Albergo: A Socioeconomic System

The historic albergo (alberghi in plural) was a support system whereby several individuals were bonded into a shared objective and history. Alberghi linked various members of a single noble line or several branches of an aristocratic house. Alberghi were also used to organize unrelated individuals into a cohesive unit. The concept of an albergo was first created during the Middle Ages from among the Northern Italian nobility. Alberghi eventually became standardize to unite all peoples of various classes in 16th-century Genoa.

Alberghi were originally private organizations. Economic, political or military advantages were gained through membership within an albergo. Unlike a simple alliance, alberghi were a formal union. A group's identity was established by renaming its members, usually with a standardized surname. Many alberghi were organized around a dominant noble house and used the surname of that house for identification of its members. The ability for alberghi to reform and restructure made them highly adaptable, and members of an albergo typically followed familial traditions unique to their organization.

Authorization to create a noble albergo was granted to only the most distinguished families, and 54 houses of Genoa's nobili vecchi, or old nobility, were structred into formal alberghi. This included lines of the following families: Bernissone, Biassa, Bracelli, Calvi, Camilla, Carmendino, Cattaneo, Ceba, Centurione, Cibo, Cigala, Clavesena, Connio, Corso, Da Passano, De Gradi, Della Rovere, De Mari, De Marini, Di Negro, Doria, Fieschi, Galiani, Gentile, Ghisolfi, Grillo, Grimaldi, Gualterio, Imperiale, Interiano, Lecavela , Lengueglia, Lercaro, Lomellini, Malocello, Mottino, Negrone, Pallavicino, Pansani, Piccamiglio, Pichenotti, Pinelli, Ponte, Raggio, Ravaschiero, Re, Ricci, Salvago, Serra, Spinola, Squarciafico, Usodimare, Vento, and Vivaldi .

Some families of the Venetian patriciate also structured commercial alberghi as the Republic of Venice's holdings expanded. An albergo provided a suitable order for Venice's Giustiniani family as they assembled shareholders for a company in Chios. This albergo industrialized the Greek island in the 14th century. The marriage of Giustina Giustiniani to Marcantonio Barbaro, in the 16th century, merged the concerns of a single albergo between two families of Venetian nobility. The Ponte family of Venice, like the Guistiniani, headed their own albergo within the Republic of Genoa.

For the rising middle classes, replicating what they witnessed from among the noble alberghi provided a social structure for various artesi (artisans) and mercanti (merchants) who saw possibilities in alberghi to overcome the limitations of their class. They created a counterpart that replaced noble lineages with various guilds. By the 15th century, joining an albergo was universally viewed as an advantageous arrangement for both the concerns of nobili (nobles) and popolari (non-nobles) in Genoa. Cristoforo Tonso entered the popular albergo Di Franchi (first established in 1393), ensuring that both himself and his sons were enrolled. The noble Nicola Ceba not only enrolled himself and his sons, but also his grandsons, great-grandsons and four heads of Ceba lineages into a noble albergo. The alberghi of Di Franchi and Giustiniani housed the greatest number of seperate families and made no distinctions of social class. Large numbers of the serrabotteghe (merchants and artisans) entered into the alberghi of Sauli, Fornari and Promontorio.

By the 16th century, Genoa sought to reform its alberghi system which typically drew distinctions between the alberghi of the nobili and popolari. In 1528 a single governing system of 28 alberghi was created. The Calvi, Cattaneo, Cehturione, Cino, Cigala, De Franchi, De Marini, Di Negro, Doria, Fieschi, Fornari, Gentile, Giustiniani, Grillo, Grimaldi, Imperiale, Interiano, Lercaro, Lomellini, Negrone, Pallavicino, Pinelli, Promontorio, Salvago, Sauli, Spinola, Usodimare, and Vivaldi alberghi were the only existing orders of albergo within the Republic of Genoa at that time. Of the 28 alberghi, 23 comprised either noble families or previously all-nobili alberghi. The remaining 5 were comprised of two previously all-popolari alberghi.

The reforms of 1528 also changed alberghi from private associations into public ones, establishing a single social class for Genoa. From among these alberghi was created the Liber Nobilitatis, a document listing all citizens eligible to sit on the Republic of Genoa's ruling council, whereby the albergo that one was enrolled into became the only accepted surname that one could use for personal identification. But by 1576, difficulties in governance led to further reforms and a subsequent abolishment of the Genovese alberghi system. Nonetheless, several of the noble houses in Genoa continued the tradition of the albergo by maintaining a common patrimony, of these was the House of Grimaldi- composed of Oberto Grimaldi's descendents and their allies, notably the aristocratic Ceba and Oliva families.

Within Venice, alberghi found their greatest expression from among the various scuole or confraternities established within the city. Confraternities were religious organizations and mutual aid societies, pooling membership and funding from among the wealthier classes. The confraternity's purpose as an outlet for charity awarded social recognition to its members and interaction with Venice's patriciate. In addition, a confraternity's sumptuous architecture offered an elegant expression of status. From among the various confraternities in Venice, the Sculoa Grandi di San Rocco may be the best known confraternity for its grandure and administrative albergo.

In 1564 work began on the interior of the Sculoa Grandi di San Rocco, and the Sala dell'Albergo, or the boardroom where the banca (inner committe) of the confraternity's albergo met, entertained an artistic competition to decorate its hall. A number of artists were allowed to submit drawings for an attempt at a commission. The majority of the confraternity's members were influenced by the Barbaro family's taste for works of Palladio or Veronese, and the confraternity sanctioned money towards creating a classical artistic program to decorate the Sala dell'Albergo. Jacopo Tintoretto, a more expressive painter, counteracted this conservative direction by offering an example of his work free of charge, while also seeking favor through membership with the Sculoa di San Rocco and eventual election into the albergo's banca. This alberghian relationship proved successsful for Tintoretto's career. He was awarded lifetime work for all of the confraternity's subsequent frescoes.

Between the 17th-19th centuries, prominent noble houses from Genoa and Venice had firmly established industries within territories of the Southern Italian kingdoms, and alberghian systems were created as a form of local government in these territories. The House of Grimaldi established the town of Grimaldi at Cosenza, and the House of Barbaro headed a silk-producing colony at Catanzaro. Both families merged the interests of each location for the benefit of producing and shipping silk. Catanzaro's Piazza Grimaldi was named in honor of the aristocratic Grimaldi family. The town's Via Barbaro equally honored the House of Barbaro. Catanzaro's Villa Trieste was named after Trieste, Italy, the Barbaro family's pre-Venetian home. In the 20th century, Via Barbaro was renamed Via Aldo Barbaro to honor aviation pioneer Count Aldo Barbaro-Cornaro. His mother's line was of the Venetian House of Cornaro (Corner) that produced Queen Caterina Corner (wife of King James II of Cyprus). In the early 1920's Aldo Barbaro accomplished record-breaking flights to Lake Titicaca in Peru and La Paz in Bolivia, but died tragically in 1923 while attempting to secure another aviation record.

In Calabria, traditional nobility interacted within an alberghian system organized around the House of Barbaro. Various nobles received additional honorifics to their pre-existing titles as the Tetti appesi (non-fuedal urban nobility) were approved by the sovereigns of Southern Italy. Either an albergian barone (baron) or alberghian capitano (captain) was initiated within the Barbaro family's albergo. The baroni passed on their honor to successive issue. The capitani did not, but each capitano held his post for an extended period of time- usually for life, similar to a pasha (lord) within Ottoman territories. For example, Raffaele Aloisio Scalfaro, a noble baron, was also made the alberghian Captain of the Provincial Legion of Calabria after 1814, and Via Scalfaro was added to the town of Catanzaro in his honor. For the indigenous non-noble families living between Naples to Sicily, Northern Italian aristocrats working within Southern Italy influenced the use of Italian noble surnames for non-noble families within the region. Some descendents from these local families have also earned distinction, including Alberto Grimaldi, a noted film producer born in Naples, and Serafino Aldo Barbaro, a World War II hero born in Catanzaro.

The Southern Italian albergo system turned aristocrats into baronial heads of a specific civic department. Captains bonded various legions throughout the region, and at the helm was the Barone dell'Albergo. The head of the Calabrian albergo system was granted the title Barone dell'Albergo (Baron of the Albergo), and he oversaw the administration of localized government and industry within Southern Italy. The title Barone dell'Albergo had been first used in the 18th century by members of the noble House of Proto. In 1770 Ugo Francesco Maria Proto served as the Barone dell'Albergo in Sicily. In the 19th century, Giovanni Battista Barbaro was the Barone dell'Albergo of the Barbaro family's San Gregorio branch at Catanzaro. For one line of the San Gregorio branch, the title Barone dell'Albergo was approved to be an equal Southern Italian counterpart and interchangeable with the Barbaro family's Northern Italian ranking of nobile (nobility within the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia). This alberghian baronial title became a Barbaro family courtesy title, or the title that a younger member of a noble family uses, by courtesy, until authorization is given to hold a house's substantive title or titles. Giovanni Battista Barbaro re-established the House of Barbaro's aristocratic standing on October 8, 1818, during the Congress of Vienna of 1812-1822. The 2nd line of the San Gregorio branch did so on January 1, 1818. The San Gregorio's baronial alberghian rights, reaffirmed in Calabria on October 27, 1891, were also continued throughout the 19th century within the borders of the Southern Italian kingdoms (Kingdom of Naples till 1815; Kingdom of Two-Sicilies from 1816-1861; Kingdom of Italy from 1861-1946). The San Gregorio's Northern Italian counterpart, nobile, along with the Barbaro family's primary ranking as Patricians of Venice (the only aristocratic title used by the ruling families from the Republic of Venice) were reconfirmed, for both lines of the San Gregorio branch, on June 21st and October 21st of 1891.

As Europe changed throughout the 19th century, the Barbaro family's albergo was gradually dimantled. The Kingdom of Naples saw the removal of its sovereign Joachim Murat. Venice ceased being a provincial capital of Austria by 1866 and ceded to a unified Italy. When it became clear that the Venetian Republic would never again be fully independent, Venetian patricians redirected their political efforts. Several members of the House of Barbaro were experienced diplomats, and various individuals of the Barbaro family's San Gregorio branch accepted recruitment by the Austrian Emperor to serve as ambassadors for the Imperial House of Habsburg-Lorraine. Alessandro Barbaro- a judge on Venice's Council of Ten, High Consular of the Supreme Tribunal of Verona, and proprietor of the Barbaro family's Palazzo Dario on the Grand Canal of Venice, was introduced to the Imperial family at the Congress of Vienna.

The Barbaro family fully ended their albergo's silk production at Calabria in the early 20th century, and through diplomatic service, the San Gregorio branch was able to achieve additional rankings from Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. These rankings included the titles of Count and Princely Count of the Emperor's nominal territory of the Grand Principality of Transylvania. During the second half of the 19th century, Hungary was in conflict with Austria for control of the Grand Principality of Transylvania, the Romanian territory of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, and in 1866 Austria's Ambassador Barbaro met with Hungarian statesman Ferenc Deak for the purpose of negotiating a suitable resolution. The Ausgleich of 1867 (The Austrian Compromise of 1867) restructured the Romanian territory into Transleithania with added benefits to Hungary, while the Imperial House formulated the Dual Monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with the Austrian Emperor additionally serving as the King of Hungary. After the compromise, the House of Habsburg-Lorraine continued the identity of the former Grand Principality as a nominal territory (in name alone) while also relegating their position as Grand Princes of Transylvania to one of titular ranking (in title alone). As an award for the Barbaro family's diplomatic service, a princely comital title was granted to the male members of Giambattista Valerianus Barbaro's line as titular Princely Counts, in relation to the nominal territory of the Grand Principality of Transylvania. A title of titular Count for the male members of Benedetto Barbaro's line was also granted by concessione (concession) during this period. Both rankings required following strict guidelines in order to maintain motuproprio (certainty and validity), with the line of princely counts having to uphold stricter standards and with more frequent reviews than the line of noble counts. Both comital rankings were successfully maintained and passed on to successive issue. Benedetto completed a final review for his line's title of noble count on May 11, 1891. For the line of princely counts, marital reviews were mandatory in order to remain of highness within the royal social class (the highest aristocratic social class containing all members holding a ranking of princely highness, most typically: Imperial Highness, Royal Highness, Grand Ducal Highness, Serene Highness and Illustrious Highness). Giambattista Valerianus' line passed a final review on July 2, 1911, during the era of the last reigning monarch of the Imperial House of Habsburg-Lorraine. In addition, Giambattista Valerianus Barbaro had to go through a process of relevant sottodescritto (underwriting) in order for his line to be fully elevated to the dignity of a princely count. What the Italians called conte maschera and the Austrians called gefursteter graf. The Italian terminology of conte maschera, abbreviated as conte (masch.), developed from the phrase "vestirsi in maschera" (in fancy dress), which was a means to translate the Austrian title of gefursteter graf (the changing of a count into a prince). Therefore, within an Italian context, the Austrian notion of a count or nobleman in princely dressing, or that a nobleman is wearing the mantle of princely highness, could be clearly understood with conte (masch.). Along with noble counts and princely counts, the third type of comital ranking issued through the title of "count" was a conte palatino (count palatine), abbreviated as conte (palat.). A count palatine was a high-ranking noble count who was granted a degree of ruling autonomy over his territory, and often governed independently from the kingdom that his holdings were attached to. A count palatine ranked well above a standard noble count, but substantially below a princely count.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the combined use of specific legal terminology and phrasing allowed Italian registers to inscribe any type of title, foreign or domestic. Registers specifically used very precise words, abbreviations and phrasing to specify the various types of comital rankings, from noble counts up to princely counts. All comital rankings within Italy were registered through the title of "count". Since 1763, the Almanach de Gotha recorded the genealogies of the sovereign houses of Europe and of the mediatized princes and princely counts of Europe and the Holy Roman Empire. However, the genealogies of Italian noble houses were not included in the Almanach de Gotha. Titular princely counts connected to nominal territories were also excluded from the Gotha since they were not mediatized (the members of formerly reigning houses who were reclassified into intermediary princely or princely comital houses). Examples of Italian mediatized houses include Orsini, Doria, and Pallavicini. Aristocrats of non-mediatized houses with a line of titular princely counts were registered within their country of origin, and Italian registers were prepared to follow precise legal standards of inscription for the registration of an Austrian princely title of highness. Specifically, a line of titular princely counts of an Italian non-mediatized house had to be officially registered as such: con D.R. di motupropio dell'anno [with year] ( with royal decree (decreto reale) and with certainty and validity from such year). Followed by, Il sottodescritto fu elevato alla dignita di conte (masch.): [and then the name of the first princely count of the line] ( by the process of underwriting he has been fully elevated to the dignity of a princely count: [and then the name of the first princely count of the line]). Listing the name of a nominal territory was not required by law.

These legally-binding inscriptions completely insured the daughters of princes from the Imperial family or from reigning royal houses that they could marry into such a princely comital line without any risk of entering into a morganatic marriage (marriage of unequals). All rankings of princely count, may they be of a titular nature or from a mediatized princely comital house, ranked above princes of the noble social class (nobility holding the title of "prince", but lacking a standing of highness, and as such, are not members of the royal social class). Princely counts are also universally addressed by their position of princely highness, specifically "His Illustrious Highness" (Erlaucht), abbreviated in English as H.Ill.H. as its princely style (the indicator of princely highness placed before an aristocrat's title- such as H.I.H., "His Imperial Highness"; H.R.H., "His Royal Highness" etc.) . Therefore, a princely count is defined as a type of prince within the royal social class, whose standing of princely highness is fashioned, more unusually, through the use of the title "count" rather than, more typically, through the use of the title "prince". Using the title "count" in a princely manner by the Imperial House was sometimes done to clearly indicate that an individual or line holding a ranking of princely highness, as connected to a nominal territory of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, was not a blood relation of the Imperial family. The title "prince" within the royal social class may imply prince of the blood (the offspring of the Emperor). Moreover, within the royal social class, it is an aristocrat's princely style, rather than the title of "prince" or "count" which it is fashioned through, that defines princely ranking. However, receiving a titular ranking of princely count from the Emperor or having a title connected to a nominal holding of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, did not turn an aristocrat or his line into a Habsburg. He would remain a member of the noble house that he was born into. Also, the formulation of a line of princely counts through a non-mediatized noble house, did not turn the whole noble house into a mediatized princely comital house. Rather, only the sigular line of princely counts would be recognized as "Their Illustrious Highnesses" within the royal social class.

Beginning with the Congress of Vienna in 1812 till after World War II in 1946, princes of the noble social class were not allowed to marry within the royal social class. Doing so would create a morganatic marriage, which resulted in the subsequent issue of a reigning imperial or royal house being denied succesion rights. Princes of the noble social class were typically princes of the church (1st families of the papacy) and recipients of a princely papal title (a title of prince issued from the Pope, rather than from a monarch). Since the Pope acted as "His Holiness" and is not of princely highness or majesty himself, the princely families of the noble social class remained under the governance of an aristocrat holding a ranking of princely highness from within the royal social classs. Consequently, princes of the noble social class were not deemed equal to the princely members of the royal social class. Alternatively, princely counts recieved their title with royal decree from the Emperor, Seine Kaiserliche un Konigliche Apostolische Majestat (His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty), and princely counts were of the highest standing within their given domain. As such, princely counts are of greater dignity and station than princes of the noble social class. A princely count could marry the daughter of the Emperor, and this marriage would be deemed a union of equals within the royal social class. Princes of the noble social class could not secure such a union and were forced to marry within the noble social class (the aristocratic class below the royal social class, containing all nobles lacking a standing of highness. Specifically, non-reigning and non-mediatized princes, dukes, marquises, counts, viscounts, barons etc.). In essence, princes whom lacked a standing of highness would never be able to fully rule autonomously or produce issue connected to reigning imperial or royal houses.

For the line of Princely Count Giambattista Valerianus Barbaro, an alberghian naming tradition was established to honor both the House of the Holy Roman Emperor and the Barbaro family. When each Princely Count Barbaro took on his elevated title, a name in Roman-Latin variant and a predecessor's name was used. This alberghian tradition links the House of Barbaro to the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, while also creating a connected chain of princely counts for the Barbaro family. With the San Gregorio branch's related line of noble counts, the Imperial family was also acknowledged when the daughter of Count Francesco Adolfo Barbaro was born on December 22, 1911 in Vienna. She was named "Maria Egiziaca", with "Maria" honoring Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, the first Grand Princess of Transylvania.

By the 20th century, the House of Barbaro was clearly divided into seperate noble families, Barbaro von Zimmermann (of the San Giorgio branch of Malta) and Barbaro dell'Albergo (of the San Gregorio branch of Venice, Padua, Catanzaro and Vienna). This division was a result of the San Giorgio branch no longer being recognized as Patricians of Venice. To differentiate both families, Zimmermann and Albergo (seats of titles) were often used as proper surnames. When Charles Zimmermann, the 6th Count von Zimmermann Barbaro, also became the joint 6th Marquis di San Giorgio- he changed his family's surname to St. George, with issue whom followed using the anglicized San Giorgio as their official surname. The Barbaro family's current princely count also followed the naming tradition associated with his family when he was designated to take on his line's substantive titles at 30 years of age. Vito Robert Albergo, the former courtesy Baron dell'Albergo of the House of Barbaro, was renamed H.Ill.H. Count Vitus Sebastian Barbaro, Patrician of Venice; Princely Count of the Grand Principality of Transylvania and Baron dell'Albergo.

Today, remnants of the historic albergo continue beyond family names and titles. Modern corporations function much like an albergian system. For any company, there are a number of employees related by blood, marriage or simply unrelated whom work under the banner of a single brand. Both executives and laborers work in unison towards a desired end, and corporations have the ability to restructure and merge in order to adapt to the needs of the commercial market, similar to the flexibility of the historic albergo. Our continued use of the sayings "industrial barons" and "captains of industry" have a direct correlation to historical alberghi.

The most obvious continuation of the albergian tradition may, perhaps, be a hotel, for which Italians continue to name "albergo". The historic albergo united many individuals under one political roof. Hotels unite many individuals under one habitable structure. Hotels may also have relatives and complete strangers bonded to any given location for a designated period of time, not unlike the historic albergo. In addition, hotels have clear benefits for travelers- often including restaurants, car rental, recreation facilities and the possibility of interaction with others through any number of situations. Hotels make travel easier, as would membership into the historic albergo facilitate the political, commercial or social needs of an earlier time.

The persistence of alberghian elements found in the present are a testament to the value and strength of the albergo as an enduring concept.