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Antonio Baldacci

1867 - 1950


Traveller, botanist and geographer, and above all dedicated to the study of the plants of the Balkans. In 1891,he was assistant to Federico Delpino at the Botanical Institute of the University of Bologna, but he left in 1902, when he was appointed as a professor of Geography, politics, and colonialism in the School of Colonial Diplomatics (Scuola Dipolomatico-Coloniale) connected to the University of Rome. From 1899 he was a guest lecturer in botany and, from 1901, of geography at the University of Bologna. He participated in numerous scientific expeditions, beginning in Montenegro and then to Albania, Epiro, and Crete in the years from 1885 to 1904, where he accumulated copious amounts of scientific observations, but also where his knowledge and new friends would be particularly useful for the economic, political and military interests of the Italian government about the Balkan area. In fact, he was entrusted with cognitive and diplomatic assignments for various ministeries, in particular for the Foreign and Internal Affairs. From 1915 to 1917 he was a civil consultant for the 1 Naval Division and was given command of the Eastern branch, in Valona, where he carried out secret missions.

He was made president of the Italian Committee for the Independence of Montenegro and from 1922 he turned down all University committments tofully dedicate himself to the independence movements of these regions. He collaborated with Gabriele D’Annunzio on a project to bring volunteers to fight for the liberation of Montenegro. In the years between 1930 and 1939 he worked as the general honorary consult of Albania in Bologna. In 1940, following the Italian occupation of Albania in 1939, he was nominated as a cultural consultant for the Italian general deputy of Tirana, a role he kept until 1943. He continued his bontanical studies into the final years of his life, based on his richly documented materials and research over the course of his travels. Also from his numerous publications- over two hundred monographs and articles- the distinguished L’Albania, Roma, Instituto for Eastern Europe, 1929, and Scritti Adriatici, vol. 1, Bologna, Compositori, 1943.

His explorations: Baldacci’s first attempted trip in 1885, at 17 years old, was to travel, by foot, the long trek from Zara finishing at the Montenegro border, however he failed to reach the capital, Cettigne, due to a lack of financial means; in 1886, he attempted the endeavour again, where he met Father Cesare Tondini De’ Quarenghi, a diplomat sent from the Vatican, who presented him to Prince Nicola of Montenegro, who started to fund Baldacci’s excursion. In such occasion that Baldacci, already nineteen, he met the thirteen year old Princess Elena, daughter of Nicola and the future Queen of Italy. His expeditions of 1889, 1890, and 1891 were mainly dedicated to research in Montenegro. Baldacci was able to visit Albania for the first time in 1892,which at that time was already a part of the Ottoman Empire and it became his principle place for research in the following years; in 1893 and in 1899 he visited Crete, and 1896 and 1898 he was involved in the military operations of the Greco-Turken war, which ended with the independence of the large island from the Ottoman Empire.

Over the course of such travels, Baldacci was faced with risky and precarious situations (including his arrest and an assassination attempt), not only due to the impassable natural landscape and already being a stranger in these areas, but also due to clashes between rival communities in the area bordering Montenegro and Albania and due to hostility from the Ottoman authorities towards foreigners traveling on Albanian territory. The trips were initially financed by his collections of botanical specimens Baldacci sold to Italian and foreign scientific institutes, that resulted in economic support from the Italian Geographical Society; his trip from 1902 in the region bordering Albania and Montenegro consituted as the “first Italian scientific mission in Montenegro” and was permitted and financed by the Ministery of Education. Over the course of his scientific explorations, Baldacci collected over a hundred thousand specimens of plants, some unknown, such as the Verbascum Baldaccii Degen, the Wulfenia Baldacci, and the Forsythia europaea Degen et Baldacci, which are known today with his name. He is buried in the Cemetery of the Certosa, in Campo 1945.

Translation from italian language by Holly Bean.