The Tanzania Times
Eastern Africa News Network

Mysterious Rock Imprints in Longido Leads to Dead Italian Soldier

Mysterious Rock Inscriptions in Longido connects Tanzania to a dead Italian Soldier.

Even more intriguing, the saga connects World War I German bunker to World War II fighter in Longido, near where Tanzania borders with Kenya.

The is a Rock wall in remote parts of Longido, which bears some strange Italian inscription.

It has been quite a mystery with some local people saying the rocks used to be artillery bunkers for the German soldiers during the World War I.

But how do Italian words ‘Benvenuto Elia,’ get engraved onto a rock serving as a German stronghold in the Longido area?

26 3 43

Those words were chiseled onto the Longido stone and became an intriguing puzzle: who had taken the trouble to turn the rock wall into a monument?  What do the Italian words mean?

At first the inscription was thought to be ‘Benvenuta,’ which could mean ‘welcome,’ to a female.  But that did not go with ‘Elia,’ which is a man’s name in Italy. 

Eventually it was resolved to be ‘Benvenuto,’ or ‘Benvenato,’ A photo of the rock, taken by the historical magazine, ‘Old Africa,’ was not exactly clear.

Still ‘Nato’ means ‘born’ in the masculine.  Paratico is a town in Italy in the Provincial of Brescia. 

The letter which looks like a W, in Italian, stands for ‘Doppio V,’ or ‘Double V.’ 

In this context it means ‘Viva.’ Re is Italian for ‘King!’

So the reading could mean ‘Welcome, Elia, born 7 February 1912 in Paratico, Brescia. Long Live Italy. Long Live the King.’

The carved words seemed to be a birth announcement, about a baby known as Elia


‘Welcome, Elia, born 7 February 1912 in Paratico, Brescia. Long Live Italy. Long Live the King.’

Who had put his name and date of birth there?  And why?

Responding to ‘Old Africa,’ magazine, one Lorenzo Colombo suggested that in addition to meaning ‘welcome,’ Benvenuto is also a relatively common Italian surname.

He suggested that the baby born in 1912 was named Elia Benvenuto.

The numbers lower down indicated the date the inscription was made: 26 March 1943, which would coincide with a time when Italian soldiers were being held prisoner in Tanzania.

Andrea Tortelli, a journalist in Brescia, was among the people who got fascinated by the story, reporting that Benvenuti (with an I) was a common surname in Paratico. 

He published a story which eventually helped to unearth the true soldier behind Longido engravings.

The Mysterious Elia comes to light

The story later developed to the fact that Elia Benvenuti was born in Paratico, in the province of Brescia, on 2 July 1912.

His inscriptions at Longido, in Tanzania, shows his birth date in the English, rather than the Italian format, likely because he knew it would be read by English people.

 At age twenty, he asked his mother to sign permission for him to join the military a year before he reached legal maturity. 

Elia was drafted and posted to serve Africa in 1932. He would then work in Eritrea, Somalia, and Kenya. 

At some point after the outbreak of World War II, he was taken prisoner by the British and got dispatched to Tanzania.

Which means this is how he got to the Longido Hill and managed to make the immortalized rock inscriptions while there.

Later, Elia was taken to Great Britain and eventually repatriated.

Back in Italy, he became a stonecutter in the local sandstone quarry. Most people in the Paratico area in the early and mid-twentieth century were stonecutters.

Elia married and had two daughters. He died prematurely in 1963 of a heart attack, which his family believe was brought on by the ravages of war, his work, and heavy smoking … too many cigarettes.

Mtoto wa Eliya

His daughter Ilde describes Elia as a special person—sociable, outgoing, and adventurous.

“Paratico was too small for him,” she said. “He loved Africa and always hoped to return. But he had bad memories of his treatment by the English.”

He often told his family amusing, and sometimes disturbing war stories.

Once, he was trying to make a roadside repair of his motorcycle. He had disassembled the nonfunctioning gearbox when an ostrich came along and ate some of the pieces. 

There was a time when he was lost in the desert for three days.

Toward the end of that trial, distressed and fearful that he would not be rescued, he kept his pistol loaded and ready in case he needed to shoot himself rather than suffer a horrible death.

Fortunately, his fellow soldiers found him in time.  And so today Benvenuti’s story lives through his daughters and grandchildren.

He never told his family about the inscription he left behind, but his daughters say that it was in his character to do such a thing.

That he wrote “VV RE” was also in keeping with his sentiments—expressing loyalty to the King, not to fascism.

His daughters were stupefied and completely delighted to learn for the first time that their father had left his mark on a wall in such an exotic place. 

“Who would have thought?” Ilde Benevenuti said.  “On first seeing the inscription I thought my father was a bit of a megalomaniac to carve his name in stone. 

I don’t know why he did it, but he truly loved Africa and must have wanted to leave his imprint in the heart of the continent.

Certainly my father was a romantic character. He would be charmed by the all the attention he is getting now, with the news of the rock in Tanzania.”

You might also like

Comments are closed.