a few dozen men to bring the two doors and they were immediately dispatched. I descended, I brought the two doors to the King’s tukul; as soon as I arrived Scala and Lamar had already finished preparing for the placement and one door was immediately put in place; at that moment there was a crowd of people to see it and the two carpenters who first were laughing passed their hand over and said, "This job is not done by men, it is made by God, men cannot do such good work, it is impossible." and everybody looked at us with their mouth open, and then we began to lay the other door. Meanwhile the prince came, greeted us and stared well and touched with his hands as everyone else. Also Colonel Kirkham came, who was at that time the favorite of the prince, and the prince asked, "Do you work this well in Europe?" And he replied, "I know that Naretti is able to work even much better". The prince said, "I did not know of these beautiful works. Naretti is my man not only for work; I already had good references about him. "

Having finished to lock his round house, about ten meters in diameter and the walls around about five feet high and almost as much the mounts of the thatched cover (these hay covers are very artistic), as he had already begun to build the great church of Adwa, the walls were almost finished, a round church of 24 meters in diameter with three detached rounds of wall (see here later the plant), whereas before they didn’t even think of needing me, when he saw the two doors of his house the day after he immediately sent for me. He was cheerful and friendly, and immediately asked me about my health, and then asked me if I could make him all the doors of the church, and finally to make him everything I could do for his church. I replied: "Your Majesty, we came all the way to work; I'm willing to do whatever Your Majesty commands." "Well – he said - for the timber I have already cut a lot of trees but they are far away, already many men got killed to bring them here." And I said, 'We're going to saw them on the spot. "And he was delighted.

Meanwhile he had already begun to talk about the war with his opponent and in the month of May 1871 the talk of war with Tekle Giyorgis became more insistent. Godineau did not know what to invent to get back into the good graces of the prince; he requested an audience with Prince Cassa and offered him: "I am ready to go with your majesty to beat your enemy. I was already commander of an army in France and I think I am able to serve your majesty with all the men I brought with me. Naretti, Borghese, Scala and Lamar are craftsmen; they know how to shoot well with guns. - And he added - I, Your Majesty, I am sure that we will be winners and your majesty will be crowned above the plain of Adwa and I'll make you a statue in the middle of the plain. "

After a few days we heard that Tekle Gobeze * had already crossed the river Tekezé River and entered in Tigray on the lands of the prince Cassa that were belonging to him by right.

* Another name for Tekle Giyorgis. (See Biographies).

On May 2, the prince sent his minister bageron Dizacio to ask me if, two days later, I wanted to go with him, and since I was already informed of everything I asked him where he wanted me to go, and he said: "nearby." and I said, "But then, where exactly?" and he said, laughing:" Until the Shiré." and I said," Then it is to wage war against Takle Ghiorghis." He said: "But for us it is a party, we shall easily defeat him." But I said, "Please tell the Prince that I did not come to make war as a soldier, I have come to do him work: if the prince likes that I work, well, otherwise I will take the road to Massawa."

He asked the same question to Borghese, Scala and Lamar, and having heard my negative response, the dragoman Madregal, who was present at the dialog, and the minister returned to bring to the prince the answer that I gave, saying that my companions had answered like Naretti. And the prince concluded: "And I'm glad that Naretti has spoken like this because he works for the church, so that God helps me; maybe it is God who has given this inspiration to Naretti. I questioned Naretti because Godineau had begged me to let them go with him to shoot the guns, saying that Naretti could shoot well with the guns, but now that I know the will of Naretti, this is also mine. Well, take immediately three hundred thalers and bring them to Naretti, for him and his companions who will work with him for the food in the time that we make the war, and then if there is something missing he should write to me, to me it’s enough that he works with good heart for the church of Sellassiè (which means the Trinity), to help me. "So immediately he sent three hundred thalers telling me that he was glad that we worked for the church, and he encouraged us.

At the same time Nigra, Buro and Augustus had already left for Massawa seeing that it was going to be war and that the poor Pietrino, a young man full of intellect, had already been killed by this news. This death, truth must be told, was originated only because of the behavior and intrigues of Godineau.

Since Luigi Messi was associated with Godineau to go to war, there was still Dimersi, who had made himself independent of all and to go to war had asked the prince one thousand thalers in advance, and the prince had promised to give them to him after the war ended, but not agreed because the prince struggled to pay at the end, instead of paying in advance!

The very next day, May 3, 1871, we saw that the prince Cassa had already gathered a few hundred soldiers and had made "public" that everyone had to be at his camp of Axum, and we saw him descend from home with his negarit, which is the royal band, consisting of a dozen drums of different sizes scaling, from the largest to the smallest, by a good half; every drummer, riding a mule, was beating his hands on both sides of the drum, and passed over the market square of Adwa with their music, and they seemed to go on holiday, with very few men. But that day he has camped not far, to no more than an hour's walk, in St. Giovanni to wait for his soldiers; Godineau and Messi have then reached him in the evening, since for them there was neither regulation nor discipline they came to the camp when it suited them, as long as they arrived when the battle had begun and there was no obligation for them to be counted, it was enough that they were associated to a team.

And we continued our work at the church; after four days, being cut off the communications, we had no more news, and on the fifth day came to Adwa the famous rebel Abba Kaisi, the son-in-law of the old Schimper, who camped a kilometer from Adwa and put on display his flag, and all the priests went to receive him so that he would not do any harm, and he assured them that he would not hurt anybody but he wanted five hundred thalers and thirty mules and a hundred pieces of canvas, and everything was prepared in twenty-four hours.

The next day Abba Kaisi he advertised that he wanted to get in Adwa, and Schimper, his father in law, came to warn us not to be afraid because he was a friend of the Europeans, but we, in good account, we set up our Italian flag waving above the terrace, and we put our revolver in our pocket, and he met his soldiers about three hundred yards from us while we were still on the terrace. He stopped a moment to look at the flag and then greeted us and we answered to the greeting, then he went directly to visit the church of Medhanie Alem, the Savior, and immediately sent a soldier to tell us not to be afraid, that he was our friend, and in return from the church he stood in the market square of Adwa and then threw the galloping horses.

Dimersi and Lamar were on a terrace nearby with a telescope watching around and he invited them to come to him: they went with a fever of fear, and he set off to his camp, where they had to reach him. Immediately Abba Kaisi asked them the telescope, he tried it and said that he wanted for himself, and gave in exchange two big goats and two gombo of honey and then sent them to their homes, and they, despite not having received anything, they were happy because the fever of fear had passed.

So Abba Kaisi stopped two more days, then departed from Adwa, escorted by the military he had recruited as well as by his robberies: he had arrived with about three hundred men, he left from Adwa with about eight hundred men, and Adwa was just a good day walk from the camp of the Prince to the Shire.

On the eighth day we learned of a first attack of Prince Cassa against Tekle Giyorgis in the plain of Shire: the Prince, due to a false position, had to retreat, with a loss of one hundred soldiers, and take another position closer to Axum, on a plain that he had behind a mountain and had wells of seven or eight meters deep and natural ducts.

The next day, towards evening, Tekle Giyorgis attacked Prince Cassa: he had at least more than twice as soldiers, and he attacked first by sending the cavalry, but the prince, with his army very compact, rejected the cavalry, which was forced into retreat to jump the ditches, and since it was already dark about five hundred knights were left in the ditches. Since it was night Tekle Giyorgis had to retreat that day and the next day he undertook the march to Adwa, and the prince, to defend the city, took a different road to get to Adwa before him. In one day he arrived to Adwa, camped on the mountain north of Selova, two kilometers away, waiting Tekle Giyorgis. Meanwhile Mademoiselle Marie went to see Godineau, which was not far away, and reported that Schimper had received letters from Tekle Giyorgis praying Europeans who were with the prince Cassa to retire if they wanted to be his friends, and Godineau thought for the better to take a strong laxative the night, and so the next day he presented himself to the Prince depressed, with sunken eyes, saying that he had a strong dysentery and begging him to let him go to Adwa for two or three days to heal, and the Prince agreed.

He arrived in the night; as for some days we would not talk any more to each other, in the morning he sent Mademoiselle Marie for me, begging me to visit him because he was very ill, and I thought that in times of sickness you must forget the past and lend assistance. I went, and when he saw me he hugged me: "My dear Naretti, I am sick, let it go, what's past is past, we are friends," and I told him: "My dear Godineau, I was not the one to spoil and turn things around, it was you with your Mademoiselle Marie, but I'm for the union and agreement: now it is too late, but let's be friends." And then, with a short speech he said: "Dear Naretti, shall I to tell you the story? I assure you that the prince Cassa is lost, if you had seen how well the cavalry of Tekle Giyorgis fights, he has an army three times as strong! It is clear that the prince Cassa is lost, but I'm already in correspondence with Tekle Giyorgis, we will do bigger business with him: here are the letters that I have received from the old Schimper. " And I replied: "I do not want to mingle in these intrigues, whatever happens to me or the other it’s the same, if I like it I will stay, if I do not like it I will leave, for me it’s all indifferent."

And Godineau had two spies on the door that controlled his every movement.

Tekle Giyorgis was camped near Adwa, in the plain of Buna, and Prince Cassa on the mountain to the north-east, at the same distance from Adwa. Finally Cassa, after four days, decided to go down to the plains and take another position south of Adwa, two kilometers from the city in the plain: a beautiful location. To the west was the river Hasem and to the east the mountain, so that the enemy, who had almost only cavalry, could only attack him from the north. They were at a stillstand for two days, they could see each other, there were only three kilometers from each other, and it started to rain heavily. At the end of June, the 25th in the morning *, Tekle Giyorgis got drunk of tej and said, "What is this war? I dominate, with my soldiers I will get it done.” He took his horse, he marched at the head and said to his second: "You take from the south and I take it from the north." And so they went to the attack.

* In fact July 11, 1871, according to Chris Proutu Rosenfeld, A chronology of Menelik II of Ethiopia 1844-1913, (East Lansing, MI., African Studies Center, Department of History, Michigan State University, 1976), p. 52.

We were at Adwa on the terrace to watch: we saw the troops of Tekle Giyorgis come out en masse in the shallows of a hill, they seemed like flies: at least thirty thousand soldiers; we reckoned that the Prince had about twelve thousand men. We saw the column of Ghiorghis divided into two, one facing south and the other north.

Cassa had twelve guns given to him by the British and about a thousand rifles, and the Colonel Kirkham was able to place the guns and the best rifles in the two most strategic positions on the side from which arrived Tekle Giyorgis; this almost rushed for first to the head of his cavalry and Kirkham waited it to be within the reach of the guns and made a discharge against him, first with guns and then cannons. Tekle Giyorgis was among the first to be wounded, his horse fell to the ground injured, and him as well, a light injury, but after the discharge the Lancers of the Prince advanced and a young man of sixteen approached him, he recognized Tekle Giyorgis injured trying to mount on another horse, he called two of his companions, who took him prisoner and rushed to Prince Cassa.

The cannon and gunfire were aplenty from all sides, and as soon as the Prince Cassa had in his hands the prince Tekle Giyorgis, as is the use he immediately gave the order that many horsemen should spread to the enemy camp shouting: "Tamarac! Tamarac! ", which means:" Surrender because your chief is prisoner." But before the news had reached the enemy the fighting continued for another half an hour. We were watching on the terrace; about forty meters away, on another terrace, with Mademoiselle Marie was Godineau, already healed because they thought for sure that the prince Cassa had lost. All of a sudden we saw the plain of Adwa full of horsemen who were taking the direction to enter the city.

Seeing that it was the enemy, and we were beginning to feel the gunfire at the entrance of the city, we immediately began to barricade the door of our court, ready with the revolver and rifle. Godineau made gestures with his hand to signify "Cassa is already in the bag." And we saw many horsemen who opened wide the gates of the walls of churches and entered them and tried to enter the houses too, and we could hear gunfire all over the city. We were worried because we did not know who the winner was, because, without exaggeration, we found ourselves in a dire situation, with those wild men naked on a horse, just a piece of cloth around the nature, certainly for us it was not time to rejoice despite my courage.


At that moment we saw two soldiers who wanted to get into our yard and asked them who they were, they said, "We are your friends, we bring the word of Dedjatch Cassa." We let them come in and immediately they kissed our hand saying: "We bring you the "massareicie" (which means we bring you good news), by the will and grace of God Dedjatch Cassa is the winner and Tekle Giyorgis is already chained in the red tent of Dedjatch Cassa." I gave them a thaler, and even Borghese, Scala and Lamar did their part, we made them drink to their fill to show our gratitude, which is very remarkable in the character and policy of the Abyssinians.

At the same time the inhabitants of Adwa from inside the houses were still shooting at enemy soldiers, who, seeing themselves defeated, were entering into town to escape the danger. At the time I did not see any more Godineau and Mademoiselle Marie on the terrace: I went looking for them to see if they already knew who the winner was between the two contenders; entering I asked Godineau if he knew who the winner was and he answered to me looking happy: "It's definitely Tekle Giyorgis, because you see that his soldiers are to take possession of Adwa.' I said to him:" Are you sure? '"Yes, yes." He was lying on his travel cot, and I told him: "And I can assure you that the opposite is true, at this time Tekle Giyorgis is already in chains in the red curtain of Dedjatch Cassa." He replied, "Oh, that is impossible!" "It is so, my dear, I have just received the good news, sent to me by the Prince, which makes me happy for the good fortune that God has given him." And he fell on his bed, unconscious, changing color, because he already knew that the prince was aware of everything, and that he pretended to be sick to betray him.

Luigi Messi had a "rocket launcher" * with a dozen of cartridges; he has been faithful, he fought like a good soldier, he has fulfilled his promises: he had to defend the South against Wag ** Shum Tafari, the first general and the first counselor of the Prince Tekle Giyorgis. Since Tafari was a very clever man, what did he do to save himself when he saw that he could not escape? He took a sciamma of another soldier, covered with blood, and took refuge in a Muslim mosque old and all in ruins, he wrapped himself in the bloody sciamma, he warned his faithful to take him away the next day, at night. At the end all the other officers were taken, some were hurt, some prisoner, but the most important was missing.

* Rocket launcher: a device to launch and manage flares, they also called rockets.

** Wag shum: title of the governor of the province of Wag. It has some royal privileges as a descendant of the royal family.

One of the faithful of Tafari, governor of Socota and Lasta, convinced four soldiers of the prince Cassa, his friends, inhabitants of the region near the border with Socota, and in broad daylight, when they were bringing away all the wounded, he arranged a sort of bed with two big woods by his friends, who loaded Tafari on the bed with his blanket stained with blood, passed through the camp near Adwa and, while the others were looking for him, in three days and one night they managed to bring him to Socota alive and kicking, although Prince Cassa had given orders to all his men not to let escape any of his enemies. As it happens regularly in Ethiopia, as soon as he arrived to Socota, Wag shum Tafari organized another army and ordered the new leaders, because all the leaders who had participated in the war were put in chains, over the mountain; the soldiers instead were granted the freedom.

In the battle, which lasted about two hours, it was calculated about five hundred dead and wounded on both sides in total.

On the second day the prince Cassa took the camp further to the west to do the council of war to decide who was to be put in chains and whom to set free because they were dying of hunger. We had agreed to go all to congratulate the Prince for the good fortune; we went, and Godineau had the courage to come with us. Arrived at the camp bageron Gebrselassie met us, shook our hands and said: "Do you want to salute Dedjatch Cassa? Well, they are allowed Naretti, Borghese, Scala, and Lamar, your friends, while Godineau and Dimersi have to wait outside." Then we entered, he immediately shook our hands and, on behalf of all, I made him the congratulations for the good fortune that God had given him, and there we went away. The day after the council of war the prisoners were taken to the mountain and each other went to his fate, the Prince Tekle Giyorgis and his wife, who was the sister of Prince Cassa and she had participated in the fighting with her husband, were the only people that the prince withheld with him.

The prince returned to his home in Adwa and made Tekle Giyorgis march in front of him and his sister behind him, all three with the red umbrella, each riding their mule: Tekle Giyorgis had an officer who was marching to his right, chained to him with a strong chain with a distance of about 30 centimeters between each respective arm, and the officer marched on foot, leaning on the prince Ghiorghis. When they arrived home two tents were already prepared, one for the husband and the other for his wife, separated, of course, but nothing was missing them according to their lifestyle.

After a few days the prince Cassa invited the prisoner Tekle Giyorgis to spend some time with him to drink, and since those princes, when they start to drink, they drink really a lot, up to the limit of the possibilities of swallowing, Tekle Giyorgis said to Cassa "do you know how to chain the kings of Ethiopia?" and Cassa said "No! You tell me since you're older than me!" Tacle said, "They should be chained with a gold chain." and Cassa replied: "Because you were not yet a crowned king I will chain you with a silver chain." Cassa prepared a strong iron chain: the nodes had at least one centimeter in diameter and also the rings, and brought it to me to cover with silver. Since the work was "not in my game", I gave it to my good friend Borghese, to see if he could silver it, and he said to me: "Let's see, if the bottle of "salt extract" is still good and intact, I will take the task of silvering it." And so he did. How can I tell? The good Borghese was successful in everything he undertook, and sat with his patience before to clean it thoroughly and then tried to silver it: he succeeded perfectly well. They sent to pick it up and as soon as he saw it the Prince Cassa was enchanted and said, "I'm glad that Borghese did it. Oh, yes, he is the iron smith! "

Then he put the silver chains to Tekle Giyorgis and then took him over the mountain of Abba Salama, where it had offered a refuge for Catholic missions in the early days these were introduced in Abyssinia, and at the time of the revolutions they had taken refuge there on digging a large well on the middle, at least sixty meters deep, but first they had to make a staircase carved into the rock. To reach the plateau at the top of the mountain there were still about ten meters of overhanging rock, then they placed a thick rope to get up and down, and the plateau above was the size of about a kilometer in length and an average width of 150 meters, and over there they kept dairy cows and goats and sheep, with a Coptic church and some Coptic priest, and the ancient monarchies, finding that this mountain was very safe and well prepared, they made the prison of the politically conspiring Princes.

Turning now to speak of the rights of the two Princes, Cassa and Ghiorghis, it was well known that Tekle Giyorgis had more right to the crown than the prince Cassa, but if we consider the right and true, they would not have been entitled to the crown neither the one nor the other. Of all the dynasties of rulers of the empires of Gondar about five hundred years ago, they were all "parvenus" except the kingdom of Shoa, which was one of the oldest dynasties in Ethiopia.


Now let Tekle Giyorgis over the mountain and go back to Adwa, to our work. The fact was that the company had been dissolved and I had been appointed head, but we had not yet had no negotiations and no agreement about our duties and the payment of our work. Finally we decided to write a letter to ask the Prince to grant us an appointment: I made myself a draft and I have shown it to all to verify it; Borghese said that according to his personal opinion there was something to change, and so I gave him the right to do it again and put in his own way what was concerning us, and it was done. We turned to a dragoman, a Yasu Negusie, a friend of Aleka Biru, the ambassador who had brought us up to Adwa and had already became an enemy of Godineau; here is the content of the letter:

"Your Majesty, since we had come here as members of a company, and now the company is dissolved and your majesty appointed me head, now everyone is asking me what are their duties, so I beg your majesty to make a contract to define the our position, because we cannot stay here without a contract, without knowing what is our gain; Borghese also left a good position in Alexandria to come with me, and Mr. Godineau, since now he is on his own, he will deal an agreement on his own; I beg your majesty to give us an answer.

The devoted servant Giacomo Naretti. "

We summoned a dragoman; Borghese told him that Aleka Biru agreed to write such letter and present it the next day to the king; this in fact after the war had already taken the title of Emperor. The next day we introduced ourselves, Borghese, Scala, Lamar and Dimersi, and Messi who had taken military duties.

The king was at the church of Sellassiè dealing with his court of justice duties; we got there and Aleka Biru saw that there was not Godineau: he sent for him and he sent for Colonel Kirkham and the old Schimper and two missionaries Binder and Maier. I wondered to myself: what does it mean this meeting here in court of justice? We do not come to demand justice. When the king, sitting on a bed of straw with beautiful carpets, had finished to judge, Aleka Biru asked me the letter, took it, opened it and then handed it over to the King. The King took it, read it and then gave it back to Aleka Biru so that he would read it aloud and the dragoman translates it.

Here, from how the letter was translated one can measure the revenge of the Ethiopian monarchs, starting in this way the translation Godineau did with us what the apostle Judas Iscariot did to Jesus Christ. As soon as I heard the first words, I approached him that it was not our letter, and Godineau immediately demanded the testimony of the Europeans present, saying, "Naretti attacked my reputation and dishonored me here in front of His Majesty and before the Europeans here present, therefore I ask your testimony. I will attack Naretti before the correctional court of Alexandria to protect my reputation and my honor. "And the meeting was immediately canceled.

And the king mounted on his mule, satisfied, and went home.

And Godineau took his witnesses, the old Schimper, Kirkham and two missionaries Binder and Maier, invited them to dinner at his house with Mademoiselle Marie "to make his verbal process", because they did not know and had not yet experienced the vengeance put together by Aleka Biru with the king to take revenge for his betrayal.

And me and Borghese and Lamar and Scala and Dimersi we were all well aware of the letter we had written and read, and which Borghese had personally read to the dragoman, and we, three Italians and two Frenchmen, were like one soul. Since Dimersi had done for many years the usher at the consulate of France undertook the task of making the minutes of the notification, confirmed and approved by all, to be sent to Alexandria to protest against the Godineau trial. The minutes were then passed at the French Court when they received mine the one of Godineau was closed and canceled.


Meanwhile, we continued in our work: the king gave us a few hundred thalers and sheep and cows and wheat for our maintenance.

I forgot: before the war at the camp of Selova he wrote me a beautiful letter in which he begged me to keep faith, to work for the Church of the Trinity, and if the Trinity had helped him to be the winner he would have made us happy, and to pray for him.

More about Godineau: When he saw that the king Cassa did not want to receive him anymore, and that he had fallen out of favor, since he had eight hundred thalers and after paying some fees he had three hundred thalers left, he had no other choice but to leave. He left after the rains in early September of the same year; of course he brought with him his dear Mademoiselle Marie, who had been his main disgrace.

In the meantime I had already taken the idea of ​​the Coptic altar, and while we were doing other work I began the altar to finish it before the king returned from the Azebo Galla [Oromo] where he had gone to force the Muslims to become Christians.

We were able to put in place the doors and windows, they were four double doors and two windows, and the main altar, the one to say Mass, was inside: the other altar was missing, it was completed four days before the arrival of the king and was mounted in the warehouse, and all those who came to see it, priests and bourgeois, just arrived at the door they knelt on the ground doing the usual prayers of the church and kissing the earth according to their religious rites. They do not bless the new churches, but as soon as the church is covered, finished or unfinished inside, if they don’t have a small altar they put four pieces of wood stuck together with a canvas around and then put their tabot, which is a table of about 45 centimeters by 30, with a thickness of 5 cm, in the four corners of which there are four coats of arms: a lion, a dove, an ox, and the fourth corner a man who represents God. They put the tabot inside the altar blessed by the abuna, which is their patriarch, and then they say mass.


The coronation of Johannes IV

It was already known that the king on his arrival wanted to be crowned in Axum, the old city of the Empire of Ethiopia. Wag shum Tafari had already proclaimed his submission, and even the governor of Gondar, Ras Woregna, had done an act of submission. Therefore, without the king ordering me, I had already started the provisional throne for the coronation, and I had already finished a chair. Three days before arriving at Adwa King Cassa sent me a messenger with a letter in which he told me that he wanted a throne for his coronation on 16 November, the great solemn feast of Axum, so I only had fifteen more days of time, and he told me to do just the design according to my taste and send him the same day. What do I do? In two hours I make a drawing in a hurry, very complicated, telling him that I needed at least three months to execute that plan, but I had thought, because the time was short, of making a provisional one, and I sent my answer with the design. And he had to return the next day to Adwa. An hour before arriving at Adwa he sent for me: I left immediately, I found him already two kilometers from the city coming with his army, so I stopped to wait until he entered to his palace covered with straw; he saw me, shook my hand and said, "I received your letter, come, we'll talk."

Upon entering his home he dismounted from the horse, and then immediately sent for me and the first thing he said to me: "You know, I got your letter: you tell me that to do it according to your design you need three months, I like your design and you will realize later, for now please make a temporary throne because the time is short but you can do it again very nice, you still have twelve days time." I replied: "Your Majesty, I will do everything possible and I assure you, unless a tragedy happens, that I will finish it: I need only red silk cloth and red and white cloth." Immediately he called his warehouseman and said: "You will give to Naretti everything he asks.", and I told him good bye.

I came away, I was already sure of being able to finish it because it was all prepared to finish well and I needed no more than four or five days, during which the good Borghese was committed to fill the chair and garnish it with red cloth and some yellow border: perfectly succeeded. On the fifth day I mounted it to test it in the courtyard.

The king sent his trusted man bageron Gebrselassie to see it, who found it well done, he only said, "The king said to me, since nine are God’s commandments you need nine steps." I had done it only eight and he counted them and recounted, it was only eight, and then I took him by the arm because I knew that I would make him count nine, because there remained the step of the stand. I made him climb step by step counting steps: we arrived on the stand, he had counted nine, so she just laughed and then said, "You're right: Say what you want, you know that we are still far behind."


Since Lamar and Scala had taken what little they had been able to collect for their trip and had left a month earlier to Massawa, we remained only I, Borghese and Lamar, and Messi who had taken military duty, and Scala, who was a little unwell. Finally, with the help of the good Borghese we managed to finish the throne in time and I immediately moved all the material to Axum two days before the solemn celebration of the coronation, and the king, in view of the importance of the throne, he sent the Governor Adwa to accompany me with about five hundred soldiers carrying the material, each piece passing from one to another at any moment because the Abyssinians, even more the soldiers, are "proud”, they do not like to carry stuff, because a soldier who has one of the most miserable rifles believes to be a great man, even if he all in rags.

We arrived in Axum at the royal house with all our material and the governor showed me where we should mount the throne: in the courtyard, located approximately six arms from the front door of the royal house. This was round, with an internal diameter of fifteen meters, with a thatched roof supported by ten wooden pillars, and the height of the wall was about six meters.

Towards the evening we began to fix the place where to mount the throne; the day after we completed the installation and the day after we finished papering the columns with golden upholstery and the ramp and handrail of the staircase with the red cloth, and we had already prepared six golden coats of arms with the upholstery, with eighteen small flags, so each coat of arms carried three flags.

Finally here is the day December 24, 1871: we were to celebrate the great feast of Tion, which means the feast of Mary, and they came from all parts of Abyssinia, and even more so for the coronation, to the great curiosity, so you could see a lot of people across the plains and mountains, and the city of Axum seemed nothing else than a big fair. On the eve of the feast they brought cows from all sides, all gifts in honor of the coronation; according to the rules you should not give to the king any oxen to kill, but always young cows, such as heifers, and the fattest they have. In the end it was estimated at about three thousand the number of cows brought as gift for the coronation.

In Abyssinian language a cow to be killed is called "Ferida."


The eve of the coronation arrived: Prince Cassa was with many tributaries already subject to him, including the governor of Socota and Lasta, Wag shum Tafari, and he also had kept some governors of Tekle Giyorgis that he had taken as prisoners in the war and who had then declared themselves as his friends, including the son of Dedjatch Wube of Simien and ras Gabre Mariam of Gojjam.

Upon his arrival he saw the throne already assembled and finished with twelve flags waving, and immediately he sat on it, while Wag shum Tafari sat on the sofa; he immediately made a test if he could lie down and gave a careful look at everything, so he descended counting the steps: he counted nine, and then he bowed to me, thanking me that it was fine, and I saw in his look a happy expression.

At that time there were more than five hundred people working to cover the entire court, at least two hundred meters long and one hundred and eighty meters wide, with a roof of wooden crossed beams covered with white cloth, and above the throne with a higher canopy cover with red silk. Finally, a complete confusion of preparations for the big party that was to take place the day after the coronation. At around four in the morning the prince Cassa left with all his tributaries, he entered the great church of Tion to celebrate his coronation by the Coptic bishop.

The ceremonies of the church lasted more than four hours in the meanwhile we were giving the finishing touch to the throne, pinching the curtains in red silk, in which the good Borghese did his part, as well as the friend Scala. Beyond the end of the courtyard a couple of hundred people did nothing but cutting cows heads; before the arrival of the king we saw two mountains of horns, well understood all legs intact; from another part some great fires were preparing live ambers to roast the meat, and other experienced men cut the pieces suitable for meat to be eaten raw, and for that to be roasted. In fact, the pieces are different: these are the ribs, which are called "guenegoro" and other pieces that are used a lot to be roasted are called "cichina". They roast also the tongue, and is called "melas", and the tripe, which is called "cegora"; the cuts of meat preferred to be eaten raw are the two that rise from the back thigh, one is called "tallac" and the other "tenis." The two filets taken from these are used also for the roasted meat, which is prepared with many straight and sideways cuts and then, salted and peppered, is passed over the live ambers that do not smoke, they give it two turns, in less than one minute it is ready: they bring it above the "fauda" of the fat of a cow, then clean the ashes with the "fauda", they put it in the bread basket, which is called massev having about fifty centimeters in diameter, with 15 or 20 breads that are called injera, having the width of the basket and about a centimeter thickness: this bread is usually made with the grain of teff, a fine grain like the seeds of salad.

The king, after the celebration of his coronation in the church, arrived with a crowd of people; there were all the governors, called ras and Dedjatch: ras is the commander in chief, Dedjatch is Brigadier General. Among them the first which accompanied the king was the Abuna, which is the Coptic bishop, who alone has the power to celebrate the coronation: without the Coptic bishop no one can be crowned.

The king, as soon as he arrived, was baptized with the name of King * Johannes,  and the name of Dedjatch Cassa was canceled; then he ascended the throne already with his crown on his head and sat on the couch and then made everybody sit down but the four liqemekus which are like the ministers of the royal house, they dress as the king but without the crown, with an outfit that is nothing more than the dress of grand ceremony that the priests wear when they say the solemn Mass in the church. In short, the king on his throne was looking like a cardinal, the four liqemekus, two on each side of the throne, were still standing with their bishop's stick, and the Abuna was sitting at the right hand of the king, when was given the blessing before the lunch and the king went to his house and lunch started.

* The official title of Johannes "Negus Neghesti", i.e. king of the king or emperor, while Menelik and Taklé Haimanot were kings, i.e. Negus. Naretti instead continues to be attributed to Johannes the title of king.

The coronation according to Prof. Sbacchi happened on January 21, 1872, according to Rosenfeld in A Chronology of Menelik of Ethiopia, page 52; it was on January 11, 1872. The date specified by Naretti does not count because he wrote the diaries 14 years later, without having his notes that were destroyed by fire shortly before his return to Italy. It is unclear whether this fire was caused by an accident or whether it was of arson since Naretti was suspected of having facilitated the Italian occupation of Massawa.

The people who served were numerous, the number of guests was estimated at about three thousand, you could see the servants running "straight and sideways", some with the leg of an ox, some with a filet, some with another piece of meat of the quality that is eaten raw as a starter; and then they brought, for every four or six people, a "manzep" of injera bread, which contained between fifteen and twenty loaves, all of teff, as usual, bread of 40 centimeters diameter and seven to ten millimeters in thickness; over the bread they put meat slices thinly sliced, cooked with a sauce made with very strong chili of the strongest and stirring in the sauce of onions of the strongest, they poured this sauce over the bread and put raw meat and then took the tibs, which is meat grilled over coals; each basket, or "manzep", was assisted by a servant responsible to cut the roasted meat and mix it with bread, and then each with the right hand would pick up the pieces of meat with bread and make his bit with his hands and put it in his mouth; it was really a beautiful sight to see those hand gestures to prepare the morsels and take them to the mouth.

Since the Abyssinians drink almost only at the end of the meal, and I and Borghese and Scala, and Colonel Kirkham we all ate from the same plate, having eaten the strong sauce we had the mouth inflamed for thirst: on the other side they began to bring the berillè of tej to drink and we were so thirsty that we could no longer bear. Borghese and Scala begged me to go to our house to drink and I said, "We are going to offend the king if he sees us leave." Finally, seeing that they could no longer suffer from the hot mouth, I decided and told Borghese and Scala: "Let's go." As soon as we made about twenty meters the king saw us and immediately sent his first man bageron Zano to ask what had happened, and I said that we could not bear more for the thirst and we were going home to drink. Immediately he begged us to go back, apologizing because he did not know our habit. We went back and as soon as we sat down he made us serve by his first man some tej and the spirits of the country made with tej wine, which is a really delicious liquor if it is done well, and at every moment he was there to see if we needed a drink. So we continued to eat roasted meat with the strong sauce, which stimulated a strong appetite.

The end of the meal arrived and the berillè of tej were coming at any moment, and people began to speak, they could no longer impose silence because the tej began to warm the heads. From time to time the soldiers were taking away someone drunk, because in Abyssinia if they do not carry away someone  drunk it is not an honor for the guest, because they say that he didn’t give enough to drink: when they leave drunk it means that everything went well and nothing was missing.

The king, when he saw that they could no longer impose silence, he descended from the throne and retired. The lunch lasted about four hours. Before leaving the throne the king made everybody go away, and who was not quick to get out the door took a beating, except the great officers: they came out at their own pace. Before lunch there were two mountains of bodies, when we left there remained nothing more than bones, with which one could make the broth for ten thousand people.

When we got home we found two fat cows who looked like two fat pigs, and immediately we made kill one for our servants, and tej and bread arrived in abundance.

Finally, the party lasted three days, at lunch there were officers and non commissioned officers, an abundance of priests and ciccà (especially mayors of the villages), and each chief sent cows and tej to their camp for the soldiers. To us during the three days every morning they sent a cow; to the bishop they sent fifty cows in three days. At the end of the three-day party they counted about three thousand cows and two thousand vats of tej. Usually when one gives a gift to the king to kill for flesh, one gives a cow; it is a dishonor to give an ox, "they accept it but it is not prudent", and then to do the dishes of berberiè they prefer mutton flesh.

On the third day after the last festive meal, the king sent for me, he thanked me for the throne and he asked if I could dismount it to put it in his great house so that it will remain there for a memory; and I answered that I had already done it so it can be dismounted without any trouble, and so he showed me the place where he wanted to put it and said "Tomorrow you will dismount it and put it here, and tomorrow I shall leave for Adwa and you, as soon as you finish, will reach me".

How many compliments all the governors have made to me! They said that since Abyssinia existed they had never seen work like this: it was admired by all. They began to understand, despite their pride, that the Europeans could teach them a few things.


The next day we began to send to Adwa the three remaining cows. Before noon the throne was dismantled and put in its place, in the evening we left for Adwa, where we arrived the next day. I went for a visit to the king, who graciously shook my hand and asked me if I was OK and if the work we had started for the church would soon be finished; I said yes, I said goodbye and came away.

The dragoman Madregal had a bad defect, to add more words to what the King said, he had studied for seven years in Paris at the time of Louis Philippe, was brought by the leader of the French expedition Lefebvre, taken by Dedjatch Wube, governor of Tigray and Simien. The expedition of Lefebvre entered Abyssinia in 1836, left in 1841 and was treated well by Dedjatch Wube, and took seven young Abyssinian to study in Paris, of which only two, Madregal and Buru, have returned, the others fled to Cairo. Madregal then made five more years of study in London, and he was a very affable man but with light character.


Let’s go back to the work: after a month from his coronation the king was already beginning to forget about us and all because he was now crowned. Borghese and Scala begged me because they wanted to know their situation, as was in their right. I thought of writing a letter to the king, along with my friend Borghese and Scala, asking the king that we wanted to know our position, that we could not stay that way because we had better perspectives. Madregal came to know that we had this letter and his advice was not to deliver it to the king, but I went up to the king and I delivered it to him with my own hands, and the king read it and then said: "All right."

Three weeks passed, and the king gave no answer. Borghese and Scala began to be uneasy and I lost patience and said, "Well, let’s get ready, we shall leave to Massawa." And then I put on sale all the materials and the tools; I spread the word in Adwa if anyone wanted to buy the tools, forge excluded, and materials in abundance. Immediately the buyers came and towards the evening of Monday almost half was sold, paid for and taken away.

In the evening came the king's minister bageron Gebrselassie and said: "I have learned some bad news; they told me that you sell the tools." To which I replied, "Yes, more than half are already sold and taken away, by the way I sell my property, I do not sell the property of the king." And he said "Why are you doing this?" "Because three weeks ago I wrote a letter to the king, and he did not answer me, so I decided to leave with my teammates." He said, "That's enough, the king is waiting for you tomorrow morning early." Madregal wanted to take the defense of the king, saying that I was wrong, but I told him: "Shut up, do me a favor: you do not take into account my time, which is valuable."

The next morning early Madregal came to call me; we left, and already in the street came a messenger from the king to search for us. The king arrived, I was quite revolted with anger, and the king was there waiting for me alone, and as soon as I entered he greeted me and held out his hand with kindness and joy and said, "I understand that you want to sell the "farm" (which means tools)”, I replied: "More than half are already sold and taken away." He said, "Why did you do this?" And I said, "Your Majesty knows that more than three weeks ago I have written you a letter, and you have not answered so I have decided to leave with my friends ". He replied: "If your teammates want to stay they stay, if they want to leave they leave, but I do not want you to leave, I will hold you as my son. You'll see if you're not happy with me, I know the money you put in the company, I will refund your part and then you will see that you will be pleased with me if you stay." Seeing so many promises I said to myself: it is better to accept, and then I said, "Very well, your majesty, but I cannot stay if your majesty does not pay my companions, because here I am not speaking of kings, I speak just about any gentleman who has people working for him, it is a great shame if you do not pay the workers, in our country we have the law to enforce him to pay." And he said: "How much shall I give you per month?" And I said, "Godineau had brought the notes about remuneration.” I knew it well, but I did not want to tell him. He replied: "Do not talk any more about Godineau; tell your companions to bring me their bill and I will pay it, and if they want to stay with you they should stay, they do as they please."

I came down; Borghese and Scala were already waiting for me with devotion to know what had happened in the meeting. Madregal, who had acted as interpreter, had come with me, and I reported the words that the king had said to me, and when Madregal was gone we discussed among ourselves as good friends as we always have been. As in 11 months we had already received nine hundred thalers, first three hundred to be divided among the five, and the other among the three of us, and we received the food, so Borghese and Scala said, "If we bring the bill he will count the food and then he will not let us leave if we take that little money; it is better to forget about it so we have more freedom; and you do good to stay because he promised to repay the money you put into the company, but we have decided to leave."

At that time, 1871, Munzinger bey began to make propaganda against King Johannes, and he already had given us a warning to withdraw from the king, that he would pay us for the business losses and give us a job in Massawa, so I understood that the friend Borghese and Scala had the firm idea that Munzinger bey would refund the damage and then given a job, but I was informed that Munzinger was a very intelligent man but light in his promises, so I begged them to accept what little the king Johannes could give, which was always so much the better, and then if they wanted to stay I would have been pleased, and if they wanted to leave the king would not have objected if they had accepted some money.

In the end they did not want to listen to my advice and they decided to leave, giving up their possessions, on 21 February 1872. I went to accompany them for a long time: we did not know how to separate us because we have always lived together and we had always been united not only as fellow citizens but also as true brothers, we never had among us any opposition of any kind. I was thinking of my fate, despite my courage, of being alone, without companions, in the midst of a foreign civilization. However, I gather a great courage at the time of having to leave my dear friends: after about two hours’ walk, we arrived on a square, we dismounted from our mules and this was the moment of parting, and I could see that even my dear comrades were embarrassed, and as the moment of farewell arrived, and there was a touching kiss, and without speaking we parted. A few moments after our separation I turned back waving a handkerchief: goodbye, goodbye, have a safe trip!

I returned home with my Abyssinian servants: though they did not understand the language they understood, however, that I was greatly moved and made me courage, saying: "We are all your friends and your brothers, don’t be sad, you will see that the king loves you, that we love you all." With me there was also some men sent by the king, who was afraid that even me I would leave with my friends. When I got home an hour later I see her coming some tej and a cow: this was to keep me happy. The man who led the cow had orders from the king to kill her right away, and took two gombo of tej, which usually take fifteen liters each.

The next day the king sent for me and said: "I have heard that you regret that your companions are gone, but you remained here for me. I'm not your father, but be positive, do not let your blood turn sour: today I ordered  blata * Karekadam me give you one thousand thalers, and a thousand more I will give you in a little while, go get them." I thanked him and came away, not to waste time I went straight from Blata Karekadam and found that he had a thousand thalers ready in a little bag of skin: they had been counted but he begged me to count them again: I found the count accurate.

* Blata is an honorary title for officers of the court.

As in Abyssinia there is no bank and no mail service, letters and money are sent by men of confidence, trusted, and as I had a servant whose name was Tafari from the first day that I entered in Akkele Guzay, and having known him as trustworthy, I added two hundred thalers, I had a "load" of two thousand two hundred thalers and entrusted them to my servant, so that he takes them to Massawa to Munzinger bey to send them to my brother in Alexandria. The servant arrived well in Massawa, has remitted the sum to Munzinger, who issued a receipt saying that I had a brave confidence in the servant, who was worthy of great respect.


After the departure of my companions had already begun to teach two servants to handle the saw, and I took two others: of the first two, one was Tafari and the other Grancial, which before was the servant of Borghese and used to handle the mace; the third, Digine, was before our cook, and the fourth was a servant of the old Schimper. Finally I was able in a short time to make good sawyers, which had never existed in Ethiopia in its entire history. For the first few boards that we cut with Lamar and Scala all remained amazed because of the economy of wood, because before to make a plank they would take any trunk, big or small, they split it in half and then, little by little, with the ax they would make two planks. Over time, I found in the doors of the churches some boards of a single piece of one meter: the Abyssinians were making all the doors in one piece, everything worked with the ax, they did not know what it meant the planer and the "varlopa" *, nor they knew what it meant “smoothing”, they were amazed when they saw the shavings coming out from the planer or "varlopa", everyone came to see how the "planes" was formed and said, "Look how much God has done that we have never seen!" In short, they remained amazed.

* In the Piedmontese language is called “varlopa” a large carpenter's planer operated by hand.

What have I done to get ahead in the job? I put the two older workers, Tafari and Grancial, to work at the bench, and I've added two more to the saw: so they would not make so much effort to pull the saw into four, so the two old ones taught the two new ones, and the two that I put at the bench, little by little, with the patience, began to march well; and when the two at the saw were beginning to do well with the saw, I added two new and the two old sawyers I put them at the bench, so in six months I began to have a lab that worked, but making a lot of attention. Of course, you had to give them everything marked and traced in their hand.

Since there were to do the two great rounds of the doors and windows of the church of Adwa, Selassie, which means the Trinity, that is, for the first external round four double doors four meters tall and 1.2 meters wide, and thirty-two windows, and for the second round eight double doors and four windows, we required a large amount of wood, and the king had ordered to many villages to cut trees and square them to the measures that I had given him, so I went with all my sawyers in the province of Adiet, which borders with the Tekezé River and Zana and the Shire with a guide of the king, and began in the town of Tabit to saw six beams. As soon as we entered into a village immediately the ciccà, the equivalent of a mayor, always stood at my side by order of the king.

So, just finished to Adiet, I began the province of Zana, which too borders with Tekezé River and Axum, a beautiful country full of crops and livestock, and I have made  sawing the wood in eleven villages, and I was left with only one more village, Tamabro, where I went with the two ciccà who had accompanied me to go to the church of Tamabret, where the trees were in the boundary of the church. Since we passed near a market, the two ciccà asked me to go on with the guide and they would have only given a look at the market and then they would reach me, so I went on, I entered directly, as I was ordered, within the walls of the church of Tamabret, but just took a few steps I saw a crowd of priests busy in front of the church. Since the chiefs were "begging" me to retrocede, I asked my men what it was and they told me: "They have excommunicated you so that you do not enter within the walls of the church.' I laughed, got on my own mule and said," Okay, let’s return to Adwa and instead of tables will bring the beams, at Adwa they will be quiet. "

The priests had already taken away from the church the tabot, which consists of a wooden board on which are written the commandments of God, and brought it in a meadow in the sun, on the grass, surrounded by many Abyssinian Coptic priests, because they were afraid that I entered the church. Instead I was leaving to Adwa and I had to go a short distance from them, which made a circle around the tabot and looked at me in a hostile way. I made my way with all my men, a few minutes after going past the priests came to the two ciccà who had to accompany me always, they were angry, they greeted me and one took my mule by the bridle, and begged me to stop in the name of King Johannes, to listen to his advice to go back, and the other ciccà was gathering information from my servants about what had happened, and they told him about it. They prayed me in the name of the king, to go back, and I said to them, "How can I go back if I have been excommunicated? I do not go back any more. "While I was in discussion with a ciccà the other was already gone to the Aleka, the head of the church, so shortly after I saw arriving a number of priests who approached me, and among them the priest of the church came over to me, knelt down, bowed his head, while another priest placed a large stone on his neck, and he was there to ask forgiveness because he did not know that I was the king Johannes's friend and a good Christian. So after a while I had him remove the stone from above the neck and said, "I forgive you, but first I want you to bring back to the tabot to its place in the church."


Immediately the order was given to take the tabot inside the church and after a while the Aleka himself took my hand and brought me to his house, where he had already prepared an algà topped with a very nice carpet. He made me sit down and immediately brought tej for me and the two ciccà, and began to talk all moved, saying that he had heard everybody speaking so well about me, that I was the king Johannes's friend, and he kept asking to forgive him because he had not recognized me and asked me not to say anything of what had happened to the king, and meanwhile he made to bring food and drink for everyone. He asked permission to eat along with me: for first he brought a plate of dried meat, floured, with a strong pepper sauce, very good, and then the meat roasted over coals as they usually do, and then pieces of boiled meat again with the pepper sauce, and finally I had come to understand that in Abyssinia in the home of the priests you eat better than in all the other places.

So I made saw the five trees and then the day after I left for Adwa.

"In Tamabret, which is in the province of Zana which borders the Tekezé River and the Shire and to the north with the province of Axum."


Arrived at Adwa I arranged to make the work progress, which was very large and with the helpers I had, who were all apprentices, but as for me the work was fun I went ahead without worrying about the large amount of work.

At this time the king made an incursion in the Azebo Galla [Oromo], in political agreement with the Abuna, his Coptic bishop, so, as soon as the king left, there was already his order to burn the church of the Catholic mission of Akkele Guzay and that of Ramat, which were burned by a chief of ras Araya (see Biographies) at the beginning of 1872. Immediately Munzinger bey (see Introduction-Chapter 6) took advantage of the absence of the king, with four hundred Egyptian soldiers he took positions in Bogos and Keren, where he immediately settled down and fortified.

A few days later the king Johannes returned to Adwa, he immediately sent for me with dragoman Madregal: he sent everybody out, we were left alone and he asked me if I knew why Munzinger bey had come to seize his region of Bogos, and I told him that I knew nothing. He said, "Is it not that the European powers gave him permission?" I said, "I do not think, Your Majesty." He said, "It's maybe because the churches of Akkele Guzay were burned?" And I said: "Your Majesty, I think this is the reason, because your majesty has done a very evil thing burning the churches, which are the Christian homes; churches have not hurt your majesty: if a priest tried to hurt your majesty you were entitled to expel him from your country, to write to the French consul that you do not want than the priest any more, to send you another one, but burning the churches have offended all the Christian kings." And he said: "I did not burn them, it was the Abuna." And I said, "I believe you, but the kings of Europe know that it is your majesty that rules and they do not know abuna". "Then how could I accommodate things so that the kings of Europe are not angry with me?” "Your Majesty, doing nothing but apologizing and rebuilding the churches and repair the damage they suffered." "All right," he said. He already believed that, by repairing all damages, Munzinger would withdraw from Bogos.

At that moment the king Johannes was very afraid because he knew that the Egyptians had good guns while he was very ill-equipped, with very few guns of the oldest model, not in use by us anymore, except a thousand modern weapons, given to him in present by the commander-in-chief Lord Napier of the English expedition of the Magdala war; the British gave him also twelve small cannons and a lot of gunpowder and many other things, because the king Johannes, at that time Dedjatch Cassa, had kept the road of Tigray open for that expedition, which returned to his own advantage because he was already trying to "make the propaganda" against Tewodros.


The rise to power of Johannes

How did the King Johannes manage to take Tigray at the time of Tewodros, six months before the British expedition was in Abyssinia?

The King Johannes since a few years was a rebel against Tewodros. His history is this: he was a son of the scium Mercia of Tembien, and his mother was the sister of * Dedjatch Araya, and Dedjatch Araya was a descendant of Ras Michael, so king Johannes began his rebellion under the name of balambaràs (which means “official”) Mercia. He was almost always in the plains of Tal tal, towards Sichet, east of Abyssinia; to become a friend of Tal * he married the daughter of a Tal tal chief that was already married to another; and later he came to know her first husband, but since she was one of the most beautiful women they have agreed to make the exchange. She already had a child of her husband, since she was Muslim later she became Christian.

* Johannes's wife was called Tebaba or Waleta Tekla Haymanot, the mother's name Waleta Sellassiè (according to Prouty Rosenfeld in A chronology of Menelik II, p.37) or Silass Dimtsu (according to Chris Prouty and E. Rosenfeld in Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia, p.328)

After some time he mounted to the province of Inderta, where he had his family and friends, did a little raid with some Tal tal, he kept increasing his troop with some friends from Inderta, he attacked the governor, Dedjatch Tesema, defeated him with great loss of soldiers, some other small chief surrendered, increasingly reinforcing his army. At the beginning of 1866 he also met with Kassa Hailu, governor of the province of Seloa, and came down to Adwa to defeat Dedjatch Bareo, who was the governor of Tewodros, imposed him to surrender, but he said that as long as he had a drop of blood he would fight for his king Tewodros.

Dedjatch Bareo took a position at Abba Garima, between Axum and Adwa. It was a relentless war: Dedjatch Bareo fought until the last moment, until he fell to the ground, apparently dead, so the victory was to Dedjatch Cassa. It was then when Dedjatch Cassa was named prince of Tigray, which gave him the power to protect the passage of the English against Tewodros *.

* Expedition Napier, 1868.


The French vice-consul De Sarzac

One day Mr. De Sarzac arrived, the first French vice-consul at Massawa in the period of King Johannes, who had replaced Munzinger when he accepted to be appointed by Ismail Pasha as governor of Massawa.

On November 23, 1872 De Sarzac came near Adwa, to Enticho, incognito, without telling anyone; he just let me know that the next day he would come to Adwa, that he had the pleasure of seeing the king Johannes for a particular unofficial mission, for which I immediately went to tell the king the news that I had received. He asked me “Why did he come without warning me?" I told him that I did not know why, and he said to me: "So how are we going to do? I'm leaving tomorrow to Axum for the feast of Tion. "And I said," Your Majesty should delegate someone to receive him." "Yes, I will leave Dedjatch Bareo, and beg you to stay with him to receive him and tell him if he wants to wait in Adwa until my return or if he wants to come to Axum."

We went to meet him at about a mile from Adwa. Just met there was a handshake, because at that time the good Europeans were all "patriots"; he was conducted into the house that the king had reserved for him. Upon entering the house six gunshots were fired, and I told him that the king had instructed me to tell him if he wanted to wait in Adwa or go to Axum. He said, "Wow! I want to see Axum! "

The next day we left early to Axum with the governor of Adwa, and the king had been warned and at about three miles before Axum the king sent a thousand soldiers to meet us. The king received the consul De Sarzac sitting on his throne with his crown on his head, pleased to have received a consul dressed in uniform, in short, he rendered him the honors reserved to a prince, he was the only person he received wearing the crown.

In the evening, De Sarzac asked me to tell him how the character of King Johannes was, and he begged me strongly to inform him of everything, and he told me "I have a very important thing to reproach him, how do I talk to him? Please, because I do not yet know the character of this king." And he told me that he wanted to scold him because he burned the Catholic churches of Akkele Guzay, and I told him: "Dear Mr. De Sarzac, in this regard, if you have faith in me, I can inform you, and tell you for sure, I know that the king is now already repented. We have already spoken at length with the king of that sad action, he has burned Christian churches as if they would belong to him, and I have not been afraid to tell him that he made the biggest affront to the religion of Christ and that he had offended all the Christian nations; and if some Catholic missionary had tried to hurt him, it was with him he had to take revenge and not with the holy Church; and he replied to me that he had not given the order to burn the churches, but it was the abuna in the time when he was in the Azebu Galla [Oromo]. “Even you know it”, he told me, but I told him: “I do believe you, but the Christian nations do not know the Abuna, they only know your majesty that is the master of the country”. And then he asked me what he should do, and I said, your majesty, I think we can accommodate in this way: Your Majesty apologizes saying that it was not done for your order and that your majesty is ready to help rebuild the churches and to pay all damage, so I believe your majesty will get himself out of all the dangers and reproaches. He told me it was fine. "

We come now to the question of Mr. De Sarzac about how he had to speak with the king, I told him: "If you listen to me, in a few words you will succeed in everything. You must say: I have come here, I want to make friendship with your Majesty, I had no orders from my Government, I only took a leave to see your majesty and your country, and if your majesty grants me his friendship he will do likewise with my government. I only want to say one thing to your majesty as a friend: why your majesty did burn Catholic churches? Are they not Christian churches? You have offended all Christian nations. "

I was present at the interview, with the consent of the king and De Sarzac. The king said, "It's true, it was a bad thing, but it was not me to do this, it was my bad abuna while I was away, but I'm ready to repair all the damage and to rebuild the churches. How much should I give? "The consul replied, "I cannot say, you have to write to Monsignor Touvier." It was later agreed that the bishop would rebuild himself the churches and would have eight thousand and five hundred thalers in all. The king paid this amount in installments.

Someone criticizes missions in foreign lands, but I will continue to say that the missionaries have always been the first to discover foreign lands, to move in the midst of rustic and incredible populations, the first who sacrificed so many victims and gave the first indications and made the first discovery of many unknown countries, teaching religion, leaving behind their humanitarian spirit, if not to all, but always to someone who then teach it to others. A proof is that in Adwa and Gondar and everywhere many spoke well of the bishop Jacob, who was in Abyssinia since 1830 and who founded nearly all the churches starting from Massawa, Monkorer, Akkele Guzay, Agame, Adwa, Gondar.


Now let’s talk about the departure of De Sarzac to Massawa on November 24, 1872.

He was decorated with the Cross of Solomon and other decorations which the king gives to his generals by king Johannes himself, who asked him to take a letter to President of the French Republic Mac-Mahon *. Of course De Sarzac accepted the job with pleasure and went with his letter to Massawa, happy because he was successful in doing so. On the 24th I took him up to Ratacle: a handshake and here we are divided, one for Massawa and the other for Adwa.

* Mac-Mahon: winner of the battle of Magenta against the Austrians (1859) and president of the French Republic from 1873 to 1879.

However the separation in those countries gets an incredible feeling: you're sick for a few days. De Sarzac was a very kind person, I esteemed not only for his kindness but I had one more reason why at that time was acting as a consul for all nations. Yes, he esteemed me; I had rendered him many services, and he, being in Massawa, he was interested a lot in me and he made a lot of services to me and was useful for many things.

So I went ahead at my work for the church.


The throne of Solomon

This volume was lost to my departure from Parella December 24, 1888 *, then I ended up finding it in a case where I did not expect to find it, and I started volume 3 ** not having the time to copy everything.

* This is clearly a mistake, because the general Baratieri writes in his diary that he met and Naretti and his wife in Eritrea on 15 and 26 January 1888, and therefore should read 1887. (O. Baratieri Pages of Africa (1875-1901), edited by N. Labanca, Trento, Museo del Risorgimento, 1994), p. 49.

** Naretti had divided his diary in different "volumes" of which are remaining only the first four.


[Volume] N. 3. in June 1873.


After the church of Sellassiè (meaning the church of the Holy Trinity), King Johannes was at that time in Debre Tabor: I sent him the good news that the church was finished. He responded with a very nice letter in this way: "God gave you to me, may God keep you in good health for many years in my company." And then he ordered me to make him the throne of Solomon. I immediately started because I had already made saw the wood a long time before: the most beautiful wood I could find; the only wood suitable for furniture is called "vuanza" *, the only valuable wood that could be exported and commercialized. So I thought that I needed a lathe to implement my design; I mounted a lathe as best as I could and eventually succeeded in polishing all the pieces I wanted.

* A kind of juniper.

The throne was completed in about six months, and then I sent to the king the "massaracc", which means the good news, that the throne was built, and I mounted it in my lab.

Ras Baireo, the governor, let me know that he wanted to come and see it with all the authorities of Adwa; I did put some carpet at the foot of the throne so that those gentlemen could be seated, with some gombo of tej and a few bottles of liquor.

Finally, here they come: ras Baireo stood at the foot of the stairs and glanced to the throne, bowed down and kissed it three times on the first rung of the ladder, and the three other Aleka of the churches did the same thing, and I have remarked their respect for their sovereign: none of them took the liberty of putting just the tip of the foot on the ladder of the throne, they were content to watch while drinking and said among themselves: "Now we see that we are "donguaro" (which means stupid), we thought we knew something and instead compared to Europeans we are stupid, we are fortunate that God has given us Naretti." After two good hours ras Baireo, leaving, made me his warmest congratulations, kissing my hand and begging me to allow three days for all those who wanted to be allowed to see the king's throne. The day after, there was not a  single person in Adwa who had not come to see it; plus the third day was market day and the yard was not big enough, they were on top of each other and most of them said, "This man is sent by God for us. "

After a few days I finally understand why the governor asked me to expose the throne to the public: there was no other reason than to gain political influence in the public opinion to give more power to the king. Very few have been able to gain an overall understanding of this nation, its traditions and its cunning.


Around Abyssinia and the conquest of the Galla Oromo


As I wrote to the king that the throne was over, the king Johannes wrote me a nice letter saying that he wanted to see me, and since he was departing from Debre Tabor to Zabit he showed me the road to Socota; I organized well my caravan for departure with four mules of burden, my little tent, the travel cot, the chairs and the my kitchen chest.

I left on December 25, 1873, I arrived in five days to Socota with the guide of Governor of Adwa, going through Tembien. Arriving in Socota I found the governor of Socota, Wag shum Kabbada, son of the late Wag shum Tafari, who in his day was the most diplomatic political adviser, I had known him personally. The young man and his mentor told me, "We have orders from the king to accompany you to him, we must go too, will shall leave the day after tomorrow because the king has already left Zabit and - they said - perhaps we shall join him in Gaint." And immediately they gave orders to give me a cow and abundant food.

We left on 3 [January 1874], in three stages we arrived in Lalibela: Since I already knew that there were ancient churches, I immediately asked him to give me some guides to accompany me to see them, I had them for about three hours and I was able to visit the twelve churches : I would never have dreamed and I would never have thought of finding such colossal works of art, to see in the space of about a kilometer twelve churches formed and cut in one piece in the gray rock of medium hardness. The largest, Sellassiè , the Trinity, is twenty-eight meters long by fifteen wide, with 24 columns, the vault and columns carved artistically as best you cannot work in our time, with pedestals and bases and capitals, crossed windows all carved in one piece in the rock. I will give you a small drawing.

Lalibela is located in the province of Lasta, in the south-east, about 15 km from the head of Tekezé River: the soil is very fertile, with fountains, springs of water everywhere, it gave the impression that in the past there had been a large population but now it seemed a desert, with very few inhabitants, and this proves that the wars and the setbacks had caused the decline of the population, reduced and frightened for large riots and fights between Christians and Muslims, because Lasta is the frontier between Christians and Muslims and I would almost say the most important point of Ethiopia for the control of the nation.

We arrived at the head of Tekezé River, we passed through a narrow gorge, on both sides of the mountains were very high, higher towards the south-east, always with a gentle slope; a few kilometers before reaching the top the water was frozen, with a light frost; according to my calculations the height of the mountains was about three thousand meters above sea level. Finally we reached the top, its name is Gagub Zab, and I saw a splendid panorama. We left the large plateau of Gaint to the south-east, we returned to Lasta north-east through a narrow passage, at several points no more than 1.5 meters wide. About 1.5 kilometers later, before descending the Strait of Sanka I saw a wonderful thing: a steep descent of which you could not see the bottom because it was covered by clouds across the plains until Aussa, so it seemed to me to go into another world; the mountains were no longer visible. The head of Sanka is about five kilometers from the head of Tekezé River, and on the other side of Ieggiu to the east, is rising the head of the Golima, one of the major springs of water, because Golima has three main springs: the first is the one who departs from Sanka, the other leaves the lake Ashanghi and the third from Gaint: few are travelers who have explored these lands.

Finally we began to descend the steep descent, of course by foot because you could not descend mounted on a mule, up to Sanka. Approximately halfway down, since we had to reach the king who had already transited through the same three days before, because to go to Ieggiu there are no other roads, we made a small stop of an hour and then we resumed our march on a soft but very long descent. Overall, in six hours we arrived at Zagul Zaf: down the slope water springs were increasing all the time, and we were shaded from the sun by the trees of the great forests. In Zagul Zaf, the head of the beautiful valley of Ieggiu, there is plenty of vegetation and water, the soil is fertile and the average temperature 18 to 22 degrees.

We have received for our dinner a nice cow, bread and tej and we have learned that the king had made his camp in Cobalafto.

In the morning we marched but we knew that we could not get to the camp of the king within the day. After having marched about nine hours we camped three hours before arriving at the camp of the king, and I was delighted to see that beautiful valley; the villages on both sides of the river were hardly detached from each other and one could not see uncultivated land. I later learned that it was the first time that King Johannes was passing by and he said: "If these countries were armed with rifles, I could not have come here."

Finally, on the morning of 14 January [1874], at about nine o'clock, we have arrived to the royal camp. An hour before the king had sent balambaràs Desta with some 20 soldiers to receive me. As soon as I entered his great tukul he gave me his hand, laughing: he was delighted in  his face, he asked me how I was and if I had a good trip and if I had the tent, and I said that I had a small one and he immediately ordered to mount a large black tent for the baggage and for the servants and made me camp by him and ordered to give me the food in abundance according to the custom, and I then I went to my tent to rest. In the evening many of my friends of the court came to see me, some brought me a horn of tej, some a ram, according to the custom.

The Ieggiu were not yet subjugated, and the governor, Dedjatch Zagaje, had fled to the territory of Aussa. The camp that we had in Cobalafto was on the border between Ieggiu and Adal, almost all a plain until Aussa. On the third day, in the morning, the king sent to ask me if I wanted to go with him and I went. The night before the king had sent more than half of his troops to plunder. After about an hour and a half of march we climbed on the last mountain, from where you could see all the great plain of Adal: I was expecting to find a dry mountain, but instead it was a beautiful plateau with plenty of water and well cultivated; we advanced up to the last hill and the king put a carpet on the grass, took his binocular and looked towards the south-east, where there was a large expanse filled with smoke and live flames: the inhabitants had refused to submit, and the king had ordered looting. The king passed me his glass and said, "Look at that beautiful country! The villages are rich and beautiful but the people are evil." I replied: "Your Majesty, it is true, those are the most beautiful villages I have seen." And he said: "They are bad people but I will try to make them good."

This is because starting from the descent of Sanka they were all Muslims, and the king immediately began to build a church in the capital of Ieggiu named Woldia, where I would say is the largest market in Abyssinia: they come from Vuorabbabo Galla [Oromo], they bring ivory and coffee and much hide; they come from Aussa and from Adalit with large caravans followed only by women and they bring ivory, leather and gold. Talking about caravans and trade, in these parts all is carried by all women, because in the early days among men there was a continuous war of competition, so the women, to preserve their most expensive merchandise, have replaced the men.

The king made build a lot of churches and forced them to become Christians throughout the province of Ieggiu.

The day after we saw the soldiers of the king arrive, who had gone to plunder, with a large number of cattle: it was calculated, between oxen and camels, more than thirty thousand heads and other twenty thousand between goats and sheep, and many soldiers carried on the lance the mutilated piece, jumping and dancing: for them it was a big party. Of all the cattle of the looting they made three parts: one for the king, one for the chiefs and one for the soldiers.

Abacovis, the chief tributary of Azebu Galla and Zabri who had already submitted to King Johannes, came to bring his tribute in cattle, and the king received him with all the honors; but the next day the cattle receivers reported to the king that the oxen were very slim, and the king immediately gave orders to chain Abacovis and his subordinates leaders and immediately decided to make a raid into the region Azebu Galla.


The evening before the king had ordered to be prepared to lift the camp; we left the next morning early, going in the direction of northeast. At the end of the first stage, we camped already in the region Azebu Galla and we began to see the empty houses, we entered a vast plain, rich in vegetation and camped at the foot of the mountain Sedda. The slope of the mountain is flat and you could not walk due to grass and hay about 50 cm high. The day after the king lifted the camp and made another leg of about six hours in the same plain, and along the way we saw many villages without inhabitants, many crops at the foot of the hill, and the soldiers for their food they went hunting for "grain holes" *: the Abyssinians are strong hunters of the grain holes. Since the Galla [Oromo] have the malice to hide their grains for the majority in the fields themselves, and others in the bushes and someone around their homes or inside the homes, but I was amazed to see the ability of the Abyssinians to find the holes beating the ground with the butt of a rifle or with the butt of his spear on the ground where they suspect that there are the grain holes, which they never fail to find. For the greater part it consists of hard white, teff, beans, chickpeas and barley.

* They are dug wells that Ethiopian farmers used as their grain silos, to hide it from the robbery of the king's soldiers, but apparently with little success.


After two days we lifted the camp and in six hours of travel we arrived at Mai Sambuko, at the foot of the mountain of Ashanghi and opposite to the south-east, about twenty kilometers away, there was the mountain of Zabul; near the camp passed the Golima, a very important river that makes the wealth of the vast plains of Azebu Galla, very fertile volcanic soils: they only cultivate one hundredth part of the soil and it is the most populated part.

All Galla [Oromo] had fled and taken refuge in the region of Adalit, on the other side of Zabul, and the king put the wood to the neck of the chief Abacovis and some of his most important subordinates. This wood on the neck consists of a fork that takes the neck in the right position, with a large iron nail that closes the neck; the wood behind the neck is about 2.5 meters long, and a man behind lifts it up and carries it on his shoulders.

The king, seeing that the people did not want to surrender, ordered the burning of all villages. In the evening we saw the fire for a huge expanse: since almost all the houses were built of wood but very well done, the fierce flames were a marvelous sight. But some Galla warriors had not fled and were mounting the guard hidden in the woods around their villages, and many soldiers were killed and maimed.

Since the soldiers had found plenty of food in the "holes", the king made a stay of 15 days in the same camp of Mai Sambuko just because there was plenty of grain, hay and very good water; at the same time the king took the opportunity to explore the area and left with a good escort of soldiers, he went to visit the beautiful plateau of Zabul, where he decided later to put a governor to make it cultivated because he had found it a very fertile ground.

On his way back the king ordered to lift the camp and told me: "Why didn’t you come to see that beautiful plateau?" I replied: "Your majesty has left at night without calling me and, without permission, for me, it was not prudent. ", and he said: "If you had seen those beautiful forests, the plants are at least a hundred kand (which corresponds to about 60 meters), and I replied: "If they were close to Adwa it would be nice." And he asked, "How do you find these regions?" "Your Majesty, I find that they are rich regions."

The next day we lifted the camp and we marched to Ashanghi; already he had prepared the way for the big climb, at least 1500 meters, in a stage of about six hours we reached above the plateau of Offla Ashanghi, in another approximately five hours we arrived at the lake Ashanghi.

Before arriving at the camp, the king stopped at the lake to hunt ducks, abundant and of all qualities, and I came down from the mule and I did bring my shotgun; the king was far away hunting alone, and he was shooting three or four shots before killing a duck, and I saw that my every shot flew one into the water. We were alone; the king came up to me and said, "Let me see for a moment your gun." He picked it up and asked me, "With what do you load it?". I showed him the shot cartridges, and he said, "I shoot the ball, lend me your gun and your cartridges." He took my rifle: every shot killed one or two ducks, and then he said, "I thought you were better than me, now I see that with your rifle I too shoot well." And he asked me to give him the shot to put them into his cartridges and begged me to let me tell the story of Lake Ashanghi.

They say that in ancient times there was a city which then sank; it is curious that there are no fish: I think it is because of the large amount of ducks and water hens that destroy them.

Ashanghi is a small plateau surrounded by low mountains, and sparsely populated.


After fifteen days the king gave the order to remove the camp and to head to Mekele. Marching four or five hours a day we arrived in four days. Arrived in Mekele we saw a very large and very populated plain, to the north with a chain of low mountains. Over there the king heard the news that the Egyptians were preparing to declare war onto him. After eight days, the king began leaving for Adwa and I asked him to be able to leave for Adwa before him: since I had put the second throne in the church of Axum by order of the king, I asked to go first to prepare for its arrival. In this way I could leave early and I arrived at Adwa in two and a half days, while he arrived after eight days, when I had already left to Axum two days before.

After one day the king came to Axum because he already knew that he had no more time, he wanted to see the throne because he had heard it say by many that it was a marvel. Just arrived in the church he gave a salute to the altar without stopping and immediately went to the chapel of the throne; arrived at the foot of the stairs he stopped, he looked at the throne from the base to the top and remained "overwhelmed", he climbed the nine steps, came on the stage, himself with his second, and the ecceghiè stared well and then turned around and said, "Your Majesty, you have not seen this very great carved inscription." And he turned around, read it and looked at it well: I had done a picture carved in the same panel with the inscription of the king. Just got down he shook my hand and said: "May God preserve you health for many years." 'Similarly, your majesty." I replied.

Here is the inscription:

trono 01


The translation:

King of Kings Johannes – of the whole Ethiopia - the year of oguri 1873 *

* The literal transcription is: Negest Negus Yohannes - Za-Ityopya - amat Mahret 1873 - Giacomo Naretti Jtaliano - 1873


And the king went off at home, I saw him happy.

Some Dedjatch my friends told me that all the time during the meal he spoke of nothing but the beautiful works of Naretti and they said: "Many Europeans who came to our country have presented themselves as great men, but none has been able to do what Naretti has done in our country. " and the king said: " I am happy, and I really like the work that Naretti does, it is true that no one has ever been able to do what Naretti has done in our country, but I, although I like his work, I love Naretti especially for his frankness and his wise conduct, which is really a model for us: he knows how to be loved by everyone. "


Two days later we returned to Adwa.

The king, when walking down the street, usually he receives gifts: some brings a horn of tej, some brings a berillè of tej; halfway back to Adwa the king stopped his mule, asked for a berillè of tej, he drunk half and the other half he did give to me. The Abyssinians were surprised; they said that for them it was a sign of respect and honor.

Arrived at Adwa, the next day he ordered to give me a gift of one thousand thalers, and after eight days he decorated me with the Cross of the Order of Solomon, and all the other decorations of the court he had already given me before, and he gave me three hundred thalers to celebrate the decoration. Many leaders came to give me their congratulations and you had to give to drink to all, as is the custom of the country.


The war with Egypt

It arrived in September 1874 and people began talking about the military expedition that the governor Munzinger Pasha was about to do with three hundred soldiers and some workers and some shopkeeper, including a Frenchman of the company Tramier with 500 guns that they brought to the Shoa. Munzinger Pasha took the road to Anfilè precisely in September 1874.

In October, the French Consul De Sarzac announced to the king Johannes that he should bring the gifts ordered by the French government; at the same time we knew that Arachil * bey was already marching for Hamasien with two thousand soldiers and a few Arab workers. The French consul De Sarzac left with his gifts in October; once arrived in Godofelassi he met the Egyptian army encamped. Arachil Bey pointed out to the consul that it was not prudent to go forward, but he replied: "I have been commanded, and I have to go, I got permission." De Sarzac came to Adwa but half of his luggage was left behind because no one of the villagers wanted to carry it, so that the king had to send from Adwa to get them, and the consul had already placed his camp in Gassa Uorche, two hours from Adwa, the day before he presented the gifts to the king.

* Arachil Nubar, Egyptian governor of Massawa.

Already eight days before the king had beaten the vuacc by order of the abuna, who is the head of the religion, the Coptic bishop, and made "the publications": all Christians who do not take up the arms to defend themselves from the Muslims will be excommunicated.

De Sarzac asked me to go with him to Gassa Uorche to present to the king the gifts, whose cases were already in the camp of the king. Upon entering the tent, I saw the king confused, but with all this he did not fail to be kind. We opened the boxes: the gifts consisted of twelve guns chassepots * ordinance and a shotgun and four revolvers with their ammunitions.

* Chassepot: War rifle used by the French army during the period 1866-1874.

De Sarzac said to the king: "I hope that these few weapons could contribute to the victory over your enemy. 'The king gave his thanks and said "Let’s leave all to God's will. " And then he said to De Sarzac: "Now I cannot ensure you the safety of the road because it is occupied by the enemy, stay with Naretti at Adwa, if God gives me the luck I'll make you leave happy."

De Sarzac had already appeared twice before the king, and had been able to earn his love and esteem for his frankness, and I would say that not only in his way of speaking but also in its loyal look, there was nothing in him of "retention" in any way. At about eleven o'clock the king said goodbye and returned to Adwa; in his last greeting I saw his eyes were deep in thoughts.

Within three days all his people came to the king Johannes: I say “his people” and not “his soldiers” because it was every man, young or old, who could bring any weapon, and many - who had neither sword nor spear -brought a big stick. Since the Egyptian troops had already come down until Guda Guddi [or Guda Guda], the king placed his camp in Darò-Taclè near the Mareb, and Arachil bey sent the Naib Muhammed bey [of Archico] with twelve soldiers in escort to negotiate with the king, with a letter saying that the Egyptian government had rights until the Mareb. And since the Naib had always been the intermediary between the two governments, the king said to him: "You are now all on the side of the Egyptians." And had him put in chains and disarmed the twelve soldiers and had them bring on the mountain Dab Samcita by Adwa.

The next day Arachil bey * sent to the Mareb the Count Zichy with Colonel Stone ** with eight hundred men and eight guns.

* Zichy, Count William, Austrian officer, made an expedition to the Danakil in 1875. Then he joined the Egyptian expedition and died of wounds after the Battle of Gundet.

** Charles Stone, American, military adviser to the Khedive.

The next day the king sent a patrol on horseback who collided in the forest with an Egyptian patrol: a few rifle shots were fired, the Abyssinians retreated, but the Egyptians mutilated a dead Abyssinian and withdrew.

On 15 November 1874, in the morning, the king commanded to raise the camp and to march forward; the two Dedjatch that went marching ahead were Dedjatch Cabru and Dedjatch Maro, who were at the forefront and, being surprised by the cannon shots of the enemy, they turned around; behind them was ras Baireo, which forced them to march forward with the threat of shooting on them. In fact Dedjatch Maro did a bit of resistance and ras Baireo ordered to fire some rifle shot and Dedjatch Maro remained slightly wounded.

At that moment ras Baireo was in command, after the king, and despite the cannon and rifle shots he marched all his troops in front of him: the poor Egyptians had in the woods eight pieces of cannon they could not fire at the enemy in the open, and other soldiers scattered in the forest. The Abyssinian swooped in droves from all parts on the Sudanese soldiers, who were the best soldiers that Arachil bey had, with a stick, and they took the guns from their hands, because the Abyssinians in the forests do not know the danger, so in the combat, which lasted less than an hour, they were saved in seven, and five wounded, and about the same number of deaths on both sides. The King Johannes wanted to wait the next day to march against Arachil bey to Guda Guddi, about three hours away from Mareb, but ras Baireo said, "No, your majesty, it is necessary that we go forward and that we attack him today» . And so was agreed by the king.

So ras Baireo, the good soldier, marched forward with his strong troops, arrived at the camp of the brave Arachil bey who was entrenched in a valley full of trees and large blocks of stone, and had placed himself between two tall blocks of stone, entrenched only with some thorny wood, where was the General Staff with nearby a battalion on each side. Ras Baireo came and attacked them frontally, but many came and as many were killed. Finally after over an hour of fighting the troops of Ras Baireo were discouraged; the king arrived with his army and said, "But what are these Muslims?". He commanded to go on the attack with all the troops: they arrived en masse in the wooden trench: many fell dead, but the others were able to undo the wooden shelter of the trench and then in a short time they managed to enter the square in mass with the blades, and the poor Egyptians were soon massacred. Arachil bey, when he found himself lost, he raised the white flag, but the Abyssinians, because they do not know what the white flag means during a fight, made a complete destruction and mutilation. Arachil bey had a thousand and four hundred men; it has been calculated that the Ethiopians died in about four thousand.

The Abyssinian said, "Arachil bey was a good soldier, he defended himself well."

There were still about four hundred Egyptian soldiers at the camp of Godofelassi; two runners who came to take orders saw that Arachil bey and his body had been destroyed, and immediately returned to bring the sad news: the same evening the soldiers left the camp and went running to Massawa.

Immediately, the same evening, the king made two letters, one for me and one for the French consul, and asked me to deliver it immediately to the consul. The letter for me was of a few words, this was their essence: "God gave me the grace to win and completely destroy my Muslim enemy: be happy too because I know that you're my friend." In the letter to the consul roughly the same words were said, and added: "Now I am the master of the road, come straight to the camp and will make you a leave well."

De Sarzac in four days organized his caravan and went to Adwa to reach the king. Just arrived to Mareb, the camp of the poor dead Egyptians, since he was a friend of Count Zichy, who was commander of the corps of the Mareb, he looked for him among the dead, but after six days it was not possible to identify the bodies. Then De Sarzac, having learned that the king had gone for another road to get back to Adwa, he returned to Adwa too with his caravan, accompanied by his dragoman Wolcait Buru.

At a good hour away from Ratacle was a small hill, where the dragoman heard a very low voice calling all the time: "Monsieur De Sarzac”. Wolcait Buru stopped to listen to where such soft voice was coming from, and ended up finding the direction. He walked over and saw a man with a dog, which had no more the appearance of a creature, but Buru knew very well him and his dog, and immediately recognized that it was the Count Zichy. He immediately stopped the caravan, he called with a loud voice the consul and made him approach, De Sarzac came close to his unfortunate friend Count Zichy, who was no longer recognizable: all disfigured, had two saber blows on the head, one of which would show the skull open, and a spear blow had split up all the left side to the ear. In the right arm all the bone was smashed by a ball and two sword slashes, and the unfortunate was there for seven days with no relief in the sole company of his intelligent dog. So De Sarzac, seeing a beginning of worms in the wounds remained seven days without being washed and that still had all the crusts of dried blood, brought water first to refresh him, who could not speak for the thirst and the pain, then made him wash all wounds, and then disinfected with carbolic acid diluted with water and nourished him. Finally Zichy began to speak very clearly and De Sarzac made him lie down on his travel bed and carried him to the village of Ratacle and looked for a home expressly for him.

De Sarzac had with him a certain Giorgis, a Greek, and since he had to return to Adwa he left Giorgis to assist the poor man; he encouraged the Count and said, "I have to go back to the king, but I will return immediately, and get permission to make you bring to Massawa. "

De Sarzac came to Adwa one day before the king and told me all the fact, claiming that he had done his duty, but he had the doubt that the King Johannes would have taken it the wrong way, as it actually happened. De Sarzac in the first visit he made to the king upon his arrival told him what had happened and that, as a consul, he had the duty to provide assistance to Count Zichy and the king said to him, "All right." De Sarzac asked the king if he could bring the count up to Massawa and the king said to him that there was no need, that he would have his doctor take care of him, and then when he recovered, God willing, he would send him to Massawa. With his calm he did not show that he was offended, but since he had already prepared and decreed to give some great gifts as a reward for the gifts that the consul had brought, and the esteem that he had in him before, instead he dispatched him, we can say, with few gifts and of little value, and this was due to slanderous people, that is liqemekus Vuorche, who was the factotum of King Johannes, he was a double-face and was a traitor and it was a spy of the Egyptians.

Finally, De Sarzac gladly accepted the miserable gifts without saying anything, he returned to Massawa by passing again in Ratacle, where he visited the poor Count Zichy and found him rather aggravated, but perhaps with good care he could have survived, and he still left Giorgis, the Greek, with the means necessary to cure him.

Two days after De Sarzac had left, the king sent a balambaràs with about thirty men to take Zichy and escort him to Adwa, and I was already prepared to ask the king to put this on my expense. The soldiers lay him down on a algà, I came to know that they treated him quite well, they did not hurt him, but seeing himself taken by ugly faces, without respect, and be loaded on a algà so brutally, because they could not take revenge of their enemy, the poor unfortunate died after about two hours of travel, before ras Vuorche could arrive, so they buried him not far from the road, and also came his good dog, who already nobody knows how he managed not lose him in combat when about eight hundred men perished all apart from seven lucky, who, injured, were rescued by other Muslims.

The dog, which miraculously had found his master, and had accompanied him to the grave, after eight days that his master was buried was still on his tomb, next to die, too; by chance passed by the keeper of the king, agafari Chidano, with some soldiers, he saw this dog about to die, and, although the Abyssinians do not like dogs, he did take him away by force because naturally he would never move, and had to keep him attached for a long time because he always tried to return to his first master, and the Abyssinians were amazed.

A few months later I received a letter from the Austrian consul in Suez begging me to assemble a committee of four persons for the purpose of certifying the death of Count Zichy, the certification was made and shipped.


Meanwhile, I had begun an altar for the church of Chidane-Meret, which means grace, on the outskirts of Mekele, and meanwhile there was already talk about a great Egyptian military expedition. After a few days the king made a trip to Mekele and I had almost finished the altar; the king wrote to me that, as soon as the altar would be finished, I should bring it immediately to Mekele, so I came to know that on January 24, 1875 was the feast day of Chidane-Meret. I did bring in a hurry the altar to Mekele, of course dismantled into several pieces, and paying well the porters I obtained a miracle that no one would have believed: I went from Adwa to Mekele with loaded men in two days. I arrived in Mekele at nine o'clock in the evening and everyone was amazed, so I have experienced that, paying them well, you can employ the Abyssinians as any instrument because they are very resistant to fatigue. When I arrived in Mekele I went to visit my friend bageron Gebrselassie, the minister of the house of the king, who gave dinner and accommodation to me and to the whole caravan.

The next day early in the morning I went to the king. It was the day of the feast: he immediately asked me: "Do you have time to mount it today for the feast?", I replied: "Your Majesty, I made my men march on purpose in order to arrive on time, in one hour I will mount the altar. " and he, delighted, immediately ordered the men to bring it to the church and said: "Hurry up because ras Woregna is going to arrive for the function. " Finally, just arrived to the church, I saw that the altar had already been mounted one hour before in its place and I went back to the king. Which was already on the road to come to church, so I came back. The work was admired by the king and all.

The king, as he was to receive ras Woregna (sic) *, Prince of Gondar, went back straight home and I accompanied him. We had just entered the real tukul, and the arrival of the ras was announced and the king went out of the house, entered the das where was the great lunch (the das is a roof covered with fresh grass, about 50 meters long and 20 wide, and the place where the king is sitting is garnished above and around with red silk).

* His name was Woregna Wolde Sellassiè


Ras Woregna arrived and the king received him with full honor, he divided his troops into two rows in front of the entrance and ordered a discharge of guns and four cannon shots. Ras Woregna, as soon as he entered the das, at a distance of twenty meters he began to kiss the ground, and then once more approaching the king, so he went with all his officers, and the king commanded him to sit, while he sent out all officers and did bring lunch for three.

I said goodbye to the king and tried to sneak away, but the king made me go back to my place and there, behind the curtain where the king was on his high algà, on the ground at his right hand he did bring lunch for ras Woregna, and Wag shum Cabru assisted him as master of ceremonies, while my dining companion was bageron Gebrselassie, so that I stood in front of the king, on his side, and from time to time I looked at him and saw that while he was eating  he was glancing with a hostile eye to the ras; since I already knew a little bit the character and personality of King Johannes, I said to myself, "This ras will not last long."

The king, as he had already eaten (according to the court ceremonial the king eats alone), he was only drinking from time to time in our company, having a certain habit of drinking quite well [deleted: "the tej and was quite drunk"]. Finally our lunch ended. The king did raise the curtains and let in all the officers of ras, they were about fifty of them, he made them sit, on the ground of course as was the custom, on a layer of fresh grass with beautiful carpets on the grass, and as soon as all were sitting he did bring lunch, which consisted of a few dozen loaves, called massev, and some terracotta plates, where they put the meals, all carried over the head with a blanket of canvas or red cloth, and when they enter the trumpets are made to play, a sort of royal march, and when the meals arrive everybody stand up, with the priest (called the king’s ienès abbat, that is to say, the father confessor) who blesses the meals when it enters and thank God when they have finished lunch.

The dining room of the king, as I have already said, consists of: first course of raw meat, a servant holding a large piece of meat in his hand and the four or five that are located around the massev cut each his own piece and eat it with the chili sauce; main course roasted meat, which is called the tibs, and when they arrive to the roast meat they begin to drink and chat. And we finished his lunch in very good harmony; a lunch, that is party with invitation, is not honored unless someone drunk is carried away, they do take him away with some soldier, gently and with care.


Finished the party, after three days I asked the king for permission to return to Adwa, and the king said, "You will leave with me in a few days." It was the time when landed at Massawa the second Egyptian expedition, an army corps of 25,000 men.

After three days the king marched to Adwa, where we arrived in four days. Ras Woregna had brought with him only about five hundred men, for the most part officers, small and large scium of the villages; he had not arrived in time for the war of Gundet and Mareb, or he did not want, as it was rumored, with the excuse that he could not rally the troops in time. Finally, the king commanded ras Woregna of bringing his son with the whole army of the Amhara; ras Woregna sent at once to call his son, Dedjatch Negas, which from his father had received the command of all the Amhara. Meanwhile the Egyptians settled in Gura and lost no time in fortifying in three forts, and the king Johannes, seeing that Dedjatch Negas was not coming, he left with all the troops he could gather: from all over the province of Tigray and Simien, where ruled Dedjatch Garamaden (sic), who was made ras after the war.

The king left slowly, did a lot of turns, and encamped at Godofelassi, and before attacking the Egyptians he changed many positions.

In Adwa and in all villages only women were remaining, and some old men and priests, all the others had left to defend their country and their religion: it would be impossible to give a precise detail of the amount of fighters: I estimate roughly from eighty to ninety thousand, and I would say maybe a hundred thousand, but it is impossible to estimate even approximately the number of fighters.

Finally on March 26 [1875] in the morning early the king lifted the camp from Godofelassi and headed towards Gura, where the Egyptians had placed their camp with three fortresses behind them, and in front of them, at about a mile, they had a small stream: according to their calculation, since the king Johannes to arrive until Agora had marched about seven hours without finding water, the Egyptian command thought it well to make a sortie with about 14 000 people and occupy almost all the water available. They placed the body of their army in three columns and the General Staff behind a column; the Abyssinians, seeing their fortresses and how was placed the Egyptian army corps, attacked the front of the whole line and in the meantime the other two detachments surrounded the back on both sides; the poor Egyptians defended themselves on the front and the Abyssinians from behind the cut off their heads with blows of spear and stick; many Egyptians laid down the rifle praying to leave them in life because they were Christians.

The Egyptian staff barely had time to take refuge in the forts. The son of the viceroy Ismail for fear of not being safe in the fort put himself in a hole above the mountains, not far from the forts. The defeat of the fourteen thousand men was complete. Ras Alula took prisoners about four hundred men and while he was escorting them to the camp he received the news that his brother had been killed. He immediately gave orders to his soldiers to kill all the prisoners by order of the king, which was not true, and immediately the soldiers began to slaughter the poor Egyptians prisoners with blows of lance, sword and stick: the poor are kneeling on the ground saying that they were Christians and fathers with a family, but their prayers were good for nothing: they were all tread upon. The prisoners taken by other leaders were instead lucky: they were all safe and were returned after the peace treaty.

At the camp itself the king chose the liqemekus Vuorke to negotiate the peace with the Egyptian government, and had chosen the good one: he was already in agreement with the Egyptians to betray the King Johannes, so he could get immediately the release of prisoners bringing great gifts to the king and accepting for himself a lot of Egyptian pounds.

Poor Egyptians, they had miscalculated with their plan of war: they came out of the forts, prepared in three rows along a small stream leaving open and free the two shoulders, to be taken from behind: for the Abyssinians it was "a battle of fantasy."

For this reason the king Johannes became "proud as a good warrior." Many said, "Now we know how to beat the afrangi, they can come and we beat them all." After the fight the king encamped near Godofelassi; after fifteen days, having done a half-treaty, he retired to Adwa triumphing for the good fortune that he had. The day after the battle he had written me a letter with the good news of his victory, here's the text: "I send you this letter, blessed by God, be you too happy that God gave me the strength and luck to beat my enemy. "


The wedding of Naretti

It was already some time that I had promised to marry my current wife, I was just waiting the healing of my mother-in-law, who was ill, and that the king would be back from Adwa: being the winner of the war he honored me by attending my wedding. But unfortunately my mother-in-law was getting worse and worse. We were in the middle of Lent and Abyssinia is a great "dishonor" to marry in Lent, you would be excommunicated by the priests, and my poor mother-in-law, who was a woman of uncommon intelligence and being still in her full mental faculties, sent for the Aleka, the pastor of the church, and asked him to do her a big favor by telling him: "Please just allow the marriage of my daughter, I want to see my daughter married before I die.", and the parson granted it to her.

Immediately the priest came to see me and I saw him all out of breath and full of haste, and said, "You have promised to marry the daughter of the widow Zander” I answered yes. "Well, you have to marry her now," and to make him talk I told him, "But now it's Lent! “, He replied: "It does not matter, in these circumstances, God will grant permission for the mother is going to die and I will be the guarantor for you so that no one will scold you." Even I had thought that before him, and I was prepared when I saw the danger, and get her take it home even though I had not had the time to do the wedding, but as a precaution, fearing to displease the poor mother-in-law, I had not dared.

When I heard her wish, I decided immediately with great pleasure. Not having the time to do the marriage with the Coptic rite I called four Europeans, a  certain Simber (sic), German, and Baralon, French, Binder, German, and Sulamon (sic) Greek; immediately in the evening at about six o'clock, on April 14, 1876 I went to pick up my wife, of course quietly, without ceremony, but the good mother-in-law had prepared a small breakfast completely the European manner. That day the mother-in-law was better, but my wife didn’t come at the table for a regard for her mother who was ill: we had breakfast not far from the bed where the good mother-in-law was: it had been her own wish that we eat next to her. I occasionally looked at her and encouraged her, you could see that she "rejoiced with happiness." With my help, she got up sitting on the bed, a woman held her and said, "Go and eat," in a voice as if she was not ill. The companions said: "This happiness of her may bring by her recovery." We thought that she would not hear, but she said: "It 's the only consolation I feel before I die." Though we were seeing her happy, we were trying to do as quick as possible to not tire her. I got up and kissed her, saying: "Mom, take courage”; she clung to my neck kissing me and begging me to love her daughter. The women who kept company to my wife long ago told her to get ready to go away, but she said: "How can I abandon my mother?" She began to cry and her mother, who had heard, said, "My dear daughter, you go to your destiny, I know that you will be happy and contented." but she did not move. By dint of prayers from the women and the insistence of her mother, eventually she got up, knelt at the foot of the bed of her mother, asked her to forgive her if she had failed in something, then got up and started kissing her: she would not have stopped if they had not taken her from the arms of her mother.

The same days she was fourteen years and four months old.

So she was almost taken away and put on her mule, crying because she had to leave her mother seriously ill, while her mother was rather happy and content to see her daughter married.

From there we went to our house with a large following but in a deep silence; once at home we drank again and made a toast to the success of our marriage but with a little sadness, inviting our friends for a more favorable opportunity to "do fantasy" *. As soon as they all left my wife began to cry: I asked her to tell me what she had, why she was crying, by dint of prayers and encouragement she ended up confessing that she was crying only because she had left her dear mother almost dying. I managed with good words to calm her down a little, I left her more relaxed and I used all possible attentions not to disturb her.

* "Fantasy", an event during a joyful marriage: "hellish fun, made with a mixture of voices, hands beats, sounds of drums, extravagant movements and jumps ... The dreadful noise lasts until dawn." (L’Illustrazione Italiana, 1893, I semester) p.342.

The following day early I went to see the poor mother-in-law: she gave me a good morning as soon as I set foot in her room, before approaching, because they had warned her of my arrival; while I was doing my greetings, asking how she spent the night, she gave me a passionate look: you could see in her appearance that she was full of satisfaction and joy. Already for some time she was under treatment of Mr. [Dr.]. Schimper, an expert in botany and doctor in geology, since thirty-eight years in Abyssinia. Since he had spent a long time with my deceased father-in-law and he respected the family, he was the one who advised the marriage. I already knew the girl for several years, but she was too young and I never thought she would become my wife. When the old Schimper proposed her to me, I said she was too young for me, and he replied that they had made other weddings more "exaggerated" as far as the age is concerned, and insisted on telling me that he was sure she would make me good company and that she had "the most beautiful European instincts", which I some time before I had already remarked and I was fond of her: thus she became my beloved wife.

I prayed the friend Schimper to take care of my mother-in-law with all the possible regards and he said he would do whatever possible but it would be a miracle to save her.

Finally, the poor unfortunate, after thirteen days of our marriage, she ended her life at four am on the 14th March 1876. * My wife wept for eight days, but it must be said that in Abyssinia all friends and relatives have the costume, and for better say they consider it a duty to assist the family of the defunct night and day for eight days singing a mourning song in the form of prayer, recollecting from time to time the events of the life of the deceased. In the evening, they sing for a long time and then family and friends start eating and everyone has a duty to bring bread, beer, tej together with their food: in fact for eight days all bring plenty of food to the family of the dead.

* Obviously there is a contradiction between this date and the date of marriage, this is not the only contradiction of Naretti on dates, and it is understandable because, as we have already said, Naretti wrote his memories after a few years without the aid of notes . The time of death should be April 27, 1876 if it is correct that the marriage was on April 14.


On the twentieth of the same month [ie, April] came king Johannes victorious, "making a lot of fantasy": immediately a large mass was celebrated in the cathedral church of Sellassiè. I went to meet him and congratulate with him, and after a few days I told him that I had been forced to make hasty marriage because of the illness of my poor dead mother-in-law. He replied, "You have done well, now you can have the party." I waited a week, I saw delivered to me a hundred measures of honey, 12 sheep, six cows and berberiè and everything you need to celebrate, and also all the princes sent something.

So on Sunday the marriage was celebrated in the church of Sellassiè with the Coptic rite. I had already made cover all the court with green leaves and the king himself had sent men to kill cows, two hours after returning from the church the dinner was ready. They came to call me to go to my place: the court was full of people, no one knew where to put your feet to cross; the main dignitaries of the court had already arrived, of course bringing their music and all their following, and I asked the musicians to eat and drink and not to play, to be quiet and peaceful, and they gave me reason.

The bride, since according to their traditions and customs she is not allowed to celebrate with men, was served in her room with the other women invited. The Abyssinian is quick at eating but cannot stop drinking, the dinner lasted more than four hours and I, truly, was already tired. They finished then going away little by little, many could no longer stand up, almost all were drunk: the Abyssinian, if he is not filled to the eyes, he is not satisfied. The Abyssinian does not want so many dishes that are not in his tradition; to him it’s sufficient just having the brendò, raw meat, and the tibs, meat grilled over coals, and a dish very "berberized" with a very strong chili sauce.

Then the royal dignitaries went to visit the bride wishing her a long life and good company.

And in the end showed up a mass of poor crying "Sala midanit jellen", which means "by the Savior give us alms". I gave them a cow, two sheep and 150 loaves of injera: they all left happy shouting "Lali lali ". And here the matter is closed.


Johannes’ projects

After a month, the king went to Mekele and asked me to go with him to the make the doors of a church that had already been built by the Abyssinians. I began the work, and the king made a foray in the Azebo Galla, to the south-east. After three months he was back in Mekele, and two days later he called me he said: "Tomorrow, come with me to Sichet.", distant six hours of travel. The next day I left with him, we arrived at Sichet after a very sweet descent except for the last very steep part before reaching a vast plateau. We camped at the foot of the mountain near a river that ran a short distance and then it was lost in the distance and in the distance rose again.

The next day the king sent for me and told me: "I want to cultivate this plain, what do you say, what could we sow? Cotton would be suitable? "And I told him:" Your Majesty, I am not a farmer, I cannot say what will be more productive, but your majesty should cultivate different places, should sow cotton and all other seeds and then according to the experience of this will determine the type of seed that will give the best product. " And he answered me: "You're right, we will do so." And then I said: "Tomorrow go on top of the hill where there is that small square: I have already given the order to begin to make the walls, the house we will do later; take care to draw the boundary as wide as you can. "

The next day I went early on the small hill, where they were already Ras Gabre Kidan, Ras Alula, bituedded Gabre Mascal, Dedjatch Tassemma and other chiefs: I looked where I could draw the boundary containing the small platform and asked to bring pickets. Ras Alula, Ras Gabre Mascal and bituedded Kidan asked me to trace the wall boundaries closer so as to have less work, telling me that they had a few soldiers and the king wanted to leave early, I said, "And if the king finds faults in me?” They said, "He will not say anything against you." Finally I tried to reduce the measures and place all the pickets of the boundary of the city, and after a moment the king came, took a look and said, "You could not keep it wider on that side?" I replied, "Yes, your majesty, but that part is much lower, which means a lot of work and then the alignment is no longer correct and the court does not look good. " The king looked at him and said, "All right."

Then he asked if one could find the lime in those places, "because in these places there have never been houses: I want a small house made with lime, if it is to be found." I told him that I would go immediately in search of lime.

I greeted him and went to research; along the river I found three kinds of stones, two of which were true limestone: scattered stones that the river was carrying when it swelled. Now I make a pit 150 centimeters by 80 deep, and I made cut the wood, which was not missing there being there a forest, I put more than half on the bottom, I divided the stones in three qualities, for each quality I put outside of the pit an indication of the quality to know which was the best, I ended up filling the pit with wood and then set it in fire.

The fire lasted until the following day and then I left it all to cool a little. The king, who had seen the fire all night, immediately sent in the morning to ask if I managed, and I said that the stones were still in the fire and they had to leave them to cool slowly, and towards evening I would check them out and then I could tell if I guessed the right stone. At around four o’ clock the stones were still a little hot but I pulled them out of the pit and let cool a little while, then I took one for each quality and poured water over them: after a few seconds I saw a quality of stone swell and split, it became flour, it still remained a raw piece because it he had not undergone enough cooking, but it was enough to try the wonderful success of my test. So I took the flour on a plate, other cooked stones and their raw companions and brought everything to the king, who was waiting for me with devotion, there were the old ras Araya and Wag shum Cabro (sic) drinking tej; before I show the flour: they took it in hand, and the king asked me how I managed to pick it up so clean in the ashes. Then I did bring water and taken two other stones, poured the water over: after a while the king saw them swell and smoke and then saw them turn into flour. All three were amazed and said, "Go, go."

The king said, "Naretti he never says anything about what he can do, but he can everything." He said with a pleased air: "In qua de sasigno (that is to say, I celebrate your success); for us this found is not a small thing, it's more than three hundred eighty years that we have lost the invention to cook the lime, from the time of the Portuguese who had built the palace of Gondar and two bridges on the Blue Nile and the church of Axum. " So the king asked me if you could find a lot of that stone and I told him: "Your Majesty, in Mekele there is nothing but this stone, we will find in abundance."

He immediately sent me a large horn of his tej, the fine quality that he drinks, and a cow. The next day he invited me to go hunting with him in the wide plain, at different points the hay obstructed the march of the mules, the big animals had escaped because the ground had already been beaten by the soldiers a few days earlier and they had killed two elephants and four lions. We found a number of guinea fowl and partridges, and many hares, but in Abyssinia religion forbids eating them.

Returned to the camp the king we found a carrier of Ras Adal [of Gojjam] who wrote to him asking what he should do if he had to fight in case the King Menelik (see Biographies), which was close to Debre Tabor, had gone in Gojjam. The king immediately replied, saying: "Do not fight, put yourself in a safe place, I am coming." And he became serious, he would not speak to anyone.

The next day he lifted his camp, we went to Mekele and soon after he left for Adwa, and he spoke no more about lime or bricks. Once arrived in Adwa he did beat the vuacc: all soldiers and all those who could bear arms should be under arms within eight days and leave with him. After nine days he left for Mekele. The ecceghiè Comi (sic), who loved me,  told me, "I advise you not to stay in Mekele, because if we go away this place will not be safe any longer; if it goes wrong for us the Tal tal will come up and take all: ask the King's permission to leave for Adwa. "


I had finished the church, there were only four or five more days of work; the king arrived in Mekele and stayed there four days to spend the feast of the Trinity. The night before the departure, I went to visit Ras Alula and I told him that I had been advised not to stay in Mekele, and he told me: "You're right, come early tomorrow, we'll talk to the king." The next day I showed up early.

The king had this habit, when he pulls away, to have breakfast before leaving, they bring him all the berillè and the most delicate things, and to give to eat to his entourage, so I had to wait a bit: all officers and soldiers had already left early, there were only the king and his entourage. After a moment, I saw come out some young men, some with berillè, some with dishes, some with clothes and some with horns of tej: it was all taken away. A moment later Ras Alula went out and made me enter, the king sat on the grass, his room was empty: he greeted me, shook my hand and said, "Ras Alula has already told me everything; hurry to finish the Church of Chidane-Meret and then go down to Adwa, I will write to ras Baireo to provide you the materials to work at the church Abuna Tacle Haimanot. " Then he greeted me, sat on the mule and left.

King Menelik at that time had not yet submitted to the king Johannes.


Since I had already received a letter from my brother from Alexandria who said that my father was sick and wanted to see me before he died, and I also wanted to see my dear father one more time, forecasting a very serious war I did my calculation: to apply for a permit on the simple grounds of my father illness, and I decided to write immediately to the king, before he would depart: I made a beautiful letter, translated into Amharic by my wife. Here is the letter:

"Your Majesty, please forgive me if I bother you with my question at this so precious time, but your majesty will pardon me, and understand me: it is the only satisfaction and the only reward if your majesty will welcome my "august" question. I just got a letter from my brother from Alexandria, who writes to me that my dear father is sick and he prays to God to give him the grace to see me again before he dies, I hope in God that Your Majesty will grant me the permission to see again my dear father before he dies. If God gives me the health I swear to return in a maximum of ten months, because I love your majesty as my father. "

This letter arrived three days after the departure of the king from Mekele to the camp of Dissat, at the foot of the mountain of Simien, after one stage in the Tekezé River, the shortest route to arrive to Debre Tabor, and the soldiers, according to their use and regulation, pass through the road that they like, as long as they arrive on time.

Finally the king, received my letter, he began to read it and think, read it again and then told the people around him: "Bageron Naretti begs me, for the love of God, to give him permission to go and see one more time his father, and  assures me and vows to return in ten months, what should I do? If they do not give him permission he will not love me anymore, he will be offended with me. Naretti so far has always told me the truth." Immediately sent for the secretary and responded favorably to my question by writing: "How can I deny you permission, given the way in which you wrote to me, to see your father again? If you love me as you love your father I'm sure you will return, God knows it. I write as well to ras Baireo to give you another thousand thalers for your travel: go and come back soon, and may God be with you. "

Since the day of departure he had already ordered the governor batta Agos to give me one thousand thalers in Mekele, as soon as I received the letter I sent to inform the governor to be ready to give me the money because I had finished the church and I was about to leave; and he immediately came because he did not know anything yet, and he asked me, "What, are you leaving?" "Yes" "But - he said - I will not let you go because the king did not tell me anything." I showed him the letter and he said "The king is crazy to give you permission to leave, I'm sorry, but I cannot let you go until I have received the order of the king, I'm going to write him now."

In the moment that the word had spread among my servants and workers I was going to leave with the king's permission on all sides I was hearing people cry, but I was happy and satisfied, and my wife sizzled with happiness and said to the servants: "But do not cry, we shall be back soon. ", but the poor would not believe it.

As I was preparing for departure, after five days came the reply to the governor not only to let me go but to take me "in honor" until Adwa; after two days I was ready to leave, and the night before the governor brought me one thousand thalers .

The following day, at about ten o'clock, we left for Adwa with all the servants of the house; after a leg of about four hours we stopped at Geba, where flows a very large river with many fish, so we camped in Gheralta, on the crest of mountain. We already knew that the day after we had to descend a very steep mountain for about an hour; then come the small valleys, mounts and descends for about three hours to get out after five hours. We camped in Galabata, a small plain with a village far away from the water; we lifted the camp and camped in Uari, a vast fertile plain but after the rains very subject to fevers so that the inhabitants dwell in the high on the surrounding mountains. In the middle of the plain flows a very important river but for two or three months in the summer it is almost dry. We lifted the camp, in Tedia we rested for about two hours and then we camped in Zune, in a very wide plain, after climbing the mountain. We lifted the camp and then we camped at Kabata Tacle Haimanot at about two hours from Adwa, where we arrived the next day early in the morning, and immediately I went to pay a visit to ras Baireo, really a friend of mine who admired me very much. As soon as I told him that I had permission from the king he made a gesture of "strong complaint" saying, "What did His Majesty do? Because he loves you he did not dare to refuse permission, but I cannot let you go if you do not receive the order of the king. " And I showed him the letter, he said: "All right, but I also want an order from the king to let you go."

He had been ordered to give me one thousand thalers and take me up to Saganeiti, and from there the chiefs of Assaorta had to accompany me until Archico, but did not want to say so: he tried by all means to stop me from leaving. Since I knew that he was a friend of the head of the church of Axum, the nebrid * Yasu, I sent him a message; at ten o'clock the next day I saw him arrive, greeted him, and them compliments were abundant: "How are you, my son?” He took a nice cow and honey and then said: "I have heard a bad news."

* Nebrid: head of the church of St. Mary in Axum and guardian of the Ark of Tabot.

He had come with my friend, the father Giacaria [Zechariah], who had made his ecclesiastical studies in Rome for seven years, Abyssinian, he spoke and wrote not only Italian but also French. The nebrid told me: "Look, the king would be very glad if you wait another month because I know he wants to entrust you some work - and he asked me to listen to him and told me - I know about the money that the King has ordered to give you, this is little for you, he will give you a lot more. "and I said," Thank you very much but I cannot wait because if I am late, maybe I'll never see my father, which is what I care about more than anything. " He got up, knelt down and took my hand, holding it and begging, for the love of God, to listen to him and to stay a month. I already knew their desire for me to stay another month, and they tried to hold me with their prayers and good and many promises; in the end I burst out and ended up saying that I prayed them for God's sake, to let me go as soon as possible to be able to see again my dear father before he died, and I vowed to return as soon as possible, so the nebrid took the cross in his hand, he made me put my hand on it and asked me to promise that I would come back, and as I found myself rather forced I made a sign of oath according to their use. And nebrid was satisfied.

Immediately I went to ras Baireo and told him the facts, I told him that we were agreed, and he asked me, "So you want to leave really?" "Yes - I said - but I assure you that I will return as soon as possible." So now he made bring to me the thousand thalers and asked me when I would be leaving; I told him in four or five days, because I had to buy the typical objects of the country to "accommodate" my big family.

In the meantime, I received a letter from the king with all the greetings as usual, telling me: "If you have not yet left, leave, and return soon; grazmac Menelik has escaped from my country."

"Grazmac" is less than "Dedjatch", it would be like saying a colonel. This was a sign of disrespect.

I later learned from a courier that King Menelik, entered in Gojjam, plundered and massacred a big village for revenge against the leader of the village. His wife Bafana [see Biographies], which had her own armed guard, seeing that her husband had made friends with the widow of Ras Desta, went to Menelik and since at that time there was a strong smallpox epidemic she took the opportunity to tell him that she was afraid and begged him to let her go accompanied by his soldiers until the border, and then she would let the soldiers return and would continue alone with her guard, and the king Menelik granted it. She left, passed the border and did let her whole corps continue, she arrived to Ankober, she gave the order to bring down the prisoners who were on the mountain and proclaimed that King Menelik had died and that she was the queen. The governor of Menelik did not believe her, without arousing suspicion he retired with his troops in another village; she saw it, and he sent for him, but he refused, saying that the king Menelik was not dead. She went to beat him but she was defeated and taken prisoner. In the meantime, she had already written to the king Johannes that she wanted to make peace and friendship, but the king Johannes replied that he did not want to deal with women, for all this the king Menelik, having learned all this bad news, was forced to go back.


The return to Egypt

Departure from Adwa December 26, 1877.

The day before there was a great plague of locusts, who came from afar;  at about two o'clock you could not see neither the sun nor the sky. At about five o'clock, as the sun set, they began to go down. Little by little, as soon as the sun sets, the ground and the leaves of the plants large and small were no longer visible.

The next day early in the morning I loaded the mules and made the caravan leave as soon as possible, but the day we leave there are many tasks to make everybody happy: some come to greet and wish us a good journey, some to accompany us for a good part of the way, some weep. Finally, at about eight o'clock we started to make the planned leg, but the mules were struggling to move forward because the ground was full of grasshoppers, partly death and partly exhausted. And to top it after four or five months came a strong typhus epidemic together with great misery, so many died of starvation and were forced to leave the Gojjam and march in forced stages to reach Ankober.

But after my departure the news stopped. I went to do my goodbye, to bring my greetings to the good friend ras Baireo: he shook my hand and kissed it, as tears fell from his eyes, he saddled his mule to come and take me for a little way, but I asked him, in the name of the king, to stay because there was no need, and thanked him for so much respect and kindness shown to me; he sent his second grazmac to accompany me until Akkele Guzay. And beyond the governor gave me an escort until Saganeiti where at the Catholic mission I found a friend, father Diflo [Duflot], who received us and treated us as a friend and let us settle in his room. At dinner we found another German missionary, Father Flover, so kind, too, and I saw a table laid, for which I was not used any more for some time. We sat my wife and me, after a moment, after taking the vermouth, the father Flover got up and we rose to the prayer of God's providence and then we sat down to table. I had an angel’s appetite and my wife too; after the delicious lunch we started talking a little, and then, since we were tired, we went to bed.

The next day early in the morning we were invited to Mass and after we visited the church and the tomb of the first bishop Jacobis, the founder of all the churches [Catholic]: starting from Massawa, Monkorer, Saganeiti, Akkele Guzay, Lagame, Adwa, he adapted a house as church and in Gondar he built a church of which some traces still exist. But the king Johannes has made evacuate all of them, except Monkorer and Saganeiti and has allowed to preach Christianity only in Muslim countries.

We thanked at length the good fathers and left for Massawa, along with the men of the chief of Saganeiti. In three stages we reached Moncullo marching with comfort and my wife could not wait to meet her sister Trunesh: she had not seen her for about seven years, and I still had not had the pleasure to meet her. The next day early in the morning, as we were about to leave for Massawa, we saw her coming and I saw my wife run and cling to her neck: the kisses lasted a good time, and then they parted. With her sister we kissed twice: once I saw her I had recognized her given the great resemblance with my wife.

From there we left for Massawa and went to her house, I found my brother-in-law [Wolkait Buru] but we had already met on the first day that I entered in Abyssinia because he was managing director of the consulate of France at the time of Munzinger, and he has always been the dragoman of all British and French missions, he is an Abyssinian who speaks English, French, Arabic, Turkish and a little Italian: he had made his studies in Malta and his house was mine.

The next day the governor of Massawa, Amet bey, sent for me and asked if I had any commission from the King Johannes, and I said no, I had not wanted to charge myself with any commission and I had just asked permission to take a trip to see my relatives. It was hard to believe, but the postmaster, Mr. Acabibi, convinced him, and he gave me permission to leave. I did it quickly because the next day the postal boat to Suez was leaving, so during the day was very busy organizing all the servants for their return home.

The next day at about nine o'clock we boarded: we struggled to break away from the servants who were sorry for our departure. At the end we departed from them and at about ten o'clock the steam lifted the anchor. We arrived at Suakin, the postmaster was Mr. John Flowers, who, as we stopped for a day and a half, invited me to lunch. During the day, walking around Suakin, in the house of a Greek liquor merchant I became acquainted with, Mr. Callisto Legnani, very nice, he told us that he came from Khartoum but could not leave immediately because he still had business to attend: a very kind young but had a defect, to speak too fast so I had to be careful to understand him.

The next day we left for Jeddah and after a good day's journey we arrived in the Muslim holy city where it was hard to find a glass of liquor or a glass of wine because forbidden by the Koran, but some Greek sold it in secret; the capital of the flies: I've never seen another country with so many flies, perhaps for the reason that the Arabs eat everything sweet.

The next day at eight o'clock we left for Suez, and the next day, before reaching the Gulf, in the Strait of Suez there was a bad storm: the rain fell, it looked like a flood. We could see behind us, at the distance of about two kilometers, a tornado, a high water tower that rose from the sea, and the captain, seeing the danger, not only immediately gave orders to the chief engineer to bring on the machine at full force despite the fact that the sea was bad, but also we saw at once all the sailors climbing the shafts to stretch the sails because if the tornado had reached us we would have been lost. Fortunately the wind changed direction.

After four days from Jeddah we arrived in Suez; we went to stay at the Hotel des Colonies, and there we learned that the heavy rains had flooded the entire country from Ismailia to Suez, and the great watercourses had taken away about five kilometers of track, so that we had to wait five days. Every day they said it was repaired but it never finished, so we decided to go with the postal boat up to Ismailia; from there to Alexandria the railroad was not damaged.

We arrived at Ismailia on the first day of the year 1878 *. I had already telegraphed to my brother my arrival in Alexandria, where we arrived at 9:40; from the car I saw my dear brother who was walking with some friends, watching out to see us. I got out of the car and I said to my wife: "Here is my brother." As soon as he saw me he clung to kiss me, not letting me go any more and after I took him to the car to let him know my wife; he gave her two or three kisses with joy. I withdrew my journey trunks with the friend Demitri; the coaches were already prepared and we left for our house on the Hay Square; already dinner was prepared by Madame Fortunata and her husband Clement Crassi who lived in our house. After dinner we made small talk and then, being tired, we went to sleep.

* The date does not look right. Naretti left Adwa December 26, 1877 and it is not possible that he arrived at Ismailia in just five days, but he must have taken at least three weeks.

The next day as soon as we got up I asked my brother news of his father and saw that he did not answer, the tears came to his eyes so immediately I realized that he was dead; and he clung to my neck to give me courage, saying: "We are not sure to arrive at his age." After I recovered for the loss of our dear father I entered the room where there was the bed of my very dear mother, who had died six years before, I hugged the bed, and it was a very sad day for me.

During the day they were friends coming to comfort me, my good and courageous wife said to me: "I am younger than you and yet I am already without father and mother, now let us live happily together until God will leave us."

After a few days I asked my brother how was going the business of the house in homeland and if the sister was right: he was struggling to tell me everything. I asked him, "Do not hesitate, for there are sorrows that cannot be larger than the ones I just had." He said, "We have lost the case with the Bronzi *." And I answered him, "Enough, do not bother about this, everything will accommodate with health." So I thought, "What I'm going to do now in my home country? I have better get back to my place in a few months. "

* Probably people belonging to the family Bronzo, neighbors of the mother.

Meanwhile arrived  the Commendatore De Martino from Cairo; since he knew me even before, he sent a janissary to ask me to go and see him about six o'clock at the Hotel d'Europe. I went and immediately he shook my hand, made me sit beside him on the couch, and gently asked me how I had spent my life in Abyssinia with King Johannes and what was said about the Egyptian war; I told him naturally everything and since I had already received a letter from my brother-in-law from Massawa saying that King Menelik had not made war and had submitted to King Johannes, I told him that Johannes was the king who ruled the whole of Ethiopia. He gave me his congratulations for my behavior, for the trust and confidence that I could gather with that king and that people, and said, "Before you go please come to see me." I promised him that I would not fail, we parted and I came away.


In Jerusalem

Since my wife had her brother [Macdalla Cassa Zander - see Genealogies] at the college of Jerusalem, after the return of the British after the death of Tewodros in 1868, and wanted to see her brother, from whom she had separated when she was five years old, we decided to make a trip to Jerusalem. We left with a vapor of French Postal Service, we made a stop of about four hours in Port Said, we arrived in Jaffa the next evening at about four o'clock. We were at least fifty pilgrims, American, Spanish, French and four Italians: just arrived in the harbor we saw the friars who came by boat to receive the pilgrims, so that  we "put ourselves in the number."

As the convent touched the harbor, just landed they kindly made us enter the convent and gave us a beautiful accommodation and then invited us to come down immediately, they prepared a breakfast saying: "Dinner is in three hours time and maybe you need to "break the crust” and drink a glass of wine”. We gladly accepted because the sea was bad and we could not eat.

After we went to visit the city: all Muslim, with houses dating perhaps over a thousand years and the dirty streets; the European neighborhoods were detached from the city by more than a kilometer: here lived the consuls and some shopkeeper, the houses were very beautiful with lovely gardens full of lemon and orange trees.

We returned home, and in the meantime we had hired a coach for four to go the next day in Jerusalem, paying an Egyptian Pound per person: they had taken advantage because it was Holy Week, there were many pilgrims and coaches were in high demand. We returned to the convent where we found a good dinner ready, we had dinner and after a chat we went to sleep.

The next day early in the morning we left for Jerusalem, arrived at the convent of Ramleh, the horses were tired. We took a short rest and a light breakfast, we left after an hour, we crossed a large plain, and after two hours we were at the foot of the mountains and the horses took another rest for a good hour. There were a small Turkish restaurant and a Turkish Guard station of about twenty men, where from time to time there was a clash of thieves who assaulted the caravans; we drank once with a crust of Turkish bread and then we left. Immediately appeared a steep climb, we three men had to get out of the coach and my wife stayed on it; it began to rain, the coach was uncovered but we went on, from time to time in the climbing we had to get down from the coach. Before arriving in Jerusalem it had become so dark that one could not see any more and move forward, it was raining cats and dogs, an exhausted horse did not want to go any further and we were wet like rats coming out of the water. Finally, we arrived over a plateau from which there was only a gentle descent, the horses forced by lashes have gone ahead. Arrived in the square outside the fortifications of the city, with some light in the dark, we took a guide to take us to "new house." Arrived here after five minutes we were immediately well received: they made to go into a small living room, then arrived the Father Director of the convent and asked the passport; I gave it to him and immediately he ordered to the headwaiter the room number 17 for me and my wife.

We entered a spacious room with two beds, curtains, nothing was missing, to be compared with a first-class hotel. Immediately the waiter came to tell us that our two suitcases, sent by the Director of the convent of Jaffa, had already arrived before us and immediately they brought them to us to change because we were wet "to the eyes"; then they brought us coffee and then, after half an hour, about nine o'clock, we were invited to dinner. It was the Thursday of Holy Week, but it took us a good stew and a good fat soup and other two dishes, a wonderful dinner, and then came the Father, he recited the prayer and said: "We only allow to eat meat the travelers who are tired.", so I found them very human, and I did not think that they even put me to sleep in the same room with my wife, they did not oppose any difficulty.

The next day, since it was Good Friday, we went to church and after visiting the whole sanctuary we went home and about ten o'clock we had a good breakfast, and my wife asked me to hurry to visit her brother. So at about three o'clock we went to the Prussian college, about a mile outside the city. We entered a large college but not finished yet, and we asked the concierge if we could see the manager, and immediately he made us go up to the first floor and introduced us to the director, who spoke better French than Italian, and to which I asked if we could see my brother-in-law Macdalla Cassa Zander, he looks at my wife and says, "She looks entirely like her brother." He summoned him and asked to my wife not to identify herself immediately. He arrived with another partner, my wife recognized him immediately, but he asked, "What do these gentlemen want?" My wife spoke to him in Amharic: "Do you not know me?” He looked at her, he said no, but then my wife clung to his neck and kissed him, saying, "Do not you recognize your sister?". He was to forgive because they had parted when she was five and he was seven years old. So I could get him a permit to stay for a few days with us.

On the Monday after Easter day we rented two horses and left for Bethlehem, we visited all the holy places and the cave where Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary, and visited this curious country: quite certainly the population is Turkish but almost half is Christian . The plains are narrow, the soil infertile, they sow a bit of wheat and barley, in some plains the main crop is olives, starting from Jerusalem to Bethlehem there are about four hours travelling.

The next day, despite being well housed and well treated in the convent, we returned to Jerusalem to our room, and we made another sortie to see Mount Sinai * where Jesus Christ after death, ascended into heaven, and there we saw the Lake Jordan **, almost close, but I did not go see it because I was rather in a hurry to go back. Finally in all we stopped around ten days although one could remain in the convent for a month, eat and drink without cost or expenditure, except what each could give according to his good heart: who wants can give alms to the cashier of the convent, and also can give money to the waiters who are not paid and benefit only from the tips of the passengers. The next day we parted from brother-in-law and left for Jaffa, still finding the same coach. The next day we started with a steamer of the Austrian Company of "Loit" [Lloyd?] towards Alexandria: I had already communicated to my brother the day I would arrive. Arriving at the port I saw my brother in a boat coming to meet us: we landed, we took a coach and here we are at home in the Hay Square.

* Naretti confuses the Mount Sinai with the Mount of Olives.

** The Dead Sea.

Since my brother had filed a commercial lawsuit against Virtesten, a farmer, for the seeds of Musa Ensete * which I had shipped (I was the first to introduce in Europe the beautiful plants that are now much sought after), but the purchaser, who knew the value, had cheated my brother; it was with me he had to deal because I had a letter saying to send him the seeds at any cost, so, being the cause in my name, I had to stay a few more months. It would have been better to leave because I have lost even the court expenses: with cheaters it is difficult to win, with his cheating he gained about fifty thousand lire but he died some time later.

* Musa Ensete, plant of the genus of Musacee, they belong to the banana trees, specific to Abyssinia and Eritrea, of which the Abyssinians, especially the Oromo, eat the roots, but all the parts of the plant are used in one way or in another.


The return to Ethiopia

Seven months had passed when I decided to leave, since my brother Giuseppe for some time told me that he wanted a change of air for his health, and I had already spoken to the king, who had told me that if he came he would be happy, so my brother decided happily to go with me and my wife.

We rented our house to our friend Recerdune Battista, agreed on eight hundred lire a year with the condition that he keeps in custody our furniture and all the tools and carpenter benches. I left for Cairo to greet the Commendatore De Martino: I found him unwell, he had pain in the eyes, and said, "Naretti, in case the governor of Massawa raised any difficulty to let you go on, please send me a letter immediately and I will fix everything."

Having my wife together we stopped four days to show her all the rarity of Cairo. We went down to the bottom of the Joseph’s well, about five hundred steps, where they are working continuously to pull water with buckets, and being very high an intermediate stage was made in the middle of the well. They pull so much water that one could almost run a mill with it. The next day we went to visit the museum, it is not rich of many objects, but those few are the rarest antiques that one could see. Many bodies [mummies] have been removed from inside the coffers; coffers in single piece, with their cover, as if they were a box, with their head carved in hard stone, at least forty centimeters thick. The bodies, mummies, standing, wrapped with many canvas ligatures, some of whom one could see the feet, had a height of about two meters, so you could see that even in the early days the science of embalming and preservation of human flesh was already advanced. Of all the rarities then I found the jewelry: bracelets, rings, necklaces and ornaments for women, and I saw that the style coincided very closely to the style that nowadays still exists in all of Ethiopia, even when they try to do modern things you can still see the ancient styles.


And we returned to Alexandria. We had already prepared everything, and after six days, after arranging all our household belongings and said goodbye to all my friends, including our good and gracious consul of Alexandria, Del Musa, so that he lent himself to accommodate all my little business, we departed from Alexandria to Suez on July 8 [1878] with my brother. The steam was leaving on the tenth; we boarded our stuff and the next day at about ten o'clock I embarked myself with my brave wife and my brother. We arrived at Suakin, from Suakin to Jeddah, from Jeddah we arrived at Massawa in twelve days of crossing.

Just landed I spoke with my brother-in-law Buru, who told me that the roads were barred because ras Baireo, the governor of Tigray, had been beaten and defeated, killed him and many of his officers, very few had escaped, by the rebel Ras Wolde Michael and that the king Johannes was in Ieggiu. With this rebel I used to be a friend, but then we had a quarrel: I had accused him that he was getting ready to rebel, so he hated me to death. The king was informed that I was right, so I wrote a letter to King Johannes saying that I had arrived in Massawa with my wife and my brother, who were in good health, and I asked what to do about the road being closed, "Already your Majesty knows that I am not a friend of Ras Wolde Michael, so I pray your majesty to write me what I should do, whether I have to go back and wait until the way is clear. " I made the carrier leave by way of Senafe and had the immediate response in 32 days. You could not get an answer in less time and this could not give a greater satisfaction. Here are the main words of the letter:

"I have received your letter and I thanked God that you came up to Massawa with your wife and your brother in good health, now I end up knowing that you're my friend, you have lost your father and you'll find another, only so far my officers have prevented me from satisfying you according to your merits. Remain in Massawa, please, till I write you to come. I have also written to your brother, who is with you: I do not know him yet, but I think he is as good as you, and he will be well received. "

So my brother, receiving a letter from the king, became brave and happy.

Therefore, seeing that it was a matter of spending a few months in Massawa during the period of greatest heat, a certain Marco, I already knew him for some time, offered me his house and to live together as a family; at that moment there was no talk of hotels and even taverns, there was hardly a Greek bakery that made the bread as best as they could, and the Greek liqueur dealers were beginning to make some progress.

While we were waiting we received a newspaper that spoke of an expedition, entitled Commercial Exploration, formed by Manfredo Camperio with Carlo Erba President directed to the Shoa.

We spent the blessed month of August, which was like a furnace, the temperature rose up to 46-48 degrees Celsius, and the greatest suffering was caused by the hyenas who would not allow us to sleep.

In mid-September we began to breathe. Meanwhile I had received a letter from the king Johannes with many compliments, asking how we spent the summer, saying he felt sorry for him because maybe we suffered a lot the heat because of him, to have patience, "it won’t take long, I will write you to come, things with Ras Wolde Michael are almost accommodated and if you need some help write me immediately." I answered him with another very nice letter thanking him, which so far I was not in need, "when I need I will ask: now I only ask that God preserves the health of your majesty and ours to be able to rejoin us."

The king was always in Ieggiu on top of a mountain almost bordering on Uollo Galla [Oromo] because it had begun a strong typhus epidemic: it began in July [1878] at Adwa and it spread throughout the Tigray; it was fortunate for us not being able to get in, and it was also the reason why the king did not hurry to make us come back, to wait until the end of the epidemic. About fifteen of the Abyssinians who arrived in Massawa died, affected by the disease but fortunately none of the natives of Massawa was hit.


The encounter with the Matteucci expedition

October [1878] came, and one morning my brother Giuseppe saw the Egyptian postal, I was a little unwell and my brother went to see if there was any letter for us: he found the chief mailman Acabibi who told him: "six gentlemen arrived and they are looking for your brother.”; he found them and brought them to our house.

I was half sick but seeing myself surrounded by those Gentlemen, I immediately recovered. Their leader, Pellegrino Matteucci (see Biographies), handed me a letter from the Commendatore De Martino and another from the consul in Alexandria, Del Musa, and introduced me to the distinguished traveler Mr. Pippo Vigoni and the captain Ferrari (see Biographies), saying that the two men had come just to make a hunting trip; he also introduced me to the companions of the expedition: Gustavo Bianchi (see Biographies), Tagliabue, Legnani and Francesco Filippini. We talked a little about the situation in which was currently Abyssinia and I informed them that it was not possible to leave until the king had called us. We made a toast and postponed the conclusions for the next day.

I began to read the letters of recommendation, which were the same. That of the comm. De Martino said: "My dear Naretti, please strongly support this expedition by King Johannes, you can rest assured that they will not meddle either in politics or religion but they go only for commercial purposes, and I shall be grateful. De Martino. "

The next day I sent to call Pellegrino Matteucci, I took him aside and explained to him the opinion and policy of King Johannes, but here it would be too long to report the whole speech; I say only that the king did not like hearing about the expedition of the Marquis Antinori (see Biographies) entered the Shoa in 1872, so I made my statement to the chief Matteucci saying, "Dear, I know that this expedition was destined for the Shoa: if you assure me not to talk about it for the time being with the king Johannes and not to mention the expedition of the Marquis Antinori, try only to make some commercial deal and to get to know his country, I will charge myself to do in a way, that you will be well received, and I am sure to succeed." Mr. Matteucci shook my hand and said, "Dear Naretti, I swear that I will not speak about the Antinori expedition to the king Johannes: I understand everything, you're right."

So we went home and he showed me the letter in Amharic already prepared in the Coptic convent in Cairo; we gave it to my wife to read, it was very good, it spoke only of commercial purposes and of the pleasure to become acquainted with the king. So I made my own presentation letter and added: "Majesty, I got six of my friends traders who want to make friends with your majesty, and I can assure you that these gentlemen will not meddle in politics and religion."

We sent the courier immediately to the king, who had not moved from his camp.

After a few days waiting, Vigoni and Ferrari decided to do a hunting trip until Keren; the road was clear, they went and returned after ten or twelve days, happy with the trip made.

Meanwhile the Christmas holidays were approaching, the good Vigoni began to get bored and to say that the journey was getting too long, that he was in a hurry, and the good Ferrari occasionally was making a quick trip to hunt.

Meanwhile the feast of Christmas [1878] was approaching, the complete expedition gathered for a banquet, to which were invited the governor, the chief of the Post Office Acabibi, a person so kind, the French Consul Monsieur Carbonnel, a good man who always wanted to talk about himself constantly, and then some other friend and my landlord Marco. It succeeded very well, taking into account the conditions: a splendid banquet, the room decorated with flags and with a final toast: Long live Italy! Matteucci all the time was taking wine from the coffers saying, "This is an impediment while on the road." Finally, the party was held cheerfully. What to do? It was the first of the year [1879], it was necessary to celebrate it well, we agreed my brother and I and the landlord, who had been invited: we did the same invitation to the people who were there at the Christmas party. And thus we passed also the New Year’s Eve very well. But the good Vigoni was on tenterhooks because things were going on for too long and he kept saying "Mamma Mia!"

Finally after a few days the courier of the king arrived with the letter telling me: "Now you can come without fear." But he had not yet received the letter of the expedition, nor it was speaking about it, but I said to the gentlemen, "Never mind, we shall leave all together, the letter of invitation will not fail, we will receive it." Even before we had sent my servants to Adwa to buy the riding mules, recommending to bring together my riding and cargo mules, and while we were preparing the caravan of camels with much trouble and many difficulties due to those cowards of camel drivers, the riding mules arrived for everyone.

Towards the end of January [1879] all was arranged and we were ready to leave, on February the 2nd we started our caravan for Moncullo, having already decided to make a short stop to take the time to say goodbye to all the friends and organize well the caravan. When everything was already ready, the question jumped out that Vigoni and Ferrari wanted to bring the travel beds with an extra small tent, while Matteucci was saying that there was no need of beds and not even of the extra tent because it was just a nuisance. I tried to make him understand that the travel beds were a great need, essential for a good traveler, but there was no way to change the mind of that physician head of mission; for me and for my two companions instead he allowed us to bring not only the bed but the mattress if it was possible to find a camel strong enough; no matter how much you bring, in those countries it is never enough because it lacks everything.

We started the caravan of the merchandises with the camels, people were screaming from all over the places, but they ended up eventually by leaving. While we were chatting we proceeded by foot on the dam to greet all the friends and the crowd and left for Moncullo; Acabibi and other friends followed us up to the first station of Moncullo where we found the house already prepared for us. We established our camp and a quick dinner was prepared, "who accomplished the pleasure of all", and made a toast to the health of those who were departing and of those who were remaining, with the hope in the providence to meet ourselves again in the return trip.

On Sunday, February the 9th we were ready to leave, but the Naib came to warn us that we could not leave before noon because the camels had not eaten the day before. After a lot of insistence, we left at about three o'clock for the stage set at Saati, four hours away, but after two hours the caravan stopped. Matteucci and Vigoni were despaired for having to stop so soon; it was useless to despair and scream, there was no way: they unloaded the camels, saying that they were tired and they wanted to eat. We camped on a small plateau, with volcanic soil and all green because it was the rainy season, full of acacias. Vigoni made his plan: to command the Arabs there was no other way but to give strong blows, but he was disgusted that this system originated from us because it was not a good sign of civilization, so we talked and then we swallowed everything. Tagliabue began to take his notes and his Ferrari his shotgun.

The Naib gave the order: we left after noon, we crossed frequent streams, whose banks were covered with vegetation. At about three and a half we arrived at Saati, where we were told to stop to let the camels drink and let the mules graze a little, and we stopped under a large sycamore.

We left after two hours, we reached the caravan on a plateau where there were some huts of shepherds protected by the Naib, they brought us good milk to drink. At 10 am we set off, after a while we entered the vast plain of Ailet and shortly after we arrived at the village, divided into groups of huts surrounded by thorny wood, and camped near the village; I mounted my tent immediately because it was carried by a good camel who was always before us. Pending the arrival of the tents of the dear companions, everyone took refuge in mine because the weather was rainy.

Only five camels arrived; the camel drivers told us that the others in the ascent had been lying on the ground, tired, and could not walk anymore, so we were forced to send the mules and oxen to replace them.

Seeing those huts with all the inhabitants almost naked, covered with a few rags, my friends were surprised, but for me it was not a new thing.

It was raining cats and dogs and we had to put our precious stuff away; a nuisance and a bore of the devil.

Vigoni and Ferrari began to scream against Matteucci who had said that the beds were a traveling hindrance, and instead were "the essence of life." A travel cot and the main food are the best preventive system against disease, I have always traveled with the travel cot and I have always enjoyed good health.

We were forced to stop two days because of the rain and to find the transport oxen; in the meantime Filippini, since he was intended to stay in Massawa to the office to sort out the mail of the expedition, he returned to Massawa almost happy. We got ready with our furious oxen, who, overloaded, were laying on the ground and did not want to go on, but by dint of blows they ended putting themselves in march. After about two hours we climbed on the small plain of Sabarguma, but it was too close to camp so we made the caravan continue and after a while we went up a steep slope, on both sides a forest with abundant vegetation.

At four o'clock we came to a plateau and there I placed my tent, the first to arrive, and even a few oxen began to arrive. We had a pretty strong appetite; some coffers arrived but the keys were missing, our friend Bianchi was holding them, who was in charge of monitoring the luggage. A beautiful location called Ghinda, surrounded by high mountains, with a river not far that flows all year round. A few more coffers arrived but it was getting dark and Bianchi was not arriving: we blew the trumpet but no one answered, four servants were sent back, it was dark and the rain was continuous, not even the light outside the tent remained on; Tagliabue and Legnani wanted to go to relief but it was impossible.

Two servants arrived saying that the oxen did not want to go ahead and Bianchi, being dark, he stopped in a bush to sleep on the coffers and some servants with him. We had dinner with whatever little we had, and although Tagliabue had good appetite we were satisfied.

The next day early in the morning, while we were going to meet Bianchi, we saw him arrive healthy and in good mood; his only fear was for the amount of wild animals of all species, the most abundant being the lions. The Naib finished his mission and returned back by accepting a good tip by the chief Matteucci, though he was my friend for a long time and I had made him many services.

The caravan had already left when we started off, it was the first time I was going that road; we went down a bit and we marched for about an hour in the plains, in a narrow gorge we crossed a stream, that flows only in times of rain, collected from the mountains on both sides, and then appeared a slope so steep that from time to time we had to come down from the mount; only my wife, who had the best riding mule, she was safe at any climb, when he saw the danger the mule itself did not progress. Legnani wanted to force his mule and he took a tumble on the ground but he was not hurt.

Finally, after about four hours we reached the rest of the caravan and the oxen were standing in the middle of a ravine, where there was water, but it was very bad because it was just rain runoff. We took a little rest in the narrow gorge, there were high mountains on both sides and a station where all the caravans of merchants stop: the place is called Machensie. We broke a crust of bread, we drank once, in the meanwhile we made the caravan leave in advance because we were already aware that there was a steep gradient.

Half an hour after the caravan had departed, accompanied by the servant leader of the expedition, the Abyssinian Gabre Mascal, a very intelligent young man, we left and we started the trip to Asmara; as we were climbing, gradually that beautiful vegetation decreased. Finally, by dint of climbing, we found ourselves in a vast plain (it is also called "amasen"): we saw an uninhabited village, all in ruins, at most remained only a few pieces of wall; I knew  that it was burned and looted by King Johannes because he gave the food to the Egyptian expedition of Arachil bey. We placed our camp not far from the ruins: there one could breathe a good fresh air, with a beautiful sky.

The country was still not too safe, it was still in the hands of the rebel ras Michael who was marching with ras Alula to surrender to the king and left in its place Blatta Gossu, which was three hours away in the capital of  Amhara called Zazega. Towards evening he sent a friend of mine, basha Ruman, with a ram and some sheep and asked me to go to Zazega; since I didn’t trust him much I just told him that I could not leave the camp, that he should come if he wanted to see me. He didn’t come, and we had some doubts that he wanted to play some tricks.

Towards evening it was quite cold, we saw arriving a lot of people, for the most part poor begging, others carried sheep, chickens and eggs for sale, we bought something and we got rid of the crowd as best as we could; this poor population for two years was subject to continuous raids and was reduced to extreme poverty.

On that day we had to change the cargo oxen, but the oxen arrived the next day after a long search; how much time and how much hassle to organize this trip to Adwa! We could not locate mules or donkeys because everything had been requisitioned by the king for his soldiers. Finally, the next day, with holy patience, we ended up organizing our caravan as best as we could and we left. We arrived at Selak Daro, where we camped; in the evening Tagliabue found himself indisposed, he lacked the appetite.

As it was established by the Regulation of the expedition, starting from the head to the end, everyone had to do his duty in the kitchen, but the kind mates, when it came my turn, they presented themselves with a pleasant smile and they did not permit it; the good Vigoni put himself to do the kitchen, he looked like a real chef, he was doing it really with joy; since we did not have a lot of variety of dishes, we would make large macaroni dishes and, for a change, some great risotto.

The next day we lifted the camp and left; Tagliabue mounted on the mule but soon after he asked to help him get down, he could not stay on top of the mule. What to do? We took the poles of the tents and we formed a bed and then we made eight men carry him, well accompanied by all of us; we arrive in about four hours to Sichet, where we camped. The friend Tagliabue seemed that he was feeling better, he was very cheerful.

The road to the Hamasien Adwa is not so bad: you march into the open from the mountains on a wide platform, there is some very sweet descent as well as some short climb, the soil is very fertile in some plain but there is very little vegetation, you find nothing but acacias and bushes until the vast plain of Mareb; from there again starts the vegetation.

We lifted the camp from Sichet and after about five hours of walking we camped in Toramni. Tagliabue was brought again on the mule for the day not to tire him, and at the arrival of the stage he was feeling much better. The inhabitants there were very few, some left with the king, some escaped the epidemic of typhus and a good part were dead. When approaching Adwa one could begin to see that people were saddened.

Ferrari, Vigoni and my brother, their most beautiful pleasure was not to lose time and go hunting; there were plenty of hares and guinea fowl and it was full of other game; Bianchi, who was short-sighted, for his task, just made the camp, had continually the keys in hand, opening now this box, now the other box, and Legnani was devoted to the kitchen.

The next day we lifted the camp and we marched; Tagliabue could already stand on the mule, but we were troubled, and all the more was I without giving a sign, because we would not receive a response from the king and I felt that there was something wrong. We marched as usual for about four or five hours a day because with the blessed loads of the oxen it was a despair. We arrived in Godofelassi and we camped not far from the market in a small square near a large sycamore; I consoled myself seeing that the good companion Tagliabue was improving: his illness was rather psychological in nature due to some setbacks that was worrying him.

The next day we marched, we went to an inclined plane at the end of which a marked decline took us to another plateau of the same nature, a few plants, mostly acacias, and meanwhile we found the head of the caravan stopped at a point called Adicasmu. The goal set for that day would have been more ahead, but there we found no wood, so we decided to stop and recover the time the day after. We had our lunch, almost everything with the abundant game, we made some chit chat and then everyone retired to their place to rest.

At about five o'clock we saw three men running on horseback coming down to our camp asking the servants, "This is not the camp of  baidronde" Naretti?" "Yes," and they asked to be accompanied to the tent. I said to myself: who the hell can that be?, And I saw that they approached the tent making greetings according to the use, bowing two or three times on the ground, and I let them enter immediately because I wanted to know as soon as possible. And they said, "What a great luck you have here, and we were ordered to go up to Massawa.", and meanwhile they delivered the letter of the King Johannes.

Before we opened the letter Matteucci and Vigoni arrived, and we were all on tenterhooks to know the news; my wife read the letter and then did the translation, and all did a sigh of pleasure and comfort to the good news and the couriers had a good tip from everyone.

The letter was very long, here's the text:

"I Johannes, by the grace of God king of all Ethiopia, I send this letter to my friend baidronde Naretti. Me and my army, thank God, we're fine, and how are you? I send greetings to you and your friends.

I received your letter and the one of your fellow gentlemen: I am not the master of this country, which belongs to God, and only I am allowed to govern; all the good people is so free to enter. I have had many other whites, but I had to convince myself that they make many promises and keep little, then finally end up meddling in religious affairs, which I do not like because I reckon that the religion of my people is good, and I do not want it to be changed. But these Italians are like you, and you are so good and honest that your compatriots must be so as well, so be welcome, let them come with you, they will be well received. "

This letter was for me one of the greatest satisfactions that I could have, not much for myself but for the task that I had taken with regard to the honorable expedition of the dear good progressive friends compatriots. For me it was a real consolation for the idea that I had always had in me to be able to introduce some of the progress of my country in that virgin country.

On Tuesday, 29 [April 1879] we left, after about an hour we passed the village of Addi Quala, its appearance was as poor as that of the others; we proceeded to the center of a plateau and there stood a beautiful landscape with views of the mountains of Adwa and Axum. Shortly after we approached a short but steep descent: the vegetation was magnificent, it was the head of the plain of Mareb.


On the site of the Battle of Guda Guddi [Guda Guda]

We went down and after a few steps we saw human bones, which meant that we got close to the battlefield of Guda Guddi where three years earlier had been completely destroyed the army of the Egyptian commander Ratib Bey who had tried to invade Abyssinia with three thousand men. All these political calculations were of the unfortunate Munzinger Pasha, who was also of the same mold, that with three hundred Egyptians came by the way of Zeila to reach the king Menelik, but was taken the night before arriving in the Aussa, in the Danakil region. They were surprised in the night and they were all massacred; Munzinger died with his Abyssinian wife and his stepdaughter suffered the same fate.

We camped nearby, in the forest where there had been the battle; all hastened to visit the camp, where you could still see the human remains; the Egyptians had put themselves in a large forest of acacias and the cannons had been of little purpose, especially since in the forest there were huge blocks of granite. They defended themselves very well but the mass of the Abyssinians crushed them despite the fact that in the same day they had already fought and destroyed the body of the vanguard of the Count Zichy, commander of eight hundred men and eight cannons. About three hours away later in the wide plain at the mouth of the Mareb the bone mass were all Egyptians because of the unfortunate dead Ethiopians had all been buried.

The next day we lifted the camp, we crossed the great plain, we arrived at Mareb: about a mile later they were still human bones, approaching the site of the first battle of the Egyptians, and the more we went on, the more the amount of bone increased. Arriving near the river Mareb then there was a lot of human bones, somebody a bit far from the road, in the bushes they were some complete bodies, so from the location of the bodies we knew that they had begun to run away when they had understood they were lost. But where could they flee, poor things, being surrounded by an enormous amount of Abyssinians? Only seven people were able to escape uninjured, plus a wounded officer and three soldiers lightly injured.


Approaching Adwa

We forced the stage despite the great difficulties of transport because the Mareb at that time was unhealthy, full of fever We arrived in Daro-Taclè; our stuff, since we were already making it carry by the peasants, had been left behind for the most part. We camped in the mountains, in a village divided into different groups on the top of the mountains, and the inhabitants were always appearing poor and poorly dressed, as in all other villages.

The next day a few cases arrived but about a third remained behind; Bianchi and Legnani came back to find our luggage, but how to find them? One coffer had been handed in one village and the other coffers scattered in all the surrounding villages, what was more worrying was the chest of thalers. Meanwhile Vigoni, Ferrari and my brother went hunting on those mountains full of acacia and wild olive trees and some shrubs and euphorbia, and there they discovered the mountains of Adwa nearby.

Meanwhile came the Abuna, because that was his village: we were already friends, and although the village of the abuna was not required to give anything to anyone because it would belong to the church, he ordered to bring us a ram, a hundred loaves of bread, beer and honey.

The hunters came; the governor had given all the stuff and I took it under my responsibility. Tagliabue was a little better and he wanted to taste the beer, but he found it unpleasant; Bianchi and Legnani arrived in the evening unable to find the packages and boxes.

The next day we saw many carrier farmers arrive but they were not enough to carry the weight of the baggage that had already arrived. The governor said, "It does not matter, you have to excuse me, you should know that we had the misfortune of a strong typhus that destroyed here in the district Adwa almost half of the population, and Mr. Naretti, who already knew Adwa, will have the evidence by looking at the situation in which the city is, almost all of his friends are dead. Finally around noon we left with what little we could carry with us, all uneasy seeing that poor people, some had the father, some the mother or brother or daughters dead.

The road was not so comfortable, many small ups and downs, from time to time some small cultivable lowland. We arrived in the village of the abuna and camped; I saw arrive about fifteen men riding a horse, that a bit far from the camp came down from their horse, came nearby bowing as was their custom, and kisses and greetings and welcoming my return: some were priests, the lucky remaining ones, and the others were equally fortunate friends, who told me about all the dead people whom I knew, few were left alive.

Since we were camped in a beautiful spot, at about two hours from Adwa, we stayed two days and sent for some help at Adwa. Meanwhile I looked for one of the most beautiful houses that could be found for my dear comrades and ordered to do a thorough cleaning and to spread good scents of incense in the house of my comrades and in mine, because the sad disease had ceased only a few days before.

In my house two had died, an old doorman and a young servant who tended the mules: this was the most fortunate house because many houses had been completely emptied.

After two days at eight o'clock in the morning we marched to Adwa and in about two hours we reached the entrance to the city from the south-west. Before entering the city, at the foot of the houses, we crossed the small stream of Asem. Before going down to the river we gave a glance at the houses opposite: we saw someone watching us standing on some terrace, I also saw our friend Baralon who was waiting near his home, in a small square. We entered and he, poor ill man, advanced to meet us with an air of happiness and content; I almost did not recognize him, he had a long beard and his hair hung over his back. He was not showing the past suffering for the sad disease: he kissed me with joy and then saluted all comrades and asked me to excuse him if he had not come forward to meet us because the weakness due to his disease had not allowed him.

We advanced into the city: since I knew very well before I had pity on seeing the houses in ruins and uninhabited, some invalid inside their house was watching us, the narrow streets littered with rags and bones and all sort of dirt, what gave a very bad feeling to all. Finally we approached my house and we started to see the street clean and well swept and then we heard cries of joy, "lili lileli", of my servants and some surviving friend; we entered the very clean and swept courtyard, we saw the skin of an ox killed and a fire to roast the tibs, to prepare the roasted meat on the grill, and everyone busy to prepare lunch. I had a servant who could prepare very well the European cuisine: shortly after lunch was ready and we sat down to table, inviting the friend Baralon to eat with us. Though there was plenty of tej we opened a case of wine as it was a few days that we were not tasting it any more. The poor Baralon when he had the pleasure of drinking a glass of wine, which for so long had not tasted, and be in a good company, he was happy.

An oversight: fifteen days before we had arrived at Adwa the French vice-consul, Mr. Carbonnel *, who had come to meet us up at the camp of the abuna saying he had been robbed of three hundred thalers and its official uniform, so there he had accompanied us to Adwa, and we invited him to lunch with us. Baralon, although he was French, was not his friend. We all could hardly believe the story of Carbonnel because he was too chatty. Finally, after eating and drinking and did a lot of talking with Carbonnel, who always wanted to talk himself and did not give the time to talk to others, the good companions desired to see their accommodation which was not far away.

* Carbonnel was representative vice-consul of France in Massawa 1875-1876.

The poor Tagliabue was still not feeling too well: he saw a small empty room and said to his companions: "I'm staying here with Naretti." And he did so, to my delight, we went to take possession of the house of lords comrades, already all prepared with the best cleaning you could get, and found that their little luggage had arrived and was haphazardly arranged on the first floor, like in mine. Being tired for the trip and for the day they went to rest, and my brother and I we returned to our home to rest.

I came home and saw what was left of the women who had come to pay a visit to my wife: the room was cluttered, some was crying for the loss of relatives; I greeted them all and then I went into the bedroom of the friend Tagliabue: he was already lying on the mattress and said, "I'm a bit better. Dear Naretti, I ask a great favor but do not say anything to Dr. Matteucci, because I had asked him and he did not want to give me: I have a great desire to drink a glass of cognac and I know that you have some good one; so please do me this favor. " I was undecided, I said to myself: Dr. Matteucci has forbidden it to him, perhaps it could hurt him, on the other hand I thought, when the patient is so eager for something, it cannot fail to do him good. I said, "I'm afraid, but I think a little glass will not hurt you." And he said: "Yes, yes, you will see that it will do me good." Immediately I took a bottle, I opened it, I gave him a good shot, he swallowed it with great pleasure. I casually put the rest of the bottle on a window sill and went to rest myself; my brother was already in bed and my wife Teresa was still having some visits, we ended up getting rid of them and put ourselves to rest.

The visits of the Abyssinians never end, to get rid of them you have to make a gesture to get up and go away and then they leave, or is there a servant guarding the house which says to them: "Enough, go away."

We took a rest for about two hours; at about four o’clock I got up and went to visit his friend Tagliabue, who immediately said, "Dear Naretti, I feel much better." I looked at the bottle, it lacked a good third. I was sorry to have forgotten it, I took it away, but he begged me to give him half a glass more. I gave it to him: How can one deny it, seeing that it was good for him? Towards evening came Vigoni and Matteucci to see how Tagliabue was doing, and he got up quickly and said, "The atmosphere of the Naretti house has done me good." So we gathered, at about seven o'clock we had a little dinner and a chat with the talkative Mr. Carbonnel and then we went to rest again.

At Adwa at that time, with priests and others, there were no more than about two hundred inhabitants. *

* Adwa and surroundings were decimated by typhus and perhaps cholera after the war with the Egyptians. For hatred to Muslims, Johannes prohibited to bury the dead Egyptians, who were left prey to hyenas and jackals, and most likely they were responsible for the epidemics.

The governor of Adwa was encamped on a high mountain between Axum and Adwa, near Debrasina, and the king had not given orders to send our food because he believed we were still far, and then it was impossible and unnecessary to order them because in Adwa there was almost nobody left, more than three quarters were dead and of the other quarter, half had fled to other provinces. The same evening the governor, Aleka Chidano Mariam, sent to greet us, wishing us good arrival and begging us to give him the honor to visit him the next day. We left all of us with my brother, only Legnani stood of guard.

We walked the same road to Axum; after about three kilometers through a small hill we came to a ravine; we marched again for another mile or two and then we found ourselves at the foot of the mountains of Adwa; in the north-east we went on a very steep uphill because it was a new road, especially made for the camp, made outside the villages to avoid infection: in spite of this, the soldiers were more than decimated by the disease, even those of Ras Alula who until a few days before were occupying the same camp. After an hour of climbing we reached the platform and saw some poor tukul with a great das, that is a kind of pergola covered with leaves. Immediately the governor, whom I had known for a long time and with whom I was friends, let us enter. As we entered the large das he stood up and took a few steps forward, hugged me and made us sit down on the carpet, congratulating me for my return in good health and for the good travel of my excellent companions. So he asked about my wife, if she had arrived in good health, in the meanwhile I introduced him my brother: he shook his hand expressing the pleasure of making his acquaintance.

He then called for a big horn of tej and we drank; once finished drinking he did reenter the prisoners; in fact when we arrived he was "holding the tribunal" and he had sent them out. He asked permission to judge and they began to discuss the case.


The administration of justice in Ethiopia

Explanation of how the justice works: the defendant, introduced, makes an act of humiliation in front of the stones *, then recounts the fact for which he is accused: everyone knew how to explain themselves very easily, with emphasis and with ease and in moments of heat in the discourse they used to tie a knot to their sciamma or that of the neighbor and then beat their fists on it shouting: "Johannes imùt!" **: This is a form of sacramental oath for those who pronounce it.

* "Two large stones overlaid were to represent the altar, before which were to bow the criminals." (G. Vigoni, Abissinia. Giornale di un viaggio, Milan, Hoepli, 1881) p. 98.

** Johannes imùt: literally, "For the death of Johannes!"

When it comes to little things the governor alone pronounce judgment, but if it gets more complicated he requests the opinion of the lawyers who, one after the other, they get up, they bring themselves to the offender, and these with much pomposity emit their opinion on the matter. Then the defense attorney rises up who, if interrupted in the exposition of his ideas, with his hand closes at times the mouth of the defended if he tries to put his nose in the speech.

Then entered two suspected thieves, who it is hoped will have to give account for their actions committed before prison, chained to each other, both young and of different sex: after a long discussion the judgment was remitted to another session.

In case of civil cases and petty thieves a governor can be the judge, but for big thieves, for important causes or those discovered stealing for the second time must have recourse to the tribunal of the king. For political deeds one is condemned to be relegated to the top of a mountain, guarded by soldiers, where you have to remain for a life unless a pardon of the king, or a change of kings in office.

The session lasted about two hours, it was long and boring, but the friend Vigoni was fixed and attentive to listen to everything.

We greeted the governor and we came away, but I stopped, I asked him when we could leave and he told me that the king was still far away, near Magdala, and that it was better to write him. And so we made a council with  Matteucci and the companions, and as soon as we arrived in Adwa we composed a beautiful letter, Teresa Naretti has translated into Amharic and we have sent it straight to the camp where the king was.

Vigoni, Ferrari and my brother were going for hunting around Adwa.


The French consul Carbonnel

We come then to the French vice-consul Carbonnel: he said that he had come expressly to ask the king Johannes for permission to go to Simien to search for plants of Kosso * be sent to the Jardin géologique ** in Paris because he was sure to receive the Croix de la Légion d'honneur ***, and that he had written to the king immediately after being robbed.

* Kosso or kousso: tree (Hagenia Abyssinica) whose rich cascades of red flowers in Ethiopia have always been used to treat tapeworm.

** Naretti writes "geolozique", probably it is a "Botanique".

*** French order of chivalry established by Napoleon in 1802.

Just arrived at Adwa he went to visit the governor, had entered with his helmet of ordinance without removing it before the governor; this told him to come in and sit down, but he did not sit down. He stood and said to the governor: "Stand up, you do not know that I am the French consul?" The governor laughed and said, "No, I do not know: sit down." He remained quiet sitting on his carpet, and Carbonnel, tired of standing, ended up sitting. It was a mistake: many believe to consider the Abyssinians ignorant and uncivilized, however with regard to the ceremonial receptions they can be on a par with us in Europe, they are not at all stupid as many people believe, even if they are not advanced in the art, industry and progress, but they are as smart as us and I would say more cunning, because the Abyssinian is very defensive and to give confidence to someone he must practice him and know him very well.

Finally to Mr. Carbonnel, because he had fallen in distrust of the king and of the governor for not knowing how to act, the king had already answered: "If you want to go to Simien to seek Kosso go, if you want to come to me come, if you want to go to Massawa go. " So he did not know what to do; he protested for the theft, about six hundred thalers *, but had no evidence, not even his servants who could prove that he had been robbed.

* A few pages ago he talks about three hundred thalers.

Baralon told me everything. Carbonnel had already sent to Simien to look for Kosso plants and had received them; he came to me with an authorization  letter written by him with his consular stamp, begging me to accept the consular administration of the French Government, but I thanked him for the honor but my position prevented me from accepting. I talked to Matteucci and Vigoni who told me that I had done well. He wanted to get me mixed up in his mess but I've never been fond of having. Carbonnel, after all, was a man of company and a speaker and an orator.

Shortly after he left for Massawa carrying with him the Kosso plants.


A visit to Axum

Time was passing, Vigoni was languishing and said: "The days seem to me weeks, when shall we get back if we march always like this? I promised my mother to return within six months, but when shall we leave from here? "I said to him:" My dear, we are in Abyssinia, we must have patience" and he always said: " If it were not for my mom ... ".

Waiting for the arrival of the King's reply, we went for a trip to the ancient city of Axum, about four hours of walking. The nebrid, my friend, had gone to the king, and we went to stay in the house where I used to go, but we found the house occupied and we set up our tent in the courtyard; while the large tukul was being prepared I brought my companions to make a tour to the old town to see the antiquities: the most beautiful and interesting things to see are the obelisks *, one of which, about nineteen feet high, is still standing although it overhangs of at least one meter, while other fifteen or so, roughly the same size, have fallen and broken into several pieces.

* The correct name is the obelisk is "stele"; Naretti, but also Bianchi, Matteucci and Vigoni write in their journals “obelisk”. Moreover, the most popular Axumite stele, 24 meters high, brought to Rome in 1937 after the Italian conquest of Ethiopia, placed in Piazza di Porta Capena and now removed to return it to the Ethiopian government, is commonly known as "the obelisk of Axum ". (See La Stampa on 10.10.2003)


Just entered the precincts of the church I found my friend Aleka Garamariam [Gabre Mariam], the second of the ecceghiè, since the ecceghiè was absent because, as political, religious and civil chief, he must never break away from the king. And the king does nothing without first consulting with the ecceghiè; the abuna in front of the nation figures as the head of religion, but has only the power to ordain priests and before he puts his feet in the Ethiopian ground he must swear not to meddle in politics.»*

* The Abuna, equivalent to a metropolitan or bishop, was normally chosen by the patriarch of Alexandria as head of the Coptic Church of Ethiopia and was the only one who can crown kings and emperors and order the priests; the ecceghiè was instead an Abyssinian, chosen by the Emperor among the monks of the monastery of Debra Libanos and had power and influence on church affairs.

The counselor of the ecceghiè invited me to his house, happy of my return, and he told me: "You are not only our friend, but our brother, and these gentlemen your friends are welcome." I introduced him my brother, he was happy and shook his hand again. Then came a gumbo of tej and then he called for breakfast, a massev of injera extremely white, well done, with other dishes always with berberiè but not too peppery; seeing that good heart we were really reassured. After breakfast he joined us for a ride in the sacred part, we visited the church and the ancient monuments. Meanwhile, we met with the father Zacharias, a Abyssinian Catholic priest who had made his studies in Rome for seven years and helped us a lot with the information.

It is said that the city of Axum * dates from the time of Solomon; from all parts of the city are traces of ancient monuments and ruins, even the marble tables with letters carved in the ancient Greek language difficult to decipher, and there are other stones carved with ancient engravings.

* Axum was the center of the monarchy that was independent during the early years of the Roman Empire. Today it is a holy city and gets the attention of archaeologists who have discovered that Axum included in its territory the modern Eritrea. It is proved that the Axumite civilization has its roots in the culture of Kassala in eastern Sudan during the first millennium BC. The king Azana in the fourth century A.D. governed the region, conquered the south of the Arabian Peninsula, decreed that Christianity was the state religion and erected steles with records relating to his kingdom. One of these stele was taken to Rome in 1936. A Axumite king conquered Yemen and Meroe (nowadays Sudan). Axum declined after the 7th century AD. C. (Pronty Chris and E. Rosenfeld, Historical Dictionary of Ettiopia and Eritrea, London, Scarecrow Press, 1994) p. 18-19)

The city of Axum is located in a beautiful location, at the foot of a chain of low mountains, in the south-east open on a very large plain, only the water currents are a bit far away. The water is collected in a large tank, a tank at the foot of a mountain of rock that filters the water through the cracks of the stone to the east, but the city also has wells where the water level is not more than five or six meters deep. The obelisks are located on a square to the east of the city, the obelisk which is still standing is located next to a huge sycamore tree, whose trunk has about eight meters in diameter and the branches extend for at least thirty meter wide. About the meaning of the obelisks is it said that every king who was crowned had to raise an obelisk in proportion to his capacity and means; in fact there are still some standing which are small and absolutely without sculptures.

The destruction of churches and monuments are said to have been done three hundred and ninety years ago by a Muslim king named "Garegn" [Gragn - see Biographies], born in Wuollo Galla [Oromo], which destroyed all the Christian monarchy and all the monuments and churches. *

After making the visit all my friends were very satisfied, mainly my friend Vigoni, the most active and experienced of the expedition.

* As the visit of Naretti and companions to Axum occurred in 1879, 344 years have passed, not 390, since the date of the destruction of Axum by Gragn, in 1535.


The trip to Debre Tabor

Two days later we returned to Adwa across the plain of Axum in about two hours and just as many we have taken for the descent: everything went well. Tagliabue was feeling much better, his illness seemed rather psychic; being the youngest perhaps he wanted to live in a better country than Abyssinia.

The King's reply had not arrived yet, everyone was in anguish, but most of all my friend Vigoni was on pins and needles for fear of missing his promise to his dear mother.

Finally I went to see the governor to tell him that my dear companions could not wait any longer, they wanted to leave, and he said: "You are free, but you do not know the order of the king: all foreigners can come to Adwa but after the king must authorize them." I showed him the letter from the king, and he said, "Finally, they are your friends, never mind, you can leave when you want." Since we had already heard that the king was coming to Debre Tabor, and we knew the road to take, we decided to leave to join the king.

I left the largest part of the luggage at Adwa, my dear companions freed themselves of some coffers and there we supplied ourselves of animals sufficient for our load capacity, not to have that great hindrance to make the villagers carry the coffers: it was really a great despair, especially in the unfortunate moment when people could not be found. Here we were ready to go, all was arranged: Tagliabue was to return to Massawa to liaise with the expedition because Filippini had to leave, he was called home for family business. It was all arranged: a friend shopkeeper who a few days after had to go to Massawa accepted to accompany the friend Tagliabue. It was a painful moment.

We left the sad city of Adwa: truly it was worse than a cemetery.

Adwa is located in a low bottom, surrounded by mountains, with two rivers with very plentiful and good water, called Asem and Maigicaqua; the size of the gorge is approximately six kilometers in length to the southwest, the width cannot be called a plain because it’s all small hills, from time to time they go up and down ten or twenty meters, but the width is about the same and the ground at various points is very fertile.

Monday, 28 April [1879] we made the caravan start to Axum ahead of us: I gave a greeting to all your friends and again to the poor Tagliabue: it was a very sad moment so have to leave him, not completely restored, but with hope in God to meet again in good health.

At sunset we too arrived in Axum and found our tents pitched and two young Swedes from the Protestant mission * which for more than a year were waiting in Adwa the king's permission to introduce themselves to him: they took advantage of our opportunity and followed our footprint but remaining completely aside. Already a few days before they had told me that they would have had the pleasure to go with us to make a visit to the king to get some privilege.

* The Swedish Protestant missionaries at Adwa are E. Hedenström, Peter Carlsson and A. Svensson. Carlsson and Svensson joined the caravan of Naretti to go to Debre Tabor. In Moncullo, where they had their mission, they were helped by Munzinger and when they went to Adwa Schimper gave them shelter and protection. (Aren, Gustav, Evangelical Pioneers in Ethiopia, doctoral dissertation, Uppsala, 1978, p. 237-238)

At our departure from Adwa the governor lich Chidano Mariam (which means “son of Mary”) had ordered to provide us food to all villages in which we had to stop, but the city of Axum, because holy city, has the privilege, reserved only to the ecclesiastical power, that they have no obligation to the civil; I found only a few friends who brought something for friendship.

On Tuesday we lifted the camp, struggling a lot to load the mules, who would not tolerate to be loaded. Finally we left, going up a little we came to a small plateau, and the nature of the vegetation is almost always the same: euphorbias, acacias and shrubs; to the south we saw the clouds appear over the mountains, we continued the march almost always in plain to the north with the chain of mountains of Simien behind us about 40 kilometers away. At about two o'clock we found our camp placed in Maiscium, a small plateau not far from the village of the same name.

The next day we continued in the same direction south-west and a little later we were at 2100 meters, according to the calculations of Vigoni, and then we entered a wide valley surrounded by mountains, verdant but sparsely populated with villages: the population is called "Selhalha". Big difference in temperature: the hot sun during the day and at night very cold.

Thursday early in the morning we started the caravan and we were in a line, passing on the hills: the vegetation was scarce, abundant the olive trees, euphorbias, the ficus, but predominant were bushes and shrubs, including elegant jasmine who with their flowers perfume the atmosphere. At eight o'clock we passed the small village of Belles and went to the south-west, we came down, we crossed a stream and by noon we found the caravan stopped in the plain opposite the village of Addo-Anfito.

The head of the village where we had camped yesterday came to make us a thousand excuses for not giving us bread and a cow and offered us in return six thalers, but my gentlemen companions said it was undignified to accept them. I was of that same opinion, but I explained them that if we had not accepted the voice would run in the other villages and we would not have received anything more: it is customary that, when you are escorted by a soldier under the protection of the King, the villages must give all that is necessary for the subsistence of the entire caravan. We have, however, always constant trouble because the poor people are often harassed by the soldiers who pass by, and many refuse really because of poverty.

The next day we took about seven hours of comfortable march on the plain and we stopped at the village of Zambella, 170 (0) meters a.s.l.. Saturday 3 [May 1879] we set off, at six we ​​continued for two hours on the same plateau and then we began a steep descent in valleys covered with vegetation with prevailing large trees of gardenia with huge flowers that almost make the atmosphere too loaded of their delicate perfume.

The more we go down, the more the heat rises to become suffocating; at noon, leaving a thick forest, we are faced with the Tekezé River that, with his muddy water, flows calmly and almost imposing, and we cross it. The water arrives to the belly of the mule and it was the period of its minimum level, with some sixty meters of width.

Here we are in the province of Amhara: we go on along the river, all covered with large trees, for about a kilometer and we put the camp under some huge acacia trees. The temperature was a little hot but the weather was wonderful for hunting all sorts of animals, including some hippos that were in the river. It was a hunter's paradise: the good Ferrari was anxious to find his rifle, as well as Vigoni and companions: some left for the gazelles and some for the hippos. The hippo occasionally jumps out of the water and in his jump we were all careful to shoot our bullets: how many wasted bullets! Our shotguns are too weak for the hard skin, about two inches thick, of those animals, who by night gets out of the water and feeds on grass and twigs. Bianchi made a wooden shelter on the shore to wait for them in the night, but by no way he was able to kill one of them because they were disturbed by so many gunshots.

The next day early in the morning we start in the queue of our caravan, at an altitude of about 950 meters above sea level according to the calculations of Vigoni.

Sunday morning we walk along a rocky slope with a sweltering sun and after two hours we arrive at the edge of the plateau, in the purest auras of 1500 meters of elevation, we continue south in the direction of the chain of Simien, at about ten o'clock we camped near a spring of water in a group of large trees, and the hunters scattered around to devote themselves to their activity. There comes a soldier decorated by the king, who had been guide of our messenger, which tells us that the bearer of the letter from the King had gone another way to reach us in Adwa and he was commanded to accompany us to the royal camp saying: "I know that the king asks you to come quickly, he wants to see you. "

Sure enough, in order not to lose time we stood no more waiting for the courier: on the morning of Tuesday 6 [May], early enough, we put ourselves back on the road to the south and south-west, going up and down. The land called the Agre, 1300 meters, had a very abundant vegetation along the stream: palms, acacia, laurel, jasmine and many other qualities of plants; we made our way through a narrow gorge, we reached the plateau at around noon and here we met people and mules carrying loads of carpets and swords with handles made of silver, which made me think it was some great chief of the churches.

I made a few steps, I found someone who knew me and I asked him who he was: he was my old friend, nebrid Yasu, the head of the holy city of Axum and its surroundings. He was coming from the camp of the king, and soon after we met him, followed by many people, some armed and some carrying their effects: curtains, pillows, crosses, vases for the tej. As soon as he recognized me, the good old man came down from the mule full of joy, hugged me and prayed to all the gentlemen companions to have the goodness to get off the mule, so everybody, seeing an old man with a such an affable attitude, immediately got off the mule. The carriers of tej had already gone forward; he did look for a nice place to sit and immediately sent a messenger on horseback to bring back the tej and some bread while we were talking, because he was the one who made me swear to return, and was staring at me from time to time and he shook my hand and said: "Now I know you're really our friend and man of word, these gentlemen are all your friends and will also be our friends." So I introduced him my brother and again he shook his hand; and in the meantime arrived the gombo of tej, just a little hot for the trip but very good, and he begged us to stop so that he would bring food and drink, but it was not possible because the two caravans were already quite distant from each other. Since we had the guide of the king with the order to get us all the food we needed, we thanked him and we parted on both sides: have a nice trip.

So my dear companions, seeing that everything was getting better, they began to feel more animated, but the bravest of all was lady Naretti, never tired and always cheerful: what a great consolation for her husband!

Finally, after a passage of four days of continuous up and down, they marched only a few hours on a plateau of volcanic mountains forming part of the system of Simien; and at last we arrived at a position called Golina and the caravan stopped at about four o’ clock, the direction was always south-west, the altitude 1750 meters. Continuously the good hunters did not lose time, we were already bored of so much game, and the good Ferrari was still hunting but our taste was already fed up.

On Friday 9 [May 1879] we skirted the mountain until we came to a valley on the right that allowed us to go on the other side, and there we found my camp: out of pique my servants had wanted to stop and those of my fellow gentlemen agreed with them. We rested about two hours because it was a beautiful location and the good Vigoni had liked to do his geographical observations. At about two o'clock we resumed our journey and we proceeded to a slight slope, we went down again to follow the course of a dry creek, and after two hours of a small hill behind us appeared a most extensive view of the whole area that we were crossing.

On Sunday we set off early, once crossed a hill that was behind us we were on the edge of a ridge that by its original nature was rising up to make a dam by cutting a deep valley. Beyond this began the climb, which was becoming harder and harder until we reached the slope of the mountain in front of us, then we went up to these tiers of rock, and rather than walking on it we had to climb, and in many places it was necessary to unload the mules and to bring the luggage on the back of a man; how much men and mules were having trouble is unbelievable, but fortunately everything went without sad incidents, one wrong step could have had very serious consequences.

At about eleven o'clock we come to the end of the most terrible climb and we found ourselves on a small plateau in a beautiful location, with green pastures and groups of scattered trees, a true English garden at 2750 meters, then we continued down a path that goes through the woods in which there are myrtle, thuja, plants with magnolia-like leaves, jasmine and many creepers. The trail is still very steep and leads to the summit at 2950 meters, where it appears behind us the vast and original, but monotonous, view of the mountains we just crossed in the Tekezé River, and then to our left always the rough chain of Simien, of which we were treading the spur. Opposite to this was the endless horizon that goes to be confused with a myriad of hills that follow each other decreasing towards the plains of Sudan; before us an expanse of green hills.

We were in the province of Uogara and at two o’ clock we planted the tents opposite to the village of Devvark: the village chief let us know that he was sick and could not come to visit us.

We went to visit him in his tukul where he was close to the fire, with a bandaged arm, smashed by a ball a year before in the Shoa: he was very kind, he gave us immediately the tej and wanted to give us a ram, and some honey. His name is Dedjatch Cassa, son of Ras Gabre Mehedin, the governor of Simien and Uogara, who knew me by name because I was already a friend of his father, known in Adwa at the time of the Egyptian wars; he was very kind with us and he begged Dr. Matteucci to give him some medicine for his arm, and Matteucci graciously gave him some medicine.

The aspect of the country was very different, from time to time there was a crack in the ground through which flowed a bit of water, the soil was very fertile with some vegetation, especially of acacia trees. In the evening the village brought us a cow and four hundred loaves and chickens and eggs; we could begin to understand that we were approaching the camp of the king.

We headed towards north-east, where the waters are reaching the Tekezé River, and other regions of the Simien that turns to north and north-west; the main group receives in its course all the tributaries of the western slope, it joins at the Atbara that descends from Galabat, it merges with the Mareb and with the name of Erbara flows into Nile just above Berber; the other side, which is outlined by the coast of Vogara, turns instead to south-west and its waters pour into Lake Tana from which, leaving as Blue Nile, after a not short course join to those of the White Nile at Khartoum and at Berber they found their companion waters who fell perhaps a few meters away on the tops of Ethiopians mountains, after traveling nearly opposite ways, and come to find themselves in the most historic of all rivers after hundreds of miles of travel.

On Tuesday, 13 we go to visit the church, interesting because it is within an ancient Portuguese rectangular building already in ruins; we set off, continue west and then turn south-west: here reappears the character of the Abyssinian highlands, little vegetation with less green pastures and a few acacias. In a huge basin on the slopes of the mountains that enclose them, several villages are scattered around, and in the center there is an isolated hill. Approaching the village we pass through the market of the surrounding villages: at the market, as usual, people trade skins, cattle, wheat, some fabric of the villages, onions and berberiè.

Wednesday 14 [May 1879]: the chief of the village does not want to obey the orders of the king's guide that accompanies us, so this ties him with a rope and drags him and threatens to take him to the king. We continue south-west, we pass as a succession of circular basins enclosed by mild hills, but open to the south-east, from which side they have their drains in the remote valleys of the Simien: there were many pastures but little cattle, a rich country but unpopulated, poor for lack of arms and ignorance. At about two o'clock we stop at the village of Goragit, at 2930 meters above sea level: in the night and in the morning it is very cold.

After five hours of walking we stop at Mariamoaha (water of Mary) at 2720 meters, in a very romantic and secluded position; a mass of eagles and vultures swoop around the camp and soar through the air with their long and daring turns over our heads. One with a huge curved beak and giant tusks is killed with a shotgun: measured from one end of the wings to the other it’s about three meters. The hunters enjoy shooting them down to earth and the good Ferrari complains about the cartridges that are not good.

On Friday we continue on the same plateau that is shrinking to become a real mule back, until there appears a mountain, as if to cut our way, with a horizontal edge and a height of 2900 meters according to the calculation of Vigoni, and there the Gondar appears to the west, extended to a pass over the top of which we distinguish the rectangular buildings, the ruins of the Portuguese palaces, and at south-west a whitish strip shining for the sun that reflects its rays is indicating us the lake Tana, a beautiful view, where the king Johannes had placed his camp rather than in Gondar.

We have been visiting the royal houses, houses like all the others, that is some large tukul.

We're on a plateau, a kind of natural fortress; we descend, crossing the prairies and we camp near the village of Ambaciara, a poor village of a few huts and we stop for the night: from there we see below us the lake which is very large and dotted with islands.

We continue on Saturday more or less with the same landscape, which, however, is taking a more alpine character, for about four hours, stopping at Amba Mariam at 2920 meters, in the center of a vast plain all cultivated and very fertile, dotted with many homes that are all huts like those of Tigray because they were built by the people of Tigray who had followed the king; the soil is very fertile.

On Sunday 18 we cross to the south-east the vast basin that lies before us, and then we begin a descent within a picturesque arid and deep valley: conical masses of bare rock protruding here and there, the sides of the mountains are alternate by layers with a mild slope on which vegetation thrives, vertical layers of basaltic prisms; we run on the slope of one of these mountains: the vegetation is thick enough without being grandiose, with frequent pastures and water sources always surrounded by beautiful banana trees.

We begin to rise again, we turn to the south and, once crossed a huge massif with basalt sides, we see on our right, at the bottom of a valley, the lake Tana that touches the chain on which we walk.



At 2900 meters there we still find a plateau that we cross to find ourselves in front of a steep and tortuous descent, after that we reach our tents pitched near the Muslim village of Derita at 2250 meters, in a very large basin surrounded especially to the east by high mountains . As the first influence of the change of religion the leaders are coming  soon to offer us coffee, which is never used by the Copts.
This way along the road to Adwa we often meet small companies of poor people, that poverty has pushed to move from one village to another, and who is going back in Tigray from where they fled the famine: they are all miserable, emaciated, covered with a few rags, with the impression of hunger and suffering carved into the flesh, and the women are loaded of their children, that they carry suspended on their back with leather embroidered with shells, and baskets and gourds; in the first they bring the leftovers of the bread baked in the morning and the day before, in the second butter, berberiè, water and everything else imaginable that is useful to them.

Today we meet even a caravan coming from Gojjam with coffee: the loads are carried partly by Somali women and partly by young blacks half-naked, with a flat nose: they are slaves shankalla, so that, arrived in Adwa, they make two sales, the coffee and who carried it.

In all these stops we passed the time very happily because we were starting to get closer to the royal camp; Vigoni was the one most interested in everything, Matteucci was taking notes in a hurry, for Ferrari his passion was hunting, Bianchi was always with his keys in hand opening the boxes and in the evening he was taking some notes, Legnani was always around asking the price of goods to salesmen.

On Monday 19 in the south-west direction we go down for a nice wide green valley, in some places with thick vegetation, and once reached the place where it goes off we turn gently to the south, to continue on an inclined plane on which there are acacias, some gummifera and large ficus; we pass a stream that at the time of the flourishing Abyssinia seems to have flown with impetus because the Portuguese built a bridge of five arches, and at about three o'clock we stopped at Amora Ghedèl, a few hours from the royal camp, where we reach the plain. We were at 1950 meters where we had made the camp, we went up again to 2120 meters.

Tuesday, 20 [May 1879] we had a hurricane in the night, it seemed that it wanted to bring down the camp, and in the morning the servants were forced to change themselves because in one day we had to get to the royal camp; moreover the Matteucci expedition also had a Sudanese  servant, a poet, Francesco, who wore donated clothes and his figure was enough to make people laugh with his European style dress; he spoke Arabic and some little Italian.

We lifted the camp with the minimum necessary equipment and we didn’t bring with us any other luggage, as is appropriate in solemn circumstances, and we departed  alone; the remaining baggage left with the rest of the caravan. We finished going up the inclined plane, then we began a short climb within a valley to reach a vast plateau where we continued our way: they were vast expanses of grassland, of cultivated land, of mountains that rose covered with thick vegetation and that we were continually crossing.


The great movement that we were meeting along the road showed us more and more that we were approaching the royal camp, because the road was littered with livestock and people who was coming to the royal camp, some to bring the cattle to the market, some to bring oxen in custody in the village, some would go to the village assigned to him to be maintained and was returning home: there were taxpayers who came back with donkeys, mules or horses discharged after paying taxes, there were village chiefs who had gone to the king to present tribute or complaints and lucky people who returned free after a royal court judgment.

On top of a hill we find a great church: the church of the Savior that Tewodros had begun to build.

We are not so far away, we make a stop in the middle, beneath an acacia tree, to change and put a proper dress, and, according to the formalities of the country, I am required to wear the decorated dress that I was granted by the king, with the Cross of the Order of Solomon. * My wife Teresa also received the dress that carry the wives of the "graduated": bernuos embroidered in silk and merghef embroidered in silk as well.

* "Golden Cross of the value of thirty thalers, ordered by Naretti and called cross of Solomon." (G. Bianchi, Alla terra dei Galla, Milan, Fratelli Treves, 1884) p. 55. (See fig. 9)


In Debre Tabor

We approach the camp of the king, and many villages and much cultivated land, all in all a nice landscape: at one point we see at the same time sowing and harvesting wheat in two different fields. We turn around a hill crowned by dense vegetables on the slopes of which sits a large group of huts and presents us an endless show of motion, originality and extension.

In front of us, scattered in every direction, the royal army: they are clusters of huts, large and small, new and old, black and white tents, a swarm of people, a succession of groups on foot or on mule, of small separate camps that seem to have life of their own, a twinkling of weapons and a waving of red and white robes, a whisper and a scream, a true wild whirl of motion and soul that spreads as far as the eye on the mild hills and wide valleys.

It was the first time that I entered in Amhara: I was curious and pleased to see the picturesque and very fertile villages: everywhere were flowing sources of water.

We advanced towards the royal house placed on a small high platform; going up, in front of the royal house, came to receive us my friend bageron Lautie: here he hugged me and then he almost wanted to quarrel with me because I had not sent to warn him of the time of our arrival, otherwise the king would send to receive us. Finally he greeted all my friends, he took my hand and we entered the royal home through a big round house, reception hall, we entered the courtyard and there appeared the bedroom of his majesty.

I went first and immediately he offered me his hand, so did with all my companions, and to my brother he graciously asked if we had a good trip, but I saw by his face that he was thoughtful and disturbed.

He spoke a few words and then he told us to go to rest; we went out but the king beckoned me to stay. There was Ras Alula [see Biographies] alone with the king, who asked me again if I had a good trip and if I had always been in good health and he told me: "Come tomorrow morning, we'll talk about your fellow companions." I greeted him again and I came away because I saw him very concerned, and joined my companions. Already thirty soldiers were ready to take us to our camp, we turned back to the enclosure of the king and found our camp, a large tukul already prepared for me and others under construction, and for the companions they were planting the big tent that the king himself was using in his travels.

We were entering the great tukul when we heard five gunshots to greet our arrival. The gentlemen my companions, who were a little concerned at seeing his majesty so worried, I saw them become again more cheerful. Soon came some of my friends from the court of the king and they said to me: "This morning His Majesty is very thoughtful and disturbed because of the condemnation which he had to perform on the brother of ras Ailu: the sentence was to cut off a hand and a foot, he has only cut his foot and the operation was just performed when the ecceghiè arrived with other great people to ask for forgiveness, but unfortunately the operation was already done."

Ras Ailu was his first warrior who had done much to put the King Johannes in power, so we understand why the king was sad and disturbed. The penitent had been caught in a fight against the king Johannes in Socota: he had joined forces with a rebel.

The two Protestant of the Swedish mission came after us to get to the king, since I knew that the king would not want to know of this mission, I had already sent a word to the king in order to not compromise any of us, neither me nor the gentlemen my companions, because with religion it's easy to get compromised. I already knew from afar the opinions and firm ideas of the King for which I had warned him with a letter, before arriving, that neither I nor my fellow gentlemen had nothing to do with the missionaries, that in the departure from Adwa they had followed us but we were not masters of the country to forbid them to come with us, the road is made for all, and since they were good and honest people we could only use good manners with them.

So, just finished making our camp, the king planted another tent for the Swedes near my tukul. My friends of the court began to come to see me and rejoice for my good return, it was also my priest friend, the bearer of the crown of the king, Aleka Fanta: knowing that two days before we had crossed his village and that his parishioners had not treated us properly, as a sign of forgiveness he offered us two cows.

The caretaker of the king for our food came and took us also three cows, thirty iron knives to be returned upon departure and thirty candles from the country, vases of tej, berberiè, butter, honey, bread in large baskets; each container carried by a servant was covered with a red cloth.

The scene in itself, to know ourselves guests of the dreaded king, the originality of all what most solemn and most fantastic you could imagine, and sure the time would have been touching but the big appetite, in the middle of such abundance, was stronger than the tears.

Tuesday, 21 [May 1879] the king let to rest my gentlemen companions and I, already invited by the king, went to him early in the morning: he received me with a look very nice and cheerful and said, "Well, what do these gentlemen your friends want? ', I replied: "Your Majesty, these gentlemen, who compose the expedition of which Matteucci is the leader, come to your majesty to make friends: they are traders who wish to have the permission of your Majesty to trade in your country, and also your majesty may use them for everything your majesty wishes, and I can assure your Majesty that they are good people who do not meddle neither of politics nor of religion but came only for commercial purposes. These gentlemen come not on behalf of the king of Italy, but as part of a company, but if your majesty wants to make friends with the King of Italy it’s enough that your majesty grant them a business permission to travel in your country, free and protected by Your Majesty and to treat them well and then your majesty is sure to have the friendship of the king of Italy. The lords Vigoni and Ferrari are two great gentlemen who come especially to see Your Majesty, for making friends and for the pleasure of seeing your country. "

And he said: "Well, if it is as you say that they are my friends, I will do everything possible to satisfy them. Today let them rest, tomorrow morning tell these gentlemen to come with you. And I'm glad you brought your brother, as long as he is like you". I greeted him, I came away happy and I brought the good news to my fellow gentlemen, who were happy and satisfied.

During the day, the visits of friends did not stop, almost all brought something: cows, sheep, tej, we had a yard full of animals that in our country would be a capital. The ration set for us by the King every day consisted in two or three cows, bread, three gombo of tej, three of honey, butter, berberiè, thirty small candles, skins full of wheat, forage for the mules, hay, bundles of firewood, and all this carried by a string of miserable slaves, male and female, who worked at the service of the king and his entourage, and received food and some rag from time to time to cover themselves. These slaves had been given by the vassals of Shoa and Gojjam, the king kept them as servants who were waiting at the lowest jobs and were not admitted to his presence. This long line of unfortunates brought their own load all over the head covered with red cloth, and laid it on the ground while their master was delivering, they were avidly waiting for the bread that to each of them is offered.

Thursday at about nine, as the appointment was already set, we all went to the king, we entered in the same small room where there were a dozen of his faithful, we made a little curtsy and he immediately reached out his hand and gave good morning to everyone. And then Matteucci presented the gifts that the Milanese committee sent: a rifle of our army with ammunition, two revolvers, a travel cot made of iron, cushions of red silk with a royal crown embroidered, velvets, damasks, cloth of various colors, silk handkerchiefs, soap, various candles, matches, many objects in rubber, bridle with currycomb and brushes for the horses, bottles of carved crystal, some full of liquor that the king invited us to taste because to trust is good and not to trust is better: even among them is the use of mistrust.

After receiving the gifts and thanking us he dismissed us to let in the two Protestant Swedes  *, who presented him with a pendulum clock and a red silk umbrella. I later requested information on the reception of the two Swedish companions: the king received the gifts, thanked them and said to them, "What do you want?" "Explain the gospel." They said. "The gospel is one, God is one, faith is one, I have churches, I have bishops, priests, and they know very well by themselves how to teach the gospel to my people. And to whom then would you like to teach more properly the gospel? "

"... To the Jews, to the Muslims." "And you do not have Jews in your country? And coming here you have not noticed that you were crossing a country of Muslims? Why have not you thought of stopping amongst them to explain the gospel? I gladly accept merchants, travelers, workers in carpets, silk, arms, workers who work with wood or they know how to do all kind of work, but not people who want to get involved in the religion of my people. "

I do not know what effect did this dialogue but I think they  must have been dissatisfied.

* Svensson and Carlsson, as already mentioned. Arens, in Evangelical Pioneers in Ethiopia, p. 242-243, shows that the Swedes were received twice five days apart, were always treated with courtesy but Johannes made it clear that they were not welcome in his empire because Ethiopia did not need another religion. He encouraged them to leave soon and he threatened them to put them to death if they returned.

The next day I went with my brother to bring him my little gifts and those of my wife, amongst which a harp with golden sculptures; he accepted them gladly, thanked me and told me: "The best gift you could do is your return, and I think that your brother will be as good as you, it's up to you to guide him because you're the elder. I will write to Adwa to carry here your tools because I want you to do me a church here. Now take rest with your companions, in a few days I'll show you the place. " "Very well, your majesty." I greeted him and came away.


The village of Debre Tabor is close to the royal camp, which takes this name as that of the neighboring village, but properly the name of the hill where is planted the royal camp is Gafat * and rises to 2700 meters above sea level. The king Ali was the one who chose this location, almost as the capital of the kingdom, as the most central point of the three main provinces of Amhara, the Shoa and Gojjam, one of the best locations: water, hay and wood in abundance and the ground very fertile.

* The explorer Gerard Rohlfs, in Abyssinia, Milan, Vallardi, 1885, p. 154-156, explains that Debre Tabor was a district, Gafat a hill near where Tewodros had the ammunitions factories where the Europeans were working, but the royal residence was Samara, as reported later by Naretti at page 119.

A few days passed; Vigoni had a nice American rifle, simple and elegant, Winchester repeater system, which he had carry for his own personal use, he showed it to someone who spoke to the king; he was asked to show it to the king, who made him understand that he liked it very much. What to do? Vigoni was forced to give it to him against his will and to pretend that he did it with all his heart to please him. Both the king like all the other officers, when you show them a beautiful object, principally if it is a weapon, is for them a great offense if you are not giving it to him.

Sunday 25 we were all invited to present ourselves to his majesty: I already knew it was for lunch. To Vigoni then after that he was forced to give the rifle with the addition of a nice revolver, the king made to fire a shot as a test and said: "This weapon is Italian, because I had another of the same type, gift of Menelik. ", so, to do honor to the Italian industry, Vigoni had to say yes even if it was not true.

Finally came the lunch. We were at the right, next to the couch of the king; the king was happy and Vigoni was studying him carefully in order to examine well his appearance. Lunch was the usual: as first course the brendò, raw meat, and the second tibs, meat roasted on the grill, the best dish for us Europeans because it is really the best way to eat meat with its aroma: they put salt and pepper before they roast it on the live embers, and then tej and spirit of the village, it is the ordinary lunch that gives every day the king, except for large parties. Then there is not only brendò and roasted meat, but several other dishes but always with the berberiè for all the dishes.

Among the officers were also the friendly figure of Ras Alula and Ras Wolde Michael, the famous rebel who for three years held the revolution in the Hamasien. The dining room was nothing more than a big thatched hut with brick walls, about fifteen meters high at the center, which served as a dining room, reception room and usually there are at the bottom the king's horse and mule, with a curtain in front: it's no wonder because these are the ancient customs of all Ethiopian monarchs.

For the good Vigoni, for which all these parties had been organized, it was a great satisfaction, but he was uneasy and said: "What will my mother say for my delay, since I promised to come back soon?"

They begged me to speak to the king for permission to make their trips as soon as possible, and I did not fail to speak to him, saying: "Your Majesty, these people are in a hurry to return; they are very happy with the good reception of your majesty but they want to move forward, to leave if your majesty permits. Matteucci want to take a trip to Gojjam to see the markets, and the lords Vigoni, Ferrari and Legnani want to see the lake Tana. " He replied: "All right, tell them to come tomorrow morning."

The morning of the 27th the king himself summoned them, received them kindly and told them: "Each of you can go wherever you like in my country."

At the same time he also received the two Protestant Swedes together with one head of the church and told them that he had not changed his mind since the first audience he had granted, and ordered them to leave during the day and reach Massawa as soon as possible with a stop of not more than three days in Adwa, ensuring that all along the way they would enjoy maximum security and dismissed them immediately. And then he turned to the lords Matteucci, Vigoni, Ferrari and Legnani and wishing them a safe journey and saying that their guides were ready.

Here, then, Matteucci left alone, with his escort, for Gojjam, and Vigoni, Ferrari and Legnani left for Lake Tana.

I was very much sorry that the two Protestant gentlemen, two very kind people, were not well received; I knew the weakness of the king, I had advised them but it was too late: if they had confessed what they wanted from the king, if they had told the king that their mission was protected by the Queen of England to teach the Christian religion, perhaps they would have been able to see their application accepted. Since the king had first asked which country they were and they replied that they were Swedish, and since the king had never heard of that nation, he had no confidence.


So I went ahead in the preparations for the construction of the church of Saint George *, having already sent to Adwa to take the tools on urgent order of the king to bring them as soon as possible, because the king had put in his head he wanted to build himself a church in Debre Tabor because Tewodros had built one on top of a narrow mountain making it expand with an immense quantity of stones with a coverage of not less than eighty meters high and about the same diameter.

* "On a summit (3068 m a.s.l.) of Mount Debre Tabor who gave the city its name, picturesque and imposing circular building in masonry built by the Italian Naretti, with recent paintings of usual type." (From Guida dell’Africa orientale italiana, TCI, Milan, 1938) page 391.


A few days later I saw the dear companions Vigoni, Ferrari and Legnani get back from their trip to Lake Tana; it was in the evening when I saw the good friend Vigoni get off his mule very ill, with his hand to his neck and pale, he was unrecognizable, and I was very surprised to see him suffer, and he told me: "Dear Naretti, I suffer a lot." Just arrived home he showed me his huge finger, and the doctor Matteucci had not yet arrived, what could be done to soothe that severe pain? I gave him the advice to put a poultice of flour: it was applied to him three or four a day and the second night it was festering and the pain began to calm down. If the treatment had not been made quickly, maybe there was a danger of gangrene, but Providence has helped a worthy and deserving person.

After eight days Matteucci came from Gojjam, approved the treatment, said it was well done, that was the only remedy, and that we should continue.

Meanwhile they were preparing for the departure: the friendly Vigoni every moment said: "Ah, my mom waiting for me," and asked me to speak to the king so that he would make them leave as soon as possible, also because the rainy season was approaching. The king summoned them and politely told them that he was preparing to let them leave.

The next day the king sent for me, showed me the crown he wanted to garnish with small diamonds and said, "Since they are merchants, do you know whether Mr. Matteucci could get me these diamonds?". I told him I thought so, and I immediately called him and showed him the crown: we counted about sixty small diamonds and he asked him if he could take charge of bringing them. Matteucci said, "To tell the truth, I am not experienced in this genre, but I will do my best to satisfy your majesty.", And the king, "Is it enough ten thousand thalers?". Matteucci said, "I think so, but I'm not sure." And the king back, "It does not matter, for the price we shall find a solution." And he told him many other things for more than one hundred thousand lire asking him if he wanted to be paid in thaler or in merchandise; Matteucci replied that he preferred in merchandise. "It's fine." said the king.

During preparations for the departure the king again asked Matteucci if he could take it upon himself to bring a letter to King Umberto, and he replied, "Your Majesty, with all pleasure." So the next day he summoned me with Matteucci because the letter was ready; we went in, the letter was not finished yet because the secretary had made a mistake: he had it redone and then, while we were waiting, leaving the house we entered the courtyard where there is the deposit of all the royal merchandises under a thatched hut and in another hut nearby we saw two small lions, male and female, no bigger than a large cat, which the day before the king had received as a gift from the ras of Gojjam, Ras Adal. Matteucci told me: "Look, it would be a nice gift for our king." And I replied: "I agree!"

I go straight to the King and say, "Your Majesty, we have seen the two small lions out here: Mr. Matteucci says it would be a nice gift for His Majesty King Umberto." and he said: "Do you think yourself that it is allowed to offer them as a gift?" "Your Majesty, it's definitely a nice gift!" "Well, tell Mr. Matteucci that he can take them and do everything possible so that they arrive in good health." I go out and tell Matteucci: "The deal is done, in fact he was very pleased."

After a short time we had to call because the letter was finished and handed it to Matteucci asking him to take care of it, saying that he wanted friendship with the King of Italy and asking when they wanted to leave, and Matteucci said to him: "Your Majesty, it would be good to leave in three or four days. " We returned to the house to bring the good news: the good Vigoni was joyful because he was finding it very hard not to see his dear mother.

It was agreed then that Gustavo Bianchi to remain to the royal camp to keep the correspondence, and Matteucci, Vigoni, Ferrari and Legnani decided to leave and return home; Matteucci had assured the king that he would return to carry the response of His Majesty King Umberto and the objects that had been ordered.

The day before the departure, the king had called them all wishing a safe journey and gave them a letter to his uncle ras Araya, begging doctor Matteucci to visit him and give him some medicine, Matteucci answered: "With all pleasure." In the evening he sent three saddled mules and with decorated garnishes, one for Matteucci, the other for Vigoni and the third for Ferrari, and Matteucci proved jealous because his mule had the harness with the same decorations of the others, and said, "he made no distinction for me as the leader of the expedition. "

On June 21 [1879] they lifted the camp and undertook their journey; my brother and me we accompanied them for a long way, and we wanted to go even further because we felt that we should not leave each other, but then we ended up saying "bye bye" with hugs and kisses and goodbye. Bianchi was going to accompany them up to Gondar, so that I returned with my brother, but very sorry for leaving our dear friends.


After four days I received a letter from Bianchi with the sad news that ras Araya had put all of them in chains and praying to inform immediately the king. I immediately took the news to the king, who put his hands in his hair and said, "That man has not given me enough trouble, it was necessary that I also did this to me to turn the Italians into my enemies." He wasted no time even to write, he sent a man on horseback, and in the meantime a letter soon arrived from ras Araya who begged to forgive him, that it was a mistake and that he had immediately set them free.

The fact happened like this: the king had sent a courier to ras Araya with a letter of recommendation to treat well the five Italians, one of whom was a doctor sent expressly for him, he had also sent another messenger to tell him that he would send five prisoners with the fork attached to the neck to be put on the mountain. The fact is that the carrier of the prisoners arrived first at the same time that the dear companions entered the house of Ras Araya. He was lying on a carpet, drunk as usual: he seated them, then he read the letter and immediately confiscated their weapons and then gave the order to chain them and separated them one per hut. Now I will let you judge the despair in which they found themselves my poor companions; the good Vigoni must have thought that his dear mother was right.

After about two hours came the letter of recommendation of the king and the ras summoned them immediately and removed the chains, and then knelt with his head down to apologize saying that he had made a mistake, he made them take an ox and the lunch but they refused and left without taking care of the sick and camped not far off, in Gondar. After nine days arrived Bianchi, who brought the good news that they had left Gondar in good health.

I began to prepare the work, I cut the big juniper trunks that were in the same enclosure of the church, I made demolish the old church that was nothing more than a tukul as are all the other houses, and I traced the foundations of the new church.

The laws of religion forbid you to cut any smaller living tree at some distance from the church, it will only allow you to collect the wood that falls dead, so the churches become forests. By cutting the biggest trees I saw they were empty inside for their old age, the largest had a trunk with a diameter from 80 to 90 cm and a height of about 30 meters. I ordered to square the trees and dig a hole as deep as the stands were high, in order to roll the large beams above the stands at ground level, because it was impossible with the means and indigenous men to raise a huge beam of about 70 centimeters wide for ten meters in length. So we managed perfectly with the rollers to load them on the stands, without obstacles and danger that people could hurt themselves, and in fact there was no accident.

The king and his officers, seeing the preparations and maneuvers, were astonished and said, "Naretti is worth a thousand of our men."

Meanwhile the tools arrived and I prepared the lab: my brother Giuseppe organized the construction of doors and windows and I took care of the construction of the church with the few men whom I had already trained.

Me and my brother we had to do the bulk of the difficult jobs. With all the people that the king had given me: bricklayers, carpenters, and the servants, laborers to bring the water and the earth, at the end there were at least three hundred people of the service of the king with their leader who commanded them with stick blows.

Since the king had made me understand that he wanted to have the church finished quickly, I did all what I could, in fact, in three and a half months all the walls of the church were built and the doors and interior windows finished.


The Greek consul Mitzachis and the mission of Gordon Pasha

At that time arrived the Greek consul, Mr. Mitzachis *, in the middle of strong rains, while Bianchi, who lived with my family as a brother, he was writing while waiting for the end of the rains.

* Mitzakis, of Suez (see Introduction).

The Greek consul, as soon as he arrived, for first he proposed to the king to appoint him consul of all Europeans, but he missed his shot. Afterwards he proposed him the abuna of his country, Portugal, telling the king Johannes: "We are the first that we have planted the Christian religion in your kingdom." For this he was right, and believed to be safe because the abuna Athanasius had died after the war of Gura for "dysentery in blood", as many others died of the same disease caused by infection provoked by dead bodies. So the Viceroy of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, had refused to give him another abuna but when he learned of the departure of the Greek consul in mission to Abyssinia he immediately sent an embassy to King Johannes, a priest called abuna Paulos, very smart, to tell the king Johannes that he was ready to send the abuna; it is certain that all this was ordered to the Coptic patriarch of Cairo by the khedivè.

But first of all the king had already replied to Mr. Mitzachis that he did not want to change the religion that his fathers had for many centuries, so the second question had failed. But with all this the king did not fail to respect him; he loved him for his look and his mild manners and spoke with his calm, always smiling, and then you can say that they had the same religion and did not miss a mass, and when the king would go to the church Mitzachis never failed to be next to the king.

In the meantime [27 October 1879] arrived Gordon Pasha (see Introduction-Chapter 6) with a mission from the Viceroy of Egypt, Ismail Pasha with another bey and twenty soldiers. Here we were four Europeans: the Greek consul, Bianchi, my brother and I, and the king ordered us to go to receive him not far from the royal camp of Gafat; Mitzachis as soon as he saw him from a distance he began to gallop with his mule, without dismounting he gave him his hand as if he was his brother, and then there was a handshake between everyone.

We climbed back on our mules, and accompanied him to the royal court where he was received with all the honors, then, as usual, the king said a few words and then invited him to go to rest. He already had prepared two houses, made in three days, according to the custom of the country, in a garden near my laboratory where they were vines, lemons, oranges and several other plants of the country.

The next day there was the hearing; Mitzachis went early to the king not to miss the hearing, and after three hearings Gordon Pasha, seeing always there Mitzachis who could not obtain anything, asked him to be allowed to leave.

Since the king was determined to go to the thermal baths *, he begged him to stay until his return; Gordon replied no, that he wanted to leave the next day. I already knew everything because Gordon, when he came home, he would tell me almost everything. Then the king sent for me and told me, "Gordon Pasha wants to leave without necessarily conclude our business.", I already knew the facts from Gordon and I replied: "Your Majesty, if he wants to leave, it is better that your majesty let him go, because what's the point of holding him? And it's not good for your majesty. "

* Thermal Baths at Uenzeghiè near Korata (Bianchi, op. Cit.) P. 116.

The next day [Nov. 8] Gordon prepared his caravan, he went to greet the king and at about ten o'clock he made the caravan leave; at which time came Madregal, the dragoman of the king, with a bag of one thousand thalers, and he said to Gordon, "The King sends you one thousand thalers instead of the gifts that he wanted to give you and did not have time to prepare". Gordon mounted his horse, he turned back and said: "Tell the king that it is better that with this money he pays those who work." Madregal replied, "The king Johannes has no debt, unlike the king of Egypt." And Gordon replied, laughing: "I wish you the luck to serve masters without debts." Then gave him a handshake and he went the way of Metemma. The king let him go just beyond Gondar and then made him return back and told him to make the way of Tigray to Massawa. Gordon, on his way back, he found the means to send a notice to Metemma that he was a prisoner, as indeed he believed to be, as the king had changed his way just to get revenge.

And with the announcement of Gordon a dispatch left from Metemma to Cairo, and soon after to London and Calcutta, according to which Gordon was a prisoner. Lord Napier from Calcutta immediately sent a kind letter to King Johannes to obtain the release of Gordon Pasha. The King Johannes received the letter when Gordon was already happily in Cairo and the king Johannes laughed of the fear that Gordon Pasha had.


The rainy season came, which prevented the construction of the walls and the carpentry, but we occupied the time in the lab to make progress in the work for the doors and windows with my dear brother.

Bianchi and the Greek consul Mitzachis always stayed at home chatting about trading business; Bianchi was almost convinced he had found a friend in Mitzachis.

Mitzachis after he missed the first two shots, attempted the third consisting in making a commercial treaty with Greece: he said he was sure he could succeed, and the insistence was strong, but he could not succeed: also this coup failed. And he established an intelligence service: every time that the king summoned me, he sent a paid men to know the reason why the king was convoking me. The king admired him very much because with his good manners he taught him the vices of Europe that the King Johannes, although he was intelligent and clever, did not yet know, and so Mitzachis did a wrong to himself, forgetting that he too was European.

Since that time the king Johannes changed completely: he had already distrust of Europeans and Mitzachis eventually completed it, and though the king showed to be his best friend actually he distrusted him too.

Meanwhile, among all this talk the winter passed, the rainy season finished and the month of October 1879 arrived.

Gustavo Bianchi asked the king for permission to go to the Shoa because he wanted to take a trip, passing through the Shoa in Godru and coming back through the Gojjam to return to Debre Tabor, and the king granted his wish.


Cardinal Massaja at the court of Johannes

Some time before in Debre Tabor had arrived the Catholic mission of the bishop Massaja (see Biographies) with two other French missionaries but we were forbidden to visit him because the king Johannes had them come to get rid of them and send them away from his country, in fact he had never looked favorably on the Catholic mission.

At the arrival of the mission we came to know that Captain Cecchi and Chiarini (see Biographies) were prisoners in the reign of the Queen of Gera. I immediately sought advice with Bianchi: I said, "Maybe with a recommendation of King Johannes we can save them." And Bianchi agreed.

And we went straight to the King: that was a good morning because he was cheerful and immediately held out his hand and greeted us as usual. I began to say, "Your Majesty, we have came for a big favor." And he replied, "What for?" "We have heard that two Italians are prisoners in the reign of Queen of Gera and we thought that your majesty, if he wants to, maybe could save them, and this would be a great thing for your majesty: His Majesty the King of Italy, will certainly be very grateful. " He asked me: "They are your friends?" And I told him: "Your Majesty, I do not know them but they are my compatriots, they are from my country." Bianchi repeated it to him: "If your majesty will be able to free them it is certain that your majesty will do a great favor to the king of Italy, who will be grateful." Then the king looked at me in the eyes and  said, "Well, I will write immediately to the king Menelik to do everything possible to free them." We thanked him and there we went away.

Bianchi had already delayed his trip to see the departure of the good bishop Monsignor Massaja. * Which finally departed with his mission to Metemma and Ghedaref, the path that they had requested **; I was sorry not much for not having been able to go to say goodbye, having been forbidden by my friend ecceghiè Teofilos, prime minister of King Johannes, who told me: "You are my son, listen to my advice: if you want to keep the friendship with the king, because you know that he loves you and values you, you should not visit the Catholic mission because you already know that the king can’t stand Catholic priests. " I already knew this for a long time and also Bianchi, he too, has refrained from making the visit so as not to endanger his journey.

* The cardinal Massaja arrived to Debre Tabor on August 5th and left on 3rd October 1879.

** About the request of the way to go, Massaja says that Johannes chose the worst way back because he hoped that the missionaries would die from the terrible swamps fever or would be killed by bandits or by dervishes. (Guglielmo Massaja, Historical Memoirs of the Apostolic Vicariate of Galla 1845-1880, Vatican City, Vatican Archives, 1984, vol. VI), chapter 20, pp.201-209.


Here Bianchi left for the Shoa by the road of Delantà to Magdala, accompanied by the guides of the king.

Even the Greek consul Mitzachis he left with all his failed requests but always in good friendship with the king. Mitzachis believed to find stupid people in the Abyssinians but instead it is just the opposite: the Abyssinian is smart, very intelligent, only he "lacks the teaching of civilization, I give my meaning to the word civilization: he lacks an inclination and the good attitude for the progress of the country", starting with the king to the last citizen they think only of their own existence. On the other hand, they had the misfortune not to have ever had a serious government but always some cruel King Herod who had abused of their power without humanity. The king was happy of Mitzachis because he taught him the vices of Europe.

And he brought to the market of Massawa the oxen he had left.


The expedition of the Emperor Johannes and King Menelik to the Ieggiu

Finally I had already raised the walls of the church approximately to the height of the roof and knowing that the king was about to leave for an excursion in the Galla [Oromo] and that he wanted me to join, I put together in a hurry the carpentry for the cover.

The king left eight days before and he left me with a bascià  with hundred soldiers to accompany me to him, so I did as soon as possible to prepare me for the trip. My brother Giuseppe was more than happy to travel and my wife Teresa was even more pleased, because, without wanting to praise her, she is one of the strongest and more resistant travelers and she loves to travel.

Eight days after the departure of the king we started on the road heading towards Zabit Delanta along the itinerary followed by the king, but as the king was always marching quickly he was always away from us. Where the king passes he raids almost everything, leaving little behind him so whenever we arrived with thirty people and about twenty between riding and cargo mules, and more than a hundred soldiers with women and servants, the poor farmers complained that could not give the ration that the king had commanded, and I always let run something, it was sufficient that there was enough for all of us. But the soldiers went beyond what had been ordered by the king and in addition they stole clothing and cattle, so at night you could hear the villagers shout aloud "Johannes Amlach", which means "for the name of the king!".

In the early morning the villagers were coming to complain so I asked the chief not to act in that way, even if I could not absolutely impose bans on soldiers, and he promised me that he would. We left but I saw a few soldiers to accompany me, because the others remained behind to do what they wanted.

In three days, marching about eight or ten hours a day, we ended up crossing a plateau all in plain, without rivers but with sources of water in abundance, the soil very fertile, the optimal temperature, 15 to 20 degrees Celsius, at an altitude approximately equal to that of the mountain of Magdala that stands isolated from the bottom of a plain where they collect almost all the water streams that go to form the Blue Nile that passes between the two kingdoms, the Gojjam and  the Amhara, it divides them and flows into Lake Tana, it forms a current crossing the lake and gets out of the lake being about a third larger and crosses the Gojjam.

I am very sorry I had taken some notes about the names of the villages over my travel notebook but unfortunately five months before my departure from Abyssinia a sudden fire destroyed everything, not just my notebook but also many beautiful letters, very interesting, from the king Johannes and all travelers who passed here during the period of my stay, which would form surely the most beautiful story of my book, which remains instead a draft of wholesale facts.

We camped at the head of the plateau in the province of Ieggiu to the south-east, at the beginning of Lasta at north-east; the plain ended, we met a number of small hills, we formed our camp near a village with a dozen huts all empty: the inhabitants had fled not for us but for the passage of the king.

In the place of our camp there was not even the wood for our poor kitchen. I took my gun and went hunting nearby, I went over a small hill and sat down, I took a glance and saw myself in the middle of a clearing of black stone: I removed various stones got up and found a formation of fossil coal, but I was not sure because it was not my game, so to be sure I took a few pieces of that stone with me, I went back to the camp, I lit a fire with those twigs that I have been able to find, I threw my stones in the fire and after more than half an hour I saw it turned into hot ambers as it was coal. Thus I had the certainty of having found the fossil coal, and the mountain has a huge circumference and it's all of the same kind.

Early in the morning we lifted the camp, in two hours we reached the great descent of Sanca at about 1900 meter to descend to Ieggiu, as I have already described, together with the wealth of the province of Ieggiu, during my first trip. We marched very quickly to reach the king as soon as possible because wherever the army of the king goes it leaves a very bad mood in the population and little security.

In three other forced marches we had approached the king and past Ieggiu was starting the region of Vuarababo. Then there we found ourselves in danger because the king had already begun to "seize" and the inhabitants had defended themselves, they had killed more than thirty soldiers, as the "looting" is done in separate groups: the army is divided into several battalions to raid a large expanse of the country in one swoop so that the people cannot take away their cattle.

We camped near the river called Mile and our escort of one hundred soldiers who was to accompany us was never complete, more than half was always missing. But that night, knowing the danger, they were all there and they formed their camp around our tents making great fires and their leader forced them to stay awake all night, and we too not only we made all our servant stay awake to keep watch, but also my brother and I, and even my wife Teresa wanted to watch and she was not satisfied with the revolver but she also wanted the rifle, and at every sound of leaves it was an alarm. Finally came the dawn, and we began to be more relaxed.

In the night we could see the fires of the camp of the king; the soldiers, which at the departure from Debre Tabor were poorly dressed, in the morning I saw them all well dressed with the stuff they had stolen from the poor peasants along the road: it is useless to forbid them to "seize" because it is in their customs and they like doing the soldier specifically to be able to steal freely.

In the morning early, and the departure was being prepared, we went to visit the two streams of the River Mile that he had a couple of hundred meters wide bed with a cold stream and the other so hot that you could not resist with your hand inside, and all along the river looked like a pot when it boils, in fact mules and horses while crossing they were jumping to escape away soon.

Finally we marched towards the south-east, and about nine o'clock in the morning we reached the camp of the king; it took at least an hour to cross before reaching the royal camp. We approached, we saw the red tent of the king on a mound that looked just like a sugar loaf, with a very steep uphill. Since I already knew approximately what our place would be, we began to plant the tent for my wife, and then my brother and I went to visit the king. As soon as he  saw us he made us enter immediately, he laughed holding out his hand and asking if we had a good trip, and ordered us to go to rest. Shortly after I saw coming, as usual, a beautiful cow and ten sheep with bread of injera and tej, berberiè, etc., everything one needs, of course according to the custom of the country.

Here the king stood three days to rest the army and make the provision of wheat. The entire population had fled and left the houses empty; I say houses, but they were actually huts according to their use, but the soil was very fertile, rich in vegetation, with plenty of water.

The greatest skill of the soldiers was to test the ground with the butt of their spear, or with a stick, knowing the malice of the farmers who bury in their fields, no matter whether in a cultivated field or in a forest, all the grain that they have harvested.

I stood spellbound on seeing them discover close to our camp in a forest with tall grass, quite large caves full of grain and cereals, in the space of twenty four hours they found cereals in abundance, all coming out of the "holes". The holes are made somewhat like the earthen pots, or rather like a round oven with a narrow mouth where a man can hardly pass, and inside a large space, and for cover they have a large stone with at least fifty centimeters of soil. Despite all this, the hunters, beating with a stick or with the butt of their spear, did not fail to find the "holes".

After three days the king went on in his journey: we marched for four days, we crossed the vast plains with many small villages but all were empty: the inhabitants had fled, because they were all Muslims and the King Johannes had imposed on them to become Christians, but if the king had not forced them to become Christians they would be subdued.

The courier of King Menelik * arrived saying that his army was about to reach the King * Johannes; the king gave orders to "seize" whatever they could find and to burn all villages.

We marched still a good stage, we arrived in the heart of the great province of Vuarababo and the king placed his camp to receive Menelik. The king, as he was encamped on a quite high hill and the road was pretty bad, ordered his officers to make the way easy for the king Menelik, what was done in the same day.

* Naretti gives the title of King to both Menelik and Johannes, the latter actually enjoyed the title of emperor. See note on p. ???.


The next day, December 21, 1879, King Menelik arrived with a very large escort leaving his army still a good stage back, and was received with all the honors.

The night before the departure of Menelik I made sure to go and ask the king Johannes news of Cecchi and Chiarini, if they were safe from the prison of the queen of Gera; in fact in the evening I asked for a hearing to the king expressly to have news of Captain Cecchi and of  the engineer Chiarini: I immediately obtained the audience, in which he said: "He didn’t speak about this and neither I asked, but do not worry, tomorrow I will certainly talk to Menelik."

The next day I went to the king, just as I entered he gave me his hand cheerful and said: "You know, the king Menelik told me that he believes they are in freedom but he didn’t assure me, he is still waiting for news. As for Bianchi he told me that he gave him the guides and he departed to go to Gudru and then to Gojjam. "

The next day we lifted the camp, we headed south-west towards the lake Haik, we went on a plateau: the temperature was very fresh, there was a beautiful vegetation, with many villages, but the villagers had fled taking away all their livestock and all their belongings.

As usual, the king set fire to all the villages to a huge extent, but the inhabitants were hiding in the woods and took revenge and many soldiers of King Johannes and King Menelik were killed and maimed.

In the marches nobody wanted to be left behind, everyone wanted to march together forming a large crowd because they were afraid, lagging behind, to be killed, so in several narrow passages we had the same effect of the ants, they rode on top of each other so quite a few were crushed. We, as we marched together to the king's guards, we were better repaired, but the descent towards the plain of Lake Haik, a steep descent without roads, was really a great obstacle to that mass of people: between the army of the king Johannes and the King Menelik, counting soldiers, women, and children one could calculate about three hundred thousand people.

Me, my wife and my brother always marched to our great sorrow and with attention not to separate, but at the beginning of a big descent our little slave girl of about eight years, who accompanied my wife, felt ill, so I got off the mule to lend aid, she mounted my mule with me, and meanwhile the crowd divided us from my wife and my brother; I was alone in the midst of a large crowd, all the servants led the caravan, so seeing at every moment pile up mules, horses and donkeys on top of each other, I thought better to go through the forest: I got down from the mule, I put the girl on it, I took the mule by the bridle and descended the forest leaning from tree to tree because the descent had a gradient of at least fifty percent. Luckily I found two women in the camp of the king who knew me and told me: "Why are you here all alone?" And immediately graciously volunteered to bring the girl on their back up the camp.

They began to see the camp already formed but we were still far having lost about three hours, so I let you judge the great concern in which I was to have lost my good wife and my brother in a situation so dangerous not knowing how they could save themselves in the midst of that great multitude; how many people I had seen tumbling down!

It was getting dark when I went to the camp and I saw the dragoman Madregal with other servants who were looking for me and gave me the comforting news that my wife and my brother had already camped out for about two hours and that my wife was in despair for not seeing me arrive for fear that some misfortune had occurred to me, as there was nothing easier in that sad day. I arrived to the camp and in a moment we were all relieved; I found everything ready but before dinner we started to tell the adventures of the day we had spent, for me, I can say that I considered it the most horrible day of my life!

We were camped in the north-east of Lake Haik in a gorge that was spreading towards the lake to the south and at north-west reached a large plain with very fertile soil. On the map was marked Lake Haik and we thought it was the real one, however the real lake Haik was still about fifteen miles to the west, and after two days we went with the king to try to open a channel to drain the waters in rainy season because several times it flooded the villages.

We found a magnificent passage to drain the lake, not longer than three hundred meters, it was enough to make a channel of about one and a half meters, which was started immediately: I drew it about four meters wide and just as deep and the king Johannes gave order to start the work immediately. You could see the soldiers dig with their shod sticks, consisting of a large stick, of those that are planted in tents as central support, encased with an iron tip, or with other large sticks having the same shape and called "ancase", that are used to dig the earth. I made begin the work on the first day by the soldiers of King Johannes, the second day was continued by the soldiers of King Menelik, with so many men that were even hindered to work, but were much better organized in terms of equipment.

In four days the canal was completed and the water open: in 24 hours the lake declined by about fifty centimeters although it was already at the lowest level of the year, for which the operation could be called successful.

Then came news from the Shoa. I went to the king without knowing anything, to ask news about Cecchi and Chiarini: the king, who that day was really worried, looked at me with a compassionate look and I said, "I see you are in anguish for your compatriots, well, I will write to ras Adal because I came to know that they are still prisoner and the king Menelik doesn’t have a great influence in the region while ras Adal [of Gojjam] has more influence than Menelik, so I will write soon to him and I think he will succeed. " In fact, in the night he sent me the messenger with the letter in question to Ras Adal and the order to cooperate in case I needed something for the Gojjam.

After two days the king lifted up the camp and we went back to the north-east crossing again the villages that had already been burned and looted. They were not twenty days since we had left them and the inhabitants had already started to rebuild some tukul, believing that the king would not pass over that way, so they fled again, but the king would not bother about the new houses.

This went on for three stages to the south-east, towards the great plain of Boma, where we were camped for two days waiting for the troops, who had gone for different ways, to gather together: Menelik's army had gone one way and the army of ras Abate and ras Michael had gone another, so they marched in three columns and within two days they were all gathered and camped in the large and beautiful plain of Boma, entirely cultivated: a very fertile land crossed by the River Mile for its entire length .

The next day we lifted the camp: King Johannes headed towards the Aussa through a small chain of mountains, in the gorges of which there was a small descent to arrive in the huge plain of Adalit, with a length without end. We crossed it keeping us always along the chain of the mountains: there we marched in three columns through the grass so high that at various points the mules were no longer visible being covered by the vegetation, and a large amount of antelopes were caught between the two columns but it was forbidden to shoot them with the rifles because the bullets could get to the other column, so the soldiers ran after the antelopes shooting them with the spear, so that several had two or three spears stuck in the belly and being angry and frightened many crossed the column of soldiers in a great escape: many were wounded, some of them managed to escape with a spear in the belly but many fell, and the soldiers, quickly, finished them with the sword. And also some hyenas were killed and four lions, two boa constrictors and a few ostriches. We formed the camp at the foot of the mountains near the river Aba (???) where we stayed for six days. During this time, some soldiers went raiding and others hunting elephants; between the army of King Menelik and that of King Johannes they killed about twenty.

Three days later, at about eight o'clock, we saw the flames in the distance because the indigenous had set fire to the grass, and since we were camped in the grass the king immediately gave orders to cut the hay all around the camp: in half an hour it was done because the people were working also in their own interest. After two hours we saw on one side a great fire in a huge plain where the grass was very thick and very high.

I went with my men to do a little hunting around, not far from the camp, and at the foot of the mountain I saw the cotton, cultivated having just scratched the surface of the earth and not even removed the grass: I saw some beautiful cotton plants with their beautiful fruit and thought to myself what can be drawn from this earth if well cultivated, because all the plain is of the same nature.

The next day arrived at the camp the bands that had gone raiding; the king Johannes had left the day before with his very large entourage while the king Menelik remained stationed at the camp with about half of his army.

First we saw arriving the king Johannes with ras Alula and some other chiefs and with very few men, and when he came near, me and my brother went to meet him: as soon as he saw us he gave us the hand, cheerful, and I said to myself: perhaps he has lost more half of his army in the war because they approached the Aussa. Instead towards evening we saw arrive the detachments of soldiers with the masses of cattle, mostly camels, sheep and goats, very few oxen, and within the evening ended arriving all bands of "looters" with a large amount of livestock: in total of about fifteen thousand camels, 25.000 goats and sheep and a thousand oxen. The division was made as it is regularly done, that is they make three parts: one is taken by the king, one by the chiefs and one is divided amongst the soldiers. In fact, the soldiers sold their camels two thalers one, as well as the oxen, goats and sheep three or four for a thaler. The inhabitants of Aussa had fought bravely to avoid their cattle being taken away, and many were killed on both sides. But it was still little booty because the Aussa is very rich in cattle, so that the king Johannes, angry, after seven days gave the order to remove the camp and march forward towards the Aussa.

After a march of about five hours, we camped in the middle of two rivers were joining not far away: one very large called Mile, who in the crossing arrived to the belly of the mules, and the other small called Ambre. Beyond that point the King Johannes wanted the whole army to march to burn and loot the Aussa and for this reason he held a council with the king Menelik and other influential leaders. And the king Menelik said to the king Johannes: "Your Majesty, we are now devoid of grain and do not know if we can find, what shall we do with our soldiers? With the mass we have here it is better that we prepare it for another time." And all the other leaders gave reason to Menelik, but underneath the king Menelik wanted to protect his friend, the anfari of Aussa. *

* The history of Menelik mentions that when he was ordered to attack the anfari of Aussa Menelik refused because the Shoa needed friendship and benevolence of the Aussa to secure access to the sea (Rosenfeld, A chronology of Menelik II of Ethiopia) p. 88.

After four days we returned to the north-west by the way of Ieggiu crossing a forest with beaten trails where before were walking elephants which, judging by the extension of the tracks, had to be by the thousands. We lifted the camp and walked on the great plain in two stages, we found ourselves at the foot of the small mountains in the Vuarababo region and on the border of the region of Ieggiu we stopped for a day, where the separation with King Menelik occurred on 11 April 1880.

The next day both parties lifted the camp and the two armies were divided: that of Menelik to the south and the king Johannes’ north-east. While the soldiers were leaving the two kings found themselves sitting on stones on a small hill with their mules and horses saddled, all alone to do their council, and when the two armies were well started the two kings stood up and mounted on a mule, King Menelik accompanied king Johannes for about two kilometers and then king Johannes stopped and greeted Menelik and this came down from the mule, accompanied him for a few steps, bowed, turned, mounted the mule and returned with his courtesans.

We made two stages without rest because the king was in a hurry, he wanted to spend the Easter holiday in Ieggiu. In fact, the next day the king left early to get to the camp of Cobalafto and I, my wife Teresa and my brother, since my wife was a tough and resistant traveler, we started our journey doing our utmost to get to the camp of the king by the evening. And so, through those beautiful valleys, taking a little rest at midday near the river Volglio, at night we arrived at the camp of Cobalafto where we found only the king's tent with a dozen other tents of the chiefs and the camp almost empty. We had marched with just two good cargo mules: one carried the tent and the beds and the other the provisions, and the rest of the equipment had been all left behind. The king was astonished at our arrival and immediately sent some tej.

As the camp of Cobalafto was still four or five kilometers away from the town of Ieggiu, the night was dark, the tents were rare and no soldiers around the camp, there were about five hundred men with the court of the king, for this my brother Giuseppe was afraid that the enemy would attack. That night the king Johannes was actually in danger. The following evening more than half of his troops arrived and the next day the rest arrived. We spent the Easter holiday and after seven days the king lifted up the camp and we marched to Debre Tabor. I do not need to give details of the country and the road since they have already been described during the first journeys.

We arrived at Debre Tabor to the camp of Samara * in seventeen days and everyone went back to his house. The next day I went to greet the king, when he saw me, he gave me his hand, cheerful, and immediately gave me news of Cecchi and Chiarini, saying, "Be glad for your two compatriots that you had so recommended: did I not tell you that ras Adal is more influential than Menelik in that region? He could save them, but one had already died of disease and the other is already in Gudru, near the Nile, with the son of ras Adal waiting for the water to decrease to cross the river and come in Gojjam - and he told me - now, be happy." I gave him my warmest thanks.

* see p.??? note

So our journey from the day of departure to our return to Samara lasted four months and 27 days.

On the same day I received a letter from Bianchi in Gojjam: he was talking about his trip and did not know of the arrival of Captain Cecchi at the Nile because ras Adal had not yet told him not knowing who he was. The letter of Gustavo Bianchi was quite insulting: he scolded me because I had not said to the king Johannes to write about him to ras Adal, to recommend him, so ras Adal had taken him for a rogue and did not want to give him anything and he was devoid of everything. Therefore, I went straight to the King to warn him of the arrival of Bianchi at Gojjam and that ras Adal did not want to recognize him because he didn’t have a letter from his majesty, he replied: "It 's true, I forgot but I will write now." So I thought it necessary to send aid to the poor Bianchi: what to do? We, too, were coming from a journey, with almost no money; since here was the priest of ras Adal, that I knew and who was returning to ras Adal bearer of the letter of the king, I put together the little money I had, sixty thalers, and gave them to priest to bring them to the good friend Bianchi. Having just arrived it was not nice to ask immediately money to the king.

The next day I received the courier of Bianchi from Massawa and I made him leave at once, and having still a few more thalers I thought of sending him another ten thaler waiting to send him everything he needed. In the letter I wrote to accept what little I had and explained the situation I was in, but he only had to send me one of his trusted servant through which I was ready to send him everything he needed because I was sure that the king would not let me without money. And here it turns out that the priest remained much time on the road, the courier arrived before him, and the ten thalers arrived before the sixty thalers, so after two days Bianchi sent back the courier with a letter full of insults, telling me if I had taken him for a scoundrel, that he had accepted the ten thalers only as a precaution and more, that he was sure to have the letters that gave instructions to bring gifts to the king Johannes and that someone had withheld. So it seemed that the climate of the Godru Galla had offended his brain.

In the meantime, he asked ras Adal to give him an escort because he wanted to go to the Queen of Gera to rescue Captain Cecchi and the engineer Chiarini, and ras Adal told him laughingly: "What will you give me if I send someone to free them?" And Bianchi replied, "What can I give if I do not have anything? My shotgun I cannot give it because I have too much need for myself." Ras Adal ended up saying, "Don’t you know that one of your compatriots I have released and the other died long ago due to illness and Cecchi is already here on the other side of the Nile with my son, well cared for, and is waiting that the water is low in order to cross and come here?"

Bianchi thanked him and asked permission to go to Abai * to see Cecchi. In fact, they met one on one side and one on the other side of the Abai, they eventually managed to understand each other with the trumpets, and to recognize each other and then Bianchi retired to Imbacia to wait for the level of the Nile to subside. Meanwhile, it was learned that in Shoa had arrived Count Antonelli to bring relief to the poor suffering Captain Cecchi and they were forced to come to Imbacia to thank ras Adal.

* Another name for the Blue Nile

Having thanked ras Adal they believed to be free to go to the Shoa but ras Adal told them, "I am not the one who freed you, it is King Johannes, I did nothing but obeying his orders *." So they were forced to come to Debre Tabor to thank the king of kings Johannes.

* Please note that Ras Adal to obtain the release of Cecchi had waived the taxes of a year to the Queen of Gera.

The king told me too late of the arrival of the Italians so that I could go to receive only before the king's gate the three compatriots, Captain Cecchi, Count Antonelli and Gustavo Bianchi, who spent some extra time to accompany them, living at the expense the king. Captain Cecchi cordially thanked the king Johannes who answered him, "I have saved you with the help of God “: these words the king answered. Cecchi asked a hearing alone to tell him a little about the war strategy of the queen of Gera, and the king was pleased.


The letter and the gifts of King Umberto to Johannes

Before arriving at Debre Tabor, at the camp of Cobalafto, I received a letter from Tagliabue saying that a ship had arrived with the captain on board sent on a mission to bring the gifts and the letter of His Majesty King Umberto and immediately went to show it to the king, who was delighted. Arrived at Debre Tabor I received yet another letter of Tagliabue with the same text written in Amharic to deliver to the king, who said that the mission had left and that he himself had been asked to bring the gifts and the letter of His Majesty King Umberto .

A few days passed and Bianchi before leaving from Gojjam, having received the courier that I myself I was always careful to send him, wrote to the king Johannes that he was destined to deliver the gifts and the letter to his majesty. But Bianchi delayed more than a month because it was dearer to him to accompany his friends Cecchi and Antonelli, than bringing the gifts to the king.

In fact, before Bianchi and his companions arrived at Debre Tabor, one morning, while I was preparing the king's house for the coronation of ras Adal, I went to the reception house (I say house but it was a great tukul) and saluting the king he stopped me, angry, very sad; I said to myself: what on earth is happening?, and he told me: "You know, your compatriots take me for a child: first it was one who had to take the letter and gifts, and then another; Tagliabue has now left for Italy, Bianchi is still in Gojjam, King Menelik has already received the gifts. I do not seek the gifts, I seek only the friendship of the king of Italy, by the way I do not care about it, I'm capable of buying my own gifts. " What was I to say? Because he was saying nothing but the truth! I thought that the best answer was: "Your Majesty, what can I do? They have written to me and I reported to your majesty. " And he said, "I am not angry with you, it’s only that they write in a way and then do another - and he says - Enough"; and I went to my work.

Finally Captain Cecchi and Count Antonelli were received not with pump but nevertheless very honorably, and Bianchi coldly. A few days passed and one morning Bianchi told me:


"Let's see what’s the matter between the king and me" We went and he said to the king: "I would like to leave early because I've been asked to bring the gifts to your majesty, I think maybe I'll find them all before arriving at Adwa because they have to take them, but if they were not there yet I am obliged to pick them up in Massawa." The king said to him in anger: "The road is clear, you can leave.” It was like saying that he washed his hands.

So what to do? I did not dare tell him more knowing everything that had happened and that he had his reasons, so I decided to go talk to the ecceghiè Teofilos, the first counselor of the king, who was my friend: I told him the whole story but he already knew everything. I told him, "The king is not wrong, but I would like to point out that the King of Italy is not guilty of this, and he has instructed the heads of the trading company, it is they who have not come to an agreement. You can tell the king Johannes, since he did so well so far, to do it once more, the good is always recognized: he should send Mr. Bianchi in good way and you will see that everything will be fine." It was already evening and the ecceghiè replied to me, "Yes, you did well to come and talk to me about this, and you know how he the king is, you were right to not talk to him yourself. Rest assured that I'll talk to him tomorrow." In fact, the next day the king sent for me: the ecceghiè was still with him, all alone, and the king, nice, he said: "Tell Bianchi that he can get ready to leave, I will give him a letter in which he will be treated well both to go and to come back. " In fact, after one hour I saw arrive the letter to deliver to Bianchi. Here are the details:

"Good morning to all the chiefs of the passage, let him not miss anything, accompany him and take care of his baggage both in the forward trip and in his return: I recommend him to you, he is my friend."

After two days Bianchi marched to Adwa: all of us, me, my brother, Count Antonelli and Captain Cecchi went to accompany him for part of the way and then come back.

All this did not prevent me from making progress in the work of the church.


The impatience of Count Antonelli

Count Antonelli then asked me to tell the king that were in a hurry to return to Shoa, because Cecchi longed to see his boss, the Marquis Antinori that for a long time he had not seen, and king Johannes replied: "Tell them that in a few days I will let him leave. "

Finally they were on their toes but it was necessary to have patience; at some point Antonelli, impatient, said, "I'll write a letter to the king." Knowing well the "prestige" of the court, I bet with Antonelli that he would not find anyone, at any price, to deliver it to the king; in fact, one of the court took the money but after a day he returned the letter saying that she had not dared to deliver it. I had a good laugh and I won the bet.

Antonelli so what did he do? Since our camp was next to the wall that separated our house from that of the king, Antonelli what he did? On the night he threw the letter to the other side of the wall in front of the king's house, and since the next day I had to prepare for the coronation of King Tacle Haimanot I went early in the royal house, and a servant of the king, a young man, brought me a letter all wet because it had rained in the night: he gave me this letter saying that he had found it on the ground, I looked at him and said, "Oh, it’s mine, I dropped it last night." And put it in my pocket: no one knew about this matter because I had not said anything to anyone. So at lunch I gave the letter to Antonelli before Cecchi, and there was laughter in the second round of the African Games.

We knew that the king had to go to the thermal baths so I went to him to beg him and said: "The two gentlemen Antonelli and Cecchi pray your majesty to let them leave as soon as possible." And he said yes, just wait for his return from the baths. In the meantime, we were eating some good macaroni and good risotto and Cecchi resumed his forces and told the story of the Queen of Gera, but I was not losing time with my job.

After seven days the king was back, the second day I came back to the king to ask him and he said: "Yes, yes, tell them that the Italians are about to arrive and they will leave with them."

Antonelli and Cecchi said to one another, "Behold, he makes them all come to send us to Massawa, Martini [Sebastiano, see Biographies] has not left yet, but will he also be with Antinori and his companions? ". I too I had the same feelings, that the king wanted to do as he had done with the Catholic mission, but inside me I felt that the king Johannes had always said: "I do not want religious missions, I will not allow them, I accept only commercial travelers and those who know how to work. "

We already knew that the king Menelik was coming to Debre Tabor so the Count Antonelli sent a servant to see what Italians would come with him. Menelik instead came only with a small army and all the Italians he had left them in the Shoa. So we then realized that the king Johannes had said a "joke" in the sense that among the subjects of Menelik there are no Italians. So you have to then say that the King Johannes was "philosophical" and very intelligent, he had good and bad qualities, but he was a man of good sense and a brave warrior.


The coronation of King Taclé Haimanot *

Menelik, who came to attend the coronation of King Tacle Haimanot, was received with great pomp. Two days later came the king Taclé Haimanot and three days later he was crowned, and I witnessed the coronation ceremony.

* This is ras Adal, that after this ceremony assumes the title of King (Negus) Tacle Haimanot. [see Biographies].

The ceremony is reported for January 1881: on this occasion Johannes gave to the new Negus 8000 rifles and gave him the title of Negus of Gojjam and Kaffa, equalizing his status to that of Menelik. (Rosenfeld, A chronology of Menelik II) p. 91.

The function was made in the sleeping room of King Johannes: he was sitting on his "angarem" in front of the door of the reception room with beautiful Persian carpet at his feet, he on a kind of throne, another algà higher and garnished with golden damask, and the king Menelik was on the right over his algà, the algà on the left remained for the king Tacle Haimanot. The bishop sat to the right, after the king Menelik: King Tacle Haimanot came and sat on his algà. Assisted the ras and the Dedjatch mec and the best-known priests, the priests began to sing the Mass and the glory and at the end of the function, the bishop, abuna as they say, stood up as well as the king of kings Johannes, and all stood up: the abuna took the crown and applied it on the head of the king Tacle Haimanot, then they all sat down, each in his proper place. There was still a brief ceremony and then the king Johannes stood up and everyone stood up, and the king Tacle Haimanot thanked and left. On his way out of the door six shots of cannon were fired and rifles too; he went to his camp at the music of his country and many officers and soldiers of the King of Kings Johannes accompanied him because they knew they would find something to eat and drink and participated in the great lunch. There was a lot of tej hydromel and the oxen could not be counted, an abundance of meat, partly gift of King Johannes, partly donated by the other leaders and partly brought of his own from Gojjam.

The festival lasted three days, the fifth day the king Tacle Haimanot left for his country. On the eighth day the king Johannes sent for Cecchi and Antonelli: they were alone, the King Johannes with King Menelik, sitting on the right on his "angarem"; for first the king Johannes shook hands with them and said, "Behold, your "baldarava" (which means conductor) is the king Menelik. " This he said to Cecchi and Antonelli: "You can prepare to leave tomorrow, I will wait at this place, I will join you after tomorrow."

So they did. The time came of their happiness: my brother and I accompanied them for a good length of the road, we did not know how to separate, so there was a handshake and a kiss and we parted with regret, and as we walked away there was a greeting, a farewell and good luck. I thought I really had to give up two members of the family, my brother Giuseppe had tears dropping from his eyes.


The first mass in the church of St. George

Then we returned to Samara where we continued our work in the church of "turn Ghiorghis." It was raised to the height of the roof, with the doors of the inner circle finished and placed; for last remained the altar in Coptic style, with four sides because to celebrate Mass there are four priests, one for each side. So even this was completed and put in place and for the people it was a great wonder, for them it was a miracle, they did not believe that a man could do similar work. And all the workers, masons and carpenters, were very obedient to me, happy because they said that I was sent by God to teach them how to work.

The king, after he had celebrated the first "schismatic mass" * for the blessing of the church, he left for Azebu telling me to follow him as soon as I finished completing the necessary and to reach him wherever he was and to bring my tools with me, and as for the roof to leave for now to the governor the task of covering the church with straw, because we would finish it later.


* Naretti refers to the separation of Ethiopian church, Coptic, from the Catholic Church because of a dispute over the nature of Christ (Council of Chalcedon - 451 years - see Introduction)


Johannes long ago told me that he wanted to build the palace of Mekele.

According to the Ethiopian use it is not necessary the blessing of the bishop to consecrate the churches: they carry only the tabot that has already been blessed by the abuna. The tabot, the sacred stone, for them instead of a stone is a piece of wood which usually measures 35 by 45 centimeters with written the name of the church and bearing effigies on the four corners: on the first corner a lion, on the second an ox, on the third an eagle and on the fourth a man; the first effigy, the lion, represents St. Mark, the second, the cow, means St. Luke, the third, the eagle, is St. John and the fourth, the man, is St. Matthew. In their Bible it is written that the first writer was St. Matthew who wrote five years after the death of Christ; after fifteen years wrote St. Mark, 22 years after St. Luke wrote his part, and after 30 years St. John wrote the last part of the Bible.

I finished putting the church in working conditions and in that month we had the time to prepare for the departure.


The departure for Azebu

On April 15, 1881 we departed to reach the king. During this time in Debre Tabor was with us Dr Stecker (see Introduction Chapter-6), of the geographical mission of Berlin, for some time indisposed, as well as my brother Giuseppe who from Alexandria had tried to change the air due of a lung disease. During the first two years he had recovered, he was not eating much but was feeling very well, but a week before the departure my brother lacked appetite but was cured by my good and consoling wife Teresa, always ready for any challenge, as always she was my only consolation. And my brother said to me: "I'm glad to leave, traveling is good for me, it gives me appetite."

We left well organized, and for ten or twelve days, my dear brother had a great appetite but about four days before reaching the king in Azebu his appetite began to decrease. Following the road to Ciocioho, Zabit, Delantà Lasta, the head of the Tekezé River, we crossed the head of Lasta, we went down to Ancubo in the great plain of Raia Galla [Oromo]: in front of us at about seven kilometers was the mountain of Azebu.

We camped in the house of the ruler of the country, the famous Abacovis (sic) who made many wars with King Johannes and then finished submitting becoming a Christian; he came himself to carry the "gabur", our dinner. He was a giant about two meters high; he made a profound bow to go under the tent, a man with a warrior look, with eyes that looked like a leopard: sure if I had met him in a forest alone I would have handed him immediately my purse, but in the talk he was very kind and friendly and not at all stupid. So we were well treated by him.

In Ancubo there is a large cattle market and among the most important articles is the salt: here transit the great camel caravans that are taking salt to Arrhò and transport it until the Shoa.

The next day we marched and after two hours, crossing a fertile plain, we arrived at the foot of the climb. Azebu had not been inhabited for three hundred and seventy years after the invasion of Carei *, the great Muslim empire which destroyed all the churches and the Christian population so that since that time there were no more traces of roads.

* Naretti probably refers to the Muslim conquest of Ethiopia from 1527 to 1543 by Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al Ghazi, said "Gragn", "the left-handed."

Therefore the king Johannes with his army had prepared in little time a very convenient road and in two hours we were on the plateau. After about an hour we arrived at the royal camp through beautiful forests with a vegetation of the richest, where for centuries lived large animals: elephants, lions, etc.. The king was encamped on a high mountain formed like a sugar loaf. So we started to make our camp and to plant our tents to let my wife rest and also my brother who needed it because he was indisposed; we had breakfast and then my brother and I at about three o'clock in the afternoon we mounted the mule and in not less than an hour's climb we arrived at the king's tent. I found my "baldarava" bageron Gebrselassie that complimented with us and told us, "The king is asleep."

After half an hour the king woke up; the "baldarava" entered and announced us and immediately made us enter, he shook our hands, he asked us if we had a good trip, but I saw him cold and I could not imagine why.


Now I pass to volume 5.


Here ends the African diary of Giacomo Naretti. The book no 5 is nowhere to find: either it has been lost or it has not been written.