Maritime Monday for March 12, 2012: Mare Nostrum; Part Duo

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March 11, 2012


Last Week: Part Uno

In last week’s Maritime Monday, we took a look at the glitzy glamorous side of travel by ship… Decadent, luxurious steam liners that swept late-Victorian and Jazz Age high society to the far-flung and exotic corners of the world.

Ships that competed for claims to be the fastest, most sumptuous, or most technologically advanced vessels of their times, the Depression-era equivalent of first class passage aboard the Space Shuttle. Cruising in international waters allowed folks to tipple outside the reach of America’s prudish Prohibition laws. And then there was the gambling…

Between the Titanic and the Lusitania, transatlantic travel was fraught with very real danger and intrigue. While the gents and debs clinked champagne glasses on the upper decks, thousands of European immigrants were crammed like cattle in the lower decks, where things like sanitary conditions and safety regulations weren’t always priority one. Irish, Italian, and Eastern European hopefuls came flooding across the ocean in numbers and density not seen since the Middle Passage.

Then Ellis Island shuttered its doors, wars made sea travel dicey, and the advent of the jet liner spelled the end for transatlantic crossings. The Glory Days were over. Or were they? Steerage passengers had gone the way of the passenger pigeon, and Cold War One-Percenters didn’t have 10 days to waste on a silly old boat.

The world was moving faster than ever before, and it was Ambush-Makeover time for the big ships. Open ocean metropolises were retrofitted for short-haul, near shore cruising, and it was time for the post-war middle class to take like lemmings to the sea. But it would never be the same…

“If exclusive places are open to everyone then they are no longer exclusive”

The great unwashed from below decks have moved uptown, and are now cabin maids and wine stewards. They circulate freely, albeit invisibly, amongst the pensioners and suburbanites that scrimped for years so they could pretend to be Queen for a week.

It’s much, much uglier now. What was once a class-ride from Point A to Point B has devolved into a revolting soiree of conspicuous consumption and class-pretense where love sick geeks can role play for a fortnight on a multitude of themed-cruises, and overweight tourist-class nuclear families can participate in a non-stop frenzy of contrived and banal amusements. All fueled by fondue fountains, energy drinks, and flags of convenience.

We’re All in the Same Boat – Aren’t We?

image91_thumbAdam Curtis is a British BAFTA winning documentarian and a writer, television producer, director and narrator for the BBC. Curtis’ films includes “The Century of The Self” and “The Power of Nightmares”

The Observer states:

“…If there has been a theme in Curtis’s work, it has been to look at how different elites have tried to impose an ideology on their times, and the tragicomic consequences of those attempts…”

Curtis blog post gives his argument for the cruise industry as a 60′s dream of classes floating palaces for all that survived on creating a world of fakery, where passengers can pretend to part of the globe trotting elite, kept going by low wage 3rd world crews, dependent on tips for their economic survival.


At every moment there are hundreds of thousands of Americans and Europeans floating around the world on “Funships” – superliners like the Costa Concordia that crashed and capsized off the coast of Italy.

These ships are extraordinary creations, millions of ordinary people pay not very much to spend weeks in an offworld pleasure bubble, surrounded by vast replicas of pictures and architecture from the glories of past civilizations.

I want to tell the story of the rise of the modern cruise ship industry from its beginning in the 1960s – how it promised to make a world of aristocratic luxury available to everyone in the west, but also the hidden story of how that promise was achieved…

keep reading


movie poster: Mare Nostrum (1948)
IMDb) Country: Spain & Italy — Language: Spanish
Remake of
Mare Nostrum (1926)


Mare Hokum is more like it. While often visually impressive, with scenes shot in Italy, France and Spain, Mare Nostrum’s an odd and not really satisfying WWI spy drama.

Antonio Moreno, who at one short time was a competitor to Rudolph Valentino, plays a sea-obsessed freighter captain, Ulysses Ferragut, who falls for a German spy played by Alice Terry (twife of the film’s director Rex Ingram).

Ulysses falls for the German spy, Freya, is that she reminds him of a portrait he keeps of Amphitrite, a goddess of the sea…

keep reading: Stars in Heaven: An MGM Blog


Marina Militare: 140 anni di costruzioni navali
a positively stunning gallery of hand drawn Italian military ships through history


Italian Navy Uniforms and Insignia on Lone Sentry blog (more)
see also: rank insignia of the Italian Navy on wikipedia

The Italian Navy, 1860 – 1945
on BigBadBattleships


A corvus (meaning “raven” in Latin) was a Roman military boarding device used in naval warfare during the First Punic War against Carthage.In the Book III of his History, Polybius describes the corvus like a bridge 1.2 m (4 ft) wide and 10.9 m (36 ft) long, with a small parapet on both sides.

The engine was probably used in the prow of the ship, where a system of pulleys and a pole allowed the bridge to be raised and lowered. There was a heavy spike shaped as a bird’s beak on the underside of the device, hence the name “raven”. The spike was designed to pierce the enemy ship’s deck when the corvus was lowered. This allowed a firm grip between the vessels and a boarding route for the legionaries.

more on wikipedia
a thorough history of the corvus on Cog & Galley
– and also on Ancient Shipping on the Mediterranean


MN Filippo Grimanisee alsosee also (B&W photo)


Filippo Grimani
La nave dopo la trasformazione in incrociatore ausiliario;
(wikipedia; Italian)


image28_thumbRijeka (historically Port of Fiume) is the principal seaport and the third largest city in Croatia. Because of its strategic position and its excellent deep-water Port of Rijeka, the city was fiercely contested, especially between Italy, Hungary, and Croatia, changing hands and demographics many times over centuries.

The city’s economy largely depends on shipbuilding and maritime transport.

Fiume on wikipedia

see also: Free State of Fiume

1920: The Italian government declares war on Italians in Fiume

The struggle for control of Fiume’s post war destiny began on October 23, 1918. The Croatian soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian garrison mutinied and took control of the city in the name of the South Slav Committee of Agram. The Austrians signed an armistice ten days later and the Hapsburg empire collapsed.

imageThe Italians rushed to claim their spoils. The cruiser RN Emanuele Filiberto sailed into Fuime’s harbor on November 4th. The French destroyer Audace entered the port on November 17th and landed a combined French, British and American task force. The American president was a firm supporter of the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia). Yugoslavia’s economic viability demanded access to the sea. Fiume was the only port available.

Gabriele d’Annunzio, the most celebrated Italian poet and writer of the era, stepped into the breech opened by the politicians. D’Annunzio led a corps of several hundred blackshirted volunteers dubbed “Arditi” across the border into Fiume on September 12, 1919.

He seized the Yugoslav islands of Arbe and Veglia the very next day. A few weeks later he declared war on Italy. Italian Premier Giovanni Giolitti finally had enough and sent an expeditionary corps to oust the poet warrior. Giolitti ordered the battleship Andrea Doria to bombard Fiume’s municipal palace. He correctly reckoned that a few shells lobbed in the direction of D’Annunzio’s headquarters would be enough to send the dictator packing. The Fiume war lasted from December 24 – 28, 1920 and entered Fascist folklore as, “the Christmas of Blood”.

more on World at War

Hands Out 10,000 Francs to Crew of Destroyer

MILAN, Dec. 10, 1920 — When the Italian torpedo destroyer Espero joined the rebel fleet at Fiume last night d’Annunzio at once boarded the warship and distributed 10,000 francs among the crew as prize money for the act of sedition. The officers were entertained aboard the dreadnought Dante Aleghieri

pdf of full article downloadable from NY Times



Ships sailed out of Rijeka twice a month, on alternating Fridays.  Three to four ships serviced the route, each ship with a capacity of approximately 2,000 passengers, most in third class.

20 April 1904:  New regulations specified the size of ships and safety standards and provided that emigrants waiting in Rijeka would be entitled to free food and board for two days. In case of overbooking, passengers would be taken free of charge by train to some other port and shipped from there to New York, all for the price of the Rijeka-New York ticket. All Hungarian emigrants to North America had to travel from the port of Rijeka on Cunard ships.

The Government had to pay Cunard compensation of 100 crowns per passenger if it failed to meet the stipulated minimum of 30,000 passengers per year.  In 1907, the quota was lowered in respond to a demand from the United States.

– More on Immigration and the port of Rijeka


Fiume was heavily damaged by Allied bombing during World War II. The city was occupied by the Germans after Italy withdrew from the Axis. It remained in German hands until the final days of the war when it was liberated by Yugoslav partisans. Fiume was ceded to Yugoslavia by the Treaty of Paris in 1947. The Italian population was evacuated and Fiume became the Yugoslav city of Rijeka.


– vintage postcard: Port of Fiume –


Fiume, the harbor, Croatia, Austro-Hungary


WWI:  The Cia Sudatlantique liner Gallia was packed with Italian troops when she was torpedoed and sunk off Sardinia by the German submarine U35, with the loss of over 600 lives. —


Genova / Genoa – 1572, Braun and Hogenberg (full size)
Historic Maps of Italy

Genoa is a major seaport city in northern Italy. Genoa’s history goes back to ancient times. A city cemetery, dating from the 6th and 5th centuries BC, testifies to the occupation of the site by the Greeks, but the fine harbor was probably in use much earlier, perhaps by the Etruscans. It is also probable that the Phoenicians had bases in Genoa, or in the nearby area.

It was destroyed by the Carthaginians in 209 BC. The town was rebuilt and, after the end of the Carthaginian Wars, received municipal rights. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Genoa was occupied by the Ostrogoths. After the Gothic War, the Byzantines held it.

imageWhen the Lombards invaded Italy in 568.  For the following several centuries, Genoa was little more than a small, obscure fishing centre, slowly building its merchant fleet which was to become the leading commercial carrier of the Mediterranean Sea. Sacked and burned in 934 by Arab pirates, the town was quickly rebuilt.

Genoa was one of the so-called “Maritime Republics” (Repubbliche Marinare), along with Venice, Pisa, and Amalfi. Trade, shipbuilding and banking helped support one of the largest and most powerful navies in the Mediterranean.

more on wiki


Nazario Sauro

Nazario Sauro (1880—1916) was an Austrian-born Italian irredentist and sailor. He took to sailing from a very young age, and became the captain of a cargo ship when he was only 20.  When World War I erupted, he captured an Austrian vessel which he then sailed to Venice, joining other refugees who had gathered in the city and were pressuring Italy to join the conflict.

He was a volunteer in the Italian Navy, and assigned to a torpedo unit, accomplishing over 60 missions over a period of 14 months. In June 1916, he was promoted Sub-Lieutenant on the Giacinto Pullino submarine, and awarded a Silver Medal.

On July 30 of that year, Sauro’s ship was sent over to carry out a sabotage in the Hungarian port of Fiume, but it crashed into a rock in the Kvarner Gulf. The crew was intercepted by the Austro-Hungarian destroyer Satellit, and imprisoned. Sauro was recognized and placed on trial for his previous act of treason. After facing a military tribunal in Pola (now Pula in Croatia) was sentenced to death and hanged. He is remembered as a hero of Italy. (wikipedia)

Two ships of the Italian Navy were later named in his honour:

  • The destroyer Nazario Sauro, built in 1926 and sunk in 1941. (below)
  • The submarine Nazario Sauro, built in 1980 and recently taken out of service.

also: Monument to Nazario Sauro in Trieste


1926: Destroyer Nazario Sauro


Piero Foscari

Piero Foscari was an Italian merchant ship and then auxiliary cruiser of the Regia Marina.

Built in 1928 for the Società Anonima di Navigazione Adriatica, it was originally a motor ship of 3,423 tons. Foscari served as a transport ship for the Regia Marina from 18 to 25 August 1940, and in 1941 it was turned into an auxiliary cruiser to act as convoy escort. On 18 December 1942, while travelling from Naples to Civitavecchia, she was damaged by the torpedoes of the British minelaying submarine Rorqual.

After the Armistice with Italy of 9 September 1943, while in route from Genoa to escort the merchant ship Valverde, she was shelled by coastal artillery and attacked by three German patrol boats and the minelayer Pommern and Brandenburg. Foscari took refuge at Castiglioncello, where she was sunk at 17:30 of the following day by another attack of German units. wikipedia


Truppe italiane sbarcate dal Piero Foscari, in primo piano, e da altre navi
Albania, agosto 1940


Citta di Taranto, 1761(full size


Ship Leaves Taranto” on Italian postcard
The bridge at the mouth of the harbor entrance swung side-ways to allow passage of ships.
see also:
side view of the Taranto harbor bridge in the open position 


Taranto naval base for the Italian Regia Marina’s First Squadron. (Photo from the 1930’s)


Italian naval port of Taranto (see full size)

imageTaranto (wikipedia) is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base.

It is also an important commercial port and has well-developed steel and iron foundries, oil refineries, chemical works, some shipyards for building warships.

The natural harbor at Taranto made it a logical home port for the Italian naval fleet before and during the First World War. During World War II, Taranto became famous as a consequence of the November 1940 British air attack on the Regia Marina naval base stationed here, which today is called the Battle of Taranto.


Mussolini reviews the fleet at Taranto before the War. As Italy’s hopes
withered on the battlefield, he never repeated the visit.

11 November, 1940:
The Raid on Taranto – in Considerable Detail


– The Caio Duilio at speed, 1917 (see full size) –

Andrea Doria Class (1913/1915): The 1915 Caio Duilio (named for the Roman consul and admiral Gaius Duilius) was the consummation of dreadnought technology in the WWI-era Italian navy. In the Thirties, the ships were completely reworked, much like the Giulio Cesares: they received long, shark-like clipper bows and were entirely re-boilered and re-engined, gaining 6 knots of speed; their 12″ guns were re-bored and relined to 12.6″. Their four remaining turrets were converted from hydraulic to electric operation.

On November 11, 1940, Duilio and Doria were in port at Taranto with all the fleet when British Swordfish biplanes launched a sneak torpedo attack at 2300 hours. Duilio took one torpedo in the starboard bow, tearing a 40-foot hole in her outer skin. The ship was beached for temporary repairs and eventually proceeded to Genoa for durable repairs under her own power. Back in service by May 1941, she served as flagship of several task groups covering troop convoys to Libya.  —more


RM La Littorio
Eseguite le riparazioni a Taranto, la Littorio prese presto servizio
*Source page worth checking out, lots more great pics.  Captions in Italian. Here, too.

Named after the Lictor (“Littorio” in Italian), in ancient times the bearer of the Roman fasces, which was adopted as the symbol of Italian Fascism.

Littorio and her sister Vittorio Veneto were built in response to the French battleships Dunkerque and Strasbourg. They were Italy’s first modern battleships, and the first 35,000 ton capital ships of any nation to be built under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. Littorio was the second of the class to be launched, about a month after the Vittorio Veneto, and was commissioned 6 May 1940, 8 days after her sister.

Littorio was renamed Italia in July 1943 after the fall of the Fascist government. On 9 September 1943 – the day following the announcement of the Italian armistice – the Italian fleet was attacked by German bombers. As part of the armistice agreement, Italia was interned at Malta, Alexandria, and finally in the Great Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal, where she remained until 1947. Italia was scrapped at La Spezia 1952-54.

Italian battleship Littorio on wikipedia –


La Vittorio

Vittorio Veneto was the lead ship of her class of battleships that served in the Regia Marina during World War II. She was named after the Italian victory at Vittorio Veneto, during World War I. Vittorio Veneto’s keel was laid in 1934 at Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico, Trieste; she was launched on 25 July 1937, and her construction was completed in 1940, after Italy had entered in war against France and the United Kingdom. During the war in the Mediterranean Sea, Vittorio Veneto took part in 56 war missions, 11 of them sorties against enemy shipping.

more on wikipedia


Battleship Conte di Cavour pre-war (stats) –


The end of the Conte di Cavour, sunk in the British air raid at Taranto

Named after the Italian statesman Count Camillo Benso di Cavour. Used by Benito Mussolini to travel to Tripoli, in April 1925.

Conte di Cavour was returned to the Regia Marina on 1 June 1937; and was in Taranto at the beginning of the World War II, on 10 June 1940.

On 9 July 1940 it participated in the Battle of Calabria, which was the first between Italian and British navies. During the Battle of Taranto, 11 November–12 November 1940, Conte di Cavour was sunk in shallow waters by a torpedo dropped by a British aircraft during the attack on the naval base of Taranto. The ship was raised at the end of 1941, and then sent to Trieste to be repaired and upgraded in the anti-aircraft armament, but it never returned to active duty.  wiki

Three of the six battleships present were seriously damaged, but only the Cavour was knocked out for good. The ship was raised and towed to Trieste for patching and an upgrade in AA armament, but laborious repairs were not completed before the end of the war.

She was recaptured by Germany in 1943, scuttled again and recaptured by Italians fighting with the Allies. She was scrapped in 1947. Still, Italy finished the war with three out of its four legacy dreadnoughts intact, and kept two even after satisfying Stalin’s hunger for war reparations. The two surviving Littorio class ships, completed 1940, were interned at Malta after Italy’s surrender in 1943. They were scrapped in 1947-8.



Giovanni Bausan
Huntley & Palmers, Warships of Nations, 1900, (French Issue)

Italian cruiser Giovanni Bausan was a protected cruiser of the Regia Marina (the Royal Italian Navy) that was designed and built by Sir W G Armstrong Mitchell & Co.‘s Elswick Works in England in the mid-1880s.

One of the first ships of her type, Bausan was intended for use as a “battleship destroyer”, but the low rate of fire of her guns and her lack of steadiness as a gun platform made her ineffective in this role. Seeing service in both the conquest of Eritrea and the Italo-Turkish War, she had been relegated to auxiliary roles by the outbreak of the First World War, and was sold for scrapping soon after the conclusion of that conflict.

more ok wiki



Sunday Battleship Blogging: RN Giulio Cesare

Giulio Cesare (Italian for Julius Caesar), motto “Caesar Adest” was a Conte di Cavour-class battleship that served in the Regia Marina in both World Wars before joining the Soviet Navy as the Novorossiysk. Her keel was laid down on 24 June 1910 at Cantieri Ansaldo, Genoa. She was launched 15 October 1911, and construction was completed 14 May 1914.

The Washington Naval Treaty prevented most of the great powers from building new battleships during the interwar period. So, instead of new construction, most countries rebuilt old ships. In some cases the changes were minor; most US battleships lost their cage masts, for example. The Japanese, never quite satisfied, reconstructed many of their battleships twice. The British put off the reconstruction too long, and went into the war with several ships (such as the battlecruiser Hood) unmodified from their original form.

Giulio Cesare went through a process that was less reconstruction than full transformation. After a four year modernization process, she emerged as a 29000 ton unit, carrying 10 13″ guns in two twin and two triple turrets, and capable of making 28 knots. The speed increase, in particular, turned Giulio Cesare into a useful and dangerous unit, although her light armor continued to make confrontations with enemy battleships a dangerous proposition.

The Giulio Cesare (1911/1914) on Big Bad Battleships –
Italian battleship Giulio Cesare on wikipedia –
more on the Washington Naval Treaty:
“The New Navies” Popular Mechanics, May 1929

More Italian Ships: Garibaldi Class Armored Cruisers (1894-1905)

Teseo Tesei


Among the first ideas for achieving a self-contained breathing apparatus underwater there was precisely to breathe into a leather bag, a reserve air to bring underwater. Since Roman times, there was an organization of divers, established in the ports, known as “urinatores” precisely because of the shape of the bag from which they breathed “fresh air” underwater.

The use of military Rebreather oxygen had its roots in Italy, in the period between the two World Wars. It bears witness to the fortuitous discovery of a catalog company  called Anonima Bergomi, who advertised his oxygen breathing apparatuses: “Diving Model” and a “Submarine’s model”. The one for diving had a cylinder to 150 bar and an overpressure valve!

In 1933-34 the Military Italian Navy divers Teseo Tesei and Elios Toschi sense the importance of the use of this equipment in military operations, so that, with subsequent refinements, quest’apparato known in Italy as “ARO” (AutoRespiratore ad Ossigeno – Selfcontained Oxygen Breathing Apparatus), will be the protagonist of deeds of “Gamma Men” and those of “Maiali” (Maili means: pigs.) the “Maiali” were slow speed torpedoes, with explosive detachable head, which was ridden by divers rangers). Oxygen rebreathers are again in use nowadays for stealth operations because of the doesn’t produces bubbles.

imageBefore the Second World War were already present in Italy, companies that produce artisan ARO, they, thanks to an initiative by the Navy, merged into a single group called SIAS. Subsequently, the SIAS was named salvas, headquartered in Rome and some time later moved its offices in Castelnuovo di Scrivia, which still operates.

In the postwar ARO continued to be the protagonist of traditional Italian diving: The “Pirelli” (right), already the supplier of Italian Navy during World War II, producing two models of ARO as “Poseidon” and “Polyphemus,” while the fledgling “Cressi” market the “model 47” probably dating their the year 1947.

above left: Teseo Tesei (on wikipedia)
See also: Teseo tesei tuta


Museo Tecnico Navale (more images)


Maiale; the Human Torpedo


The Italian Royal Navy had an elite naval sabotage unit that had developed a new secret weapon; a two man underwater assault vehicle that was typically launched from a submarine. It had many nicknames including Pig, Hog, Chariot, Human Torpedo, Slow Speed Torpedo and Maiali. The nicknames pig, hog and maiali were because of its poor maneuverability.

The two men who would pilot the Maiali or Pig would wear a specially designed breathing apparatus that was essentially a re-breather.

This closed circuit breathing device was fueled on pure oxygen, as apposed to compressed air. This method was chosen to ovoid creating bubbles which could potentially alert the presence of a diver on top of the water. These devices named ARO were made by Pirelli and utilized a sealed system.

(inset image, right: LA MIA AVVENTURA CON TESEO TESEI)


The Pig was essentially a Slow Moving Torpedo (SLC) and was an assault weapon
of the Regia Marina during the World War II period.


image source (see larger) –

The SLC was equipped with ballast tanks, diving planes as well as compressed air for releasing ballast. Essentially the hog was a two man submarine that was ridden like a tandem motorcycle. It utilized an electric motor and that could output up to 1.6 horsepower from 150 Amp batteries.

The Maiale were built in the Officine San Bartolomeo La Spezia Shipyard starting in 1935. They were 6.7 meters long and 533mm wide. They had a maximum safe depth rating of 15 meters but were regularly taken down to 30 meters. They had a range of 75 miles if they traveled at an operational speed of 2.3 knots. The range dropped significantly down to 4 miles if they went full speed at 4.5 knots.

The Weapons systems on the original Mark 1 held 220 kilograms of explosive charge and the Mark 2 version got up to 250 kilograms of explosive charge. The final version achieved a 300 kilogram capacity of explosive charge.

MORE on Rolex blog


On the night of December 18, 1941, three, 2-men human torpedoes (hogs) were launched from the Italian Submarine Scrie, off the shore of the port of Alexandria, Egypt. The port of Alexandria had been sealed off by the British Royal Navy with large metal nets designed to stop incoming torpedoes. Italian crews on three hogs cut through the metal nets and successfully attached their delayed-action charges on three unsuspecting British ships: the Queen Elizabeth (above), The Valiant and the tanker Saratoga. The Queen Elizabeth battleship was blown up sank in the shallow water of the harbor. —MORE

The British soon re-evaluated their opinion of human torpedoes, after they saw how successful the Italian one was and in 1942 they formed the Experimental Submarine Flotilla. Frogmen were trained to drive the torpedoes. Here is a little know fact, many of the oxygen cylinders used by the British frogmen came from German planes that were shot down. source


launch vessel


left: museoscienza.orgrt: Reggimento Lagunari “Serenissima” (Italian frog men)
more: The Birth of an Idea; The Human Torpedoes by Phil Nussle on –
for pics of a restored Italian Maiale, please click here


Early in the 20th century, thousands of Italian colonists arrived in Libya, referring to it as land “taken back” from the Turks and citing ancient Rome’s history in the region. Above are some of the 20,000 Italians who arrived on the shores of Tripoli.

Pax Romana; a photo essay of Italy’s African Empire

Italo-Turkish War was fought between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy from September 29, 1911 to October 18, 1912. Although minor, the war was a significant precursor of the First World War as it sparked nationalism in the Balkan states. Seeing how easily the Italians had defeated the weakened Ottomans, the members of the Balkan League attacked the Ottoman Empire before the war with Italy had ended.

See also: Ottoman fleet organisation during the Italo-Turkish War on wikipedia


Citta di Trieste Albrecht Carl Seutter; c. 1756 – (full size)

Trieste is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy. It is situated towards the end of a narrow strip of land lying between the Adriatic Sea and Italy’s border with Slovenia. Trieste is located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste and throughout history it has been influenced by its location at the crossroads of Germanic, Latin and Slavic cultures.

Trieste was one of the oldest parts of the Habsburg Monarchy from 1382 until 1918. In the 19th century, it was the most important port of one of the Great Powers of Europe. As a prosperous seaport in the Mediterranean region, the city is in one of the richest regions of Italy, and has been a great centre for shipping, through its port (Port of Trieste), shipbuilding, and financial services.

– Port of Trieste Official Site
Italia Marittima S.p.A. (shipping company) –


View of the entrance to the Arsenal by Canaletto, 1732
Full resolution‎ 1,292 × 770 pixels

The Venetian Arsenal

The Venetian Arsenal (Italian: Arsenale di Venezia) was a complex of state-owned shipyards and armories clustered together in Venice in northern Italy. It was responsible for the bulk of Venice’s naval power during the middle part of the second millennium AD. It was also the first mass production complex using standardized and interchangeable parts.


The Venetian Arsenal was the biggest and most efficient shipyard of the Renaissance, and the reason why Venice was capable of standing up to the Turks through three hundred years and seven wars. —Cog and Galley (see full image)

10 Factories That Changed the World:

During the Renaissance, the city-state of Venice was a trade superpower that did business with Asia and the Middle East. Then as today, superpowers who relied on trade needed a dominant navy. And that’s where the Venice Arsenal came in.

Using unique mass production methods to assemble the galleys that dominated the Mediterranean, the arsenal pioneered standardization of parts and perfected a continuous flow process, a distant, Italian cousin of Henry Ford’s production line. The arsenal completed nearly one ship a day at its peak in the 16th century.



Dante Alighieri from By the Graciousness of the Veil on The Fire Lizard

Dante himself was transfixed by the wonder of the Arsenal, and found it inspiring enough to mention in his Inferno:

As in the Arsenal of the Venetians
Boils in winter the tenacious pitch
To smear their unsound vessels over again
For sail they cannot; and instead thereof
One makes his vessel new, and one recaulks
The ribs of that which many a voyage has made
One hammers at the prow, one at the stern
This one makes oars and that one cordage twists
Another mends the mainsail and the mizzen…

Italian battleship Dante Alighieri (1909-1928)


the first ship to carry large caliber guns in triple turrets (full stats)


The first dreadnought battleship built for the Regia Marina (Italian Royal Navy). She was laid down by Castellammare Regia Marina shipyard on 6 June 1909, launched on 20 August 1910, and completed on 15 January 1913.

Dante Alighieri served during World War I and was stricken on 1 July 1928 to comply with the Washington Naval Treaty, the first Italian dreadnought other than the sunken Leonardo da Vinci to leave active service.

– more on wikipedia –


Imre Kiralfy’s gorgeous poster for Venice the Bride of the Sea, 1891

The Sensa: Venice’s Marriage to the Sea

The “Marriage of Venice with the Sea” is a ceremony which celebrates the city’s links to the sea. The ceremony dates back to 10th century, and has it’s origins in giving thanks for a Venetian military victory in Dalmatia.

A very good article


La Sensa – Venice’s marriage to the sea (


The Doge on the Bucintoro near the Riva di Sant’Elena by Francesco Guardi, Louvre c. 1766-1770

The Festa della Sensa, as Venetians call it, has been celebrated for nearly a millennium.

The “Marriage of Venice with the Sea” which celebrates the city’s maritime identity takes place on the first Sunday after Ascension.

In the days of the republic the Bucintoro, the doge’s ceremonial barge, sailed from the Piazza San Marco to the Lido accompanied by a fleet of other vessels. A ritual was then performed during which the Doge cast a gold wedding ring into the sea.

Lo sposalizio del mare – Torna la tradizionale “Festa della sensa” della Repubblica di Venezia

This ceremony is still performed today. However, it is now a far more modest affair. The ring is cast into the sea by the mayor who is usually accompanied by the Patriarch of Venice.  (source)

One of the ceremonial duties of the doge was to celebrate the symbolic marriage of Venice with the sea. This was done by casting a ring from the state barge, the Bucentaur, into the Adriatic. In its earlier form this ceremony was instituted to commemorate the conquest of Dalmatia by Doge Pietro II Orseolo in 1000, and was celebrated on Ascension Day.

It took its later and more magnificent form after the visit of Pope Alexander III and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I to Venice in 1177.  Doge of Venice on Wikipedia

There, the Doge (the ceremonial head of the government) would drop a ring into the water, precisely where the Venetian lagoon met the Adriatic Sea, saying “We wed thee, O sea, as a sign of our true and perpetual dominion.

Venice’s Marriage to the Sea, or Liquefied Is My Soul!

Il Doge sul Bucintoro a San Niccolò del Lido il giorno dell’Ascensione
(dopo il 1775; Parigi, Louvre)

FESTA DELLA SENSA photo gallery

more: The Festival of Our Lady of the Assumption in Venice The Wedding with the Sea


The Venetian Navy at work in the Battle of Lepanto, 1571

The Battle of Lepanto took place on 7 October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of southern European Catholic maritime states, decisively defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire in five hours of fighting on the northern edge of the Gulf of Patras, off western Greece. The Ottoman forces sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto met the Holy League forces, which had come from Messina.


Battle of Lepanto
The sinking of an Ottoman Navy vessel, painting by Pieter Brünniche, 1762

The victory of the Holy League prevented the Mediterranean Sea from becoming an uncontested highway for Muslim forces, protected Italy from a major Ottoman invasion, and prevented the Ottomans from advancing further into the southern flank of Europe. Lepanto was the last major naval battle in the Mediterranean fought entirely between galleys, and has been assigned great symbolic importance.

more on wikipedia


– French Tradecard: Chocolate Suchard “Scenes With Bars of Chocolate” c. 1892


– vintage postcard: Verona, Italy


Grand Hôtel de Gênes, GenovaMilano; Hotel ManzoniMilano; Hotel Aosta


Milano; Albergo LosannaVarigotti; Hotel al SaracenoMilano; Hotel Agnello et du Dome


Palermo; Hotel PatriaVenezia; Albergo GabrielliAdratica


Milano; Hotel Nord

Monkey Fist

Monkey Fist is a smack-talking, potty mouthed, Yankee hating, Red Sox fan in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to compiling Maritime Monday, she blogs about nautical art, history, and marine science on Adventures of the Blackgang.

Submit story ideas, news links, photographs, or items of interest to her at [email protected]. She can also out-belch any man.

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