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Vittorio Bottego

Vittorio Bottego (Italian pronunciation: [vitˈtɔrjo ˈbɔtteɡo]; July 29, 1860 – March 17, 1897) was an Italian army officer and one of the first Western explorers of Jubaland in the Horn of Africa (now part of Somalia), where he led two expeditions. Bottego was born in Parma. He was an Artillery captain in the Italian Army.

In his first expedition he concentrated on tracing the channels of the tributaries of the Ganale Doria. With Captain Grixoni, Bottego left Bardera on 30 September 1892, with one hundred and twenty-four men. On November 7 they reached the Shebeli River at Imi on 7 November. After eight days they crossed the river, entering the country of the Arsi Oromo, who proved hostile to Bottego. He passed through Arkebla and reached the Ganale Guracha ("Black Ganale") on 11 December, along whose banks he led his men upstream for 20 days.

Concluding that this was not the main stream of the Ganale, Bottego left the river in a west-south-western direction until he reached the Ganale Doria, or the main fork of the Ganale, on 16 January 1893. Sick with fever, here Bottego was left by Grixoni who marched for the coast on 15 February with 30 men. Four days after Grixoni left, Bottego pushed inland as far as Mount Fakes, but unwilling to encounter raiding parties of the Ethiopians, he returned to the camp where Grixoni had left him. Bottego then crossed the tract separating him from the Dawa, and ascended that river until lack of provisions compelled him retrace his steps. His party reached the Ganale once more after six forced marches, in the course of which eleven men died of hunger. Two more died in camp from exhaustion, and two were drowned while hunting hippopotamuses.[1]

In his second expedition (1895–1897), he ventured into the then unknown region of the upper Juba, Lake Rudolf and the Sobat. He was the first European explorer to follow the course of the lower Omo River to its confluence with Lake Turkana. He then tried to return through Ethiopia, unaware that the country was at war with Italy, let alone that there had been a recent Ethiopian victory at Adwa. He was killed in the Maji range near Jellen in a battle with an Oromo tribe. His body was never recovered, and the account of his demise was told years later by two of his companions, Vannutelli and Citerni, who survived the battle but were kept in prison for two years by Menelik II, emperor of Ethiopia.

Selected writings

  • Viaggi di scoperta nel cuore dell'Africa (1895)
  • L'esplorazione del Giuba (1895)


  1. E. G. Ravenstein, "Italian Explorations in the Upper Basin of the Jub", Geographical Journal, 3 (February 1894), pp. 134-138


  • Luca BIANCHEDI, Un destino africano. L'avventura di Vittorio Bottego, Roma, Pagine, 2010

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