Alberto Alberti, who died in Rome on 26 December 2021 aged 87, was one of the Italian pioneers of the revived Via Francigena (VF) and a champion of the southern route to Bari and Santa Maria di Leuca.
Born and raised in Trieste, and with a post-graduate diploma in chemical engineering from the University of London’s Imperial College, Alberto spent his entire career working for Esso Petroleum in England and Italy. In retirement in the 1990s he became part of that special generation – principally Italians – who rediscovered and put back on the map Archbishop Sigeric’s route from Canterbury to Rome.
In more recent years, he developed a keen interest in the Via Francigena del Sud – the way from Rome to the Adriatic, and the staging post for the onward journey to Jerusalem. He worked tirelessly to reinstate and promote the southern route and he helped with its way-marking – although those who have walked it would say that this is still work in progress. He came to be known as ‘il Papa’ of the southern route and in 2008 he founded an organisation to promote it, the Gruppo dei Dodici (Group of Twelve), and set up a centre for its activities at Fondi in Lazio, half-way between Rome and Naples. He campaigned successfully to have the VF del Sud adopted as a cultural route of the Council of Europe in 2019, a status already granted to the primary northern VF in 1994.
Alberto emphasised the spiritual and social dimensions of pilgrimage; he spoke of the Via Francigena as a “route of peace” and he likened pilgrims to “messengers of peace”.
It was through the VF del Sud that Alberto forged particularly strong links with the Confraternity. He shared sections of the route on no less than four occasions with our late Chairman Joe Patterson and also walked parts of it two times with former trustee Jim Brodie. He was a veteran member of the Confraternity and a guest speaker at one of our meetings.
“I admired Joe very much,” Alberto wrote to me on Joe’s death in December 2020. “Frankly I think when I die, if I deserve to go to heaven, God will put me not very far from Joe. He, no doubt, will have a glass of beer next to him, while I will have my red wine. This difference will be argued over along with many others, but I will be pleased that it will last for ever…”
He died at home in his sleep, leaving behind his wife Marisa and a daughter, and what he always said he wanted to be his legacy – the Via Francigena del Sud.
Brian Mooney, December 2021