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The mystery of the Treasure of the Count of Montecristo found in Sovana. Part three.

The mystery of the Treasure of the Count of Montecristo found in Sovana.

Part three: the affair of the Orwell ship, Italian Unification and patriots in London, modern Montecristo, Final conclusions on Sovana treasure.

David Franchi – Thursday, 12th January 2013

“use your good sense of narration, as it is needed for a legend”

Continue from part two…

The steamer Orwell affair, the Settembrini patriots, the Italians patriots in London and the Italian Unification

The olla of the Tresaure of Sovana © Soprintendenza Beni Archeologici Toscana

The olla of the Tresaure of Sovana © Soprintendenza Beni Archeologici Toscana

But it was not the end of troubles for Watson Taylor, who was already in Turin attending his trial, when by the end of August the steamer Orwell docked in Montecristo, its captain Raffaele Settembrini. The steamer left from Genoa and was directed to the south of Italy to help Garibaldi. Raffaele was the son of Luigi Settembrini a famous Italian patriot.

In his adolescence, Raffaele was troubled and sent to London to study under his father’s friend Sir Antonio Panizzi, an Italian migrant who has been a very famous Director of the British Museum Library, knighted for his extraordinary services by Queen Victoria, in 1869. Raffaele studied at the Kings College, but soon returned to Turin and later joined the Kingdom of Sardinia navy. But Raffaele had problems in the navy because Luigi, his father was jailed. Therefore, he decided to go back to London and joined the Royal Mail Service.

Due to his activities with patriots, in 1859 Luigi was charged and sent to exile to America. While the steamer Stromboli was docking in Cadiz (Spain), bringing to America Luigi and other 67 Italian patriots from Naples, Raffaele was also in the same harbour, working on a merchant ship. Raffaele get on board on Stromboli disguised as waiter, soon after Cape St. Vincent (Portugal), he wear the English navy uniform, and ordered to the US captain to move to Ireland, instead of deporting the Neapolitans to America. Prisoners arrived in Queenstown, Cork, and then moved to London, where they can join other Italian patriots, such as Mazzini, Crispi, Saffi and Pilo.

Raffaele Settembrini espoused the cause of Italian patriots and went back to Italy. When Garibaldi asked for help, Raffaele with Pilotti and others hired – or maybe stolen – the steamer Orwell and set sails to the south of Italy. Many of them were Italians expats in UK, and some of them were actually born in UK, such as Paolo (or Gian Paolo) Pilotti who was defining himself as English from an Italian family.

Soon, they docked at Montecristo and created problems. As Jack De Bolina, a friend and comrade-in-arms of Raffaele Settembrini,

Cala Maestra bay at Montecristo Island

Cala Maestra bay at Montecristo Island

reports in his monograph Italia Artistica, n. 74 Arcipelago Toscano (Bergamo, 1914): “The steamer (Orwell) docked in the Cala Maestra bay. Volunteers – who were extremely undisciplined – asked to land. It seems here they burnt a couple of cabins just for useless spirit of destruction. Mr. Taylor has already abandoned the island. His farmer let him know about the event, probably extolling damages.” De Bolina was also a friend of Renato Fucini, a renowned Italian writer from Massa Marittima (Grosseto) who was also an expert of local legend and tradition.

Raffaele Settembrini was able to put ashore the volunteers in Naples. He was captured by an English corvette and jailed in Malta. He later was acquitted and continued his career in the marine until he get retired, but ranked Admiral of the Royal Navy.

Through Cavendish –Bentinck, Watson Taylor applied for justice and to be refunded by the UK government, because an English officer, Raffaele Settembrini, using an English boat, the Orwell, has committed piracy acts. Taylor claimed he spent over one million in transforming Montecristo island, but this is probably an exaggeration in order to get more refund.

Last decades of Montecristo

However, Montecristo island was then purchased by the Italian Government on 3 June 1869 for the sum of £100,000. Faced with the huge sum of money claimed by Watson Taylor to repair the damage, the Italian Government thought it was better to buy the island.

Montecristo was still uninhabited and so remained until the end of the XIX century when it was transformed in a hunting sanctuary, from the end of the XIX century it was used by the Royal Italian family, the Savoia, until the end of the Second World War.

Nowadays, the island of Montecristo is a very restricted zone. It is part of the National Park of the Archipelago Toscano, and therefore it is forbidden to make landfall, to bathe, to visit the island without permission. Its environment is a habitat protected as ‘Site of Community Importance’ by the European Union. After so many invasion and burglar, the only four people who live there today are: the guardian, his wife, and two agents from the Italian national police agency State Forestry Corps (Italian: Corpo Forestale dello Stato or CFS) – every two weeks they alternate with another couple of agents. Every year 1,000 people only are allowed to visit the island. The queue is about three years long, at the moment, and you need the permission of an office of the Corpo Forestale dello Stato in Follonica (Grosseto), which is in a different province than the administration of Montecristo – Italians like to make it complicated.

So what about the treasure found in Sovana?

Piazza del Pretorio, the main square of Sovana © Municipality of Sorano

Piazza del Pretorio, the main square of Sovana © Municipality of Sorano

The treasure found in Sovana is still a mystery but for its very high value it has been now on display at the Saint Mamiliano Museum inaugurated the 30th July 2012, in Sovana. Piergiorgio Zotti, The Archive of Folk Traditions of Maremma Coordinator: “It is very notable and we, as Archive were the first to tell its story during the exhibition “I Corsari e la Maremma” (ed. “Corsairs and Maremma”), at the Cassero fortress in Grosseto, in 2008. I cannot tell the value of the treasure, but it is not a little treasure. The little treasure we usually deal with is the one of the legends and ancient text. Many little treasures have been found in Maremma. The little treasure comes from fear, from the arrival of an army, from the death of the person who hide it. It consists in fifty, one hundred coins in a small “pignattino” (tn. an olla), walled in or buried in a specific place. Walled in is more often, because burying is more for novels, the one who hide a treasure he walled it in. For example, a treasure was found in Scarlino, another in Sassoforte. Treasures are small episodes of greed, prevention, and death because the person who hides it did not revealed the place or the people who knows are all dead. And these are treasures from Roman times, Medieval times and Modern times. Look, I can reassure you, I am very much curious to know the purchase value. As if the value is of various millions, at that time they can even change the course of the war. Sovana, together with Sorano, was part of a byzantine defensive line, but was conquered neither by the Lombard Duke of Lucca, nor by the Lombard Duke of Chiusi (Siena), but was attacked from behind by the Lombard Duke of Spoleto (Perugia). It was the VI century, and then the Lombard domination lasted until the Charlemagne invasion. At that time, with such an amount of gold, it was possible to purchase an army. And it was not so unlikely that groups of Lombard could go over the other side. The Arimanni, the chiefs of the Arimannia tribes (ed. the Lombards were organised into small tribes), were very independent in themselves. Some were fighting for one side, and others were with the enemy, second as convenience dictated. But, they are not to be considered betrayer: it is the tribal organisation in itself that brings to this sort of behaviours. For example, in that period Maurizio, on behalf of the Byzantines, was governing Perugia, where was passing the corridor connecting the North of the Exarchate of Ravenna, to Rome, both of them under the byzantine control. Maurizio was a Lombard and when the Lombard Duke conquered Perugia condemned him to death. So, it is easy to understand that with 498 gold coins it was possible to reject a siege. Why? Because the commandant could be bribed or a group of soldiers could be hired to help, and things like this.”

So there is no evidence, at the moment, that the Treasure of Montecristo has been found. It is still a mysterious legend according to

the treasure of Sovana © Soprintendenza Beni Archeologici Toscana

the treasure of Sovana © Soprintendenza Beni Archeologici Toscana

Piergiorgio Zotti: “The Treasure of Montecristo still remains in the mythology and fantasy world. On the other hand, when I made my speech at the conference for the opening of the exhibition in Sovana, I made an example by the Verne’s, journey to the Centre of the Earth, who connected an Icelandic volcano to the one in Stromboli in Sicily pretending that people could easily walk down to the earth. This is a story that brings the deep imagination inside the people and that it trigger the spark of the wonder. A key point of literacy stories is in the wonder. Imagination is like an egg, it is hatched to allow the birth of baby chicks. But, there must not be excess with imagination or else it become magic and it spoils everything. Because, with the magic it is too easy and foregone, to do anything you want. Imagination becomes Disneyland, which is a nice place, but it is not there that imagination is stimulated and become creative. There, imagination takes a rest. That is why fat cats of the governance do not like to stimulate imagination but more to realise rest places. Because these rest places bring a lot of people, many people visit the Dinosaur exhibition, the Leonardo Machines show or the Torture Museums. But this is a subculture, this is anti –pedagogy. It can be made by traders, but not by teachers like me.”

In waiting for news from the experts, the mystery of the Treasure of Montecristo still remains unsolved but the people of Sovana will be happier in any case.

End of the story.

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