top of page
TITOLO 20 copy.jpeg




The Garelliana collection is among the most interesting assemblies in the archives of the Genoa Pegli maritime museum and consists of approximately 450 items, such as watercolours, paintings, prints and ship models. Fabio Garelli (Florence, 1860– Genoa, 1942) obtained his degree with honours in naval architecture from the University of Genoa in 1889, presenting the design for an ocean liner for the South American run; for many years he was a prominent character in the sector of shipping companies. In his position as NGI's technical director he initially designed the transatlantic liners of the “Royal” and “Ducal” class and, immediately afterwards, he drafted the forthcoming Duilio and Giulio Cesare.


A litograph printed in 1922 for travel agency to promote the Duilio and obtained from a painting by N. Zanolio.

The first drawings by Garelli for the two vessels dated back to 1910, when NGI envisaged building two sisterships for the Latin America service of approximately 15,000 tons and a larger liner, about 20,000 gross tons, for the express service between Genoa, Naples and New York..

In 1912, after the decision to reduce the number of newbuildings to two, the shipping world was upset by the tragedy of the Titanic and all the rules on watertight compartmentalisation and the means of evacuation were questioned.

Although a deal on the minimum safety of life at sea (SOLAS) requirements was reached in London in 1914, the agreement could not be ratified owing to the outbreak of the Great War. Nevertheless, in order to cope with public expectations, all shipping companies, including NGI, decided to invest in improving safety, although it meant an increase in costs and building time.

At last, in December 1913, Ansaldo of Genoa was entrusted by Navigazione Generale with the construction of the Duilio, while the contract for an almost identical vessel, the Giulio Cesare, was awarded to the well-known yard Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd, based at Wallsend-on-Tyne, builder, among many famous ships, of the crack Cunarder Mauretania, at the time holder of the Blue Riband; NGI had organised a call for tenders for the second ship which involved several European builders. The English yard won the contract also because it could offer a relatively short construction time, which met NGI's desire to have both vessels completed at the same time, in Summer 1916. The two shipyards would develop the design autonomously and it's indeed interesting to point out that Duilio and Giulio Cesare were similar but different, also in the hull forms.

The painter Guido Marussig, from Trieste, was entrusted by NGI to create the ship's logo for the early promotiona material of the Duilio.

The beautifully designed luggage tags were sought after by the passengers to decorate their steamer trunks

Meanwhile, in 1912, Fabio Garelli left NGI, following one of their top managers, Agostino Crespi, who had been appointed president of the rival company Transatlantica Italiana and as a consequence the task to update and finalise the design of the ships was taken up by another well-known naval architect of the time, Nabor Soliani (Brescello, 1850-Genoa 1930), director of the Ansaldo shipyard. Possibly the most evident change he made was the new cruiser stern, which beside being stronger, allowed more space to accommodate four shafts; the Duilio was the first quadruple screw liner built in Italy, she was 20,000 tons, 200 metres long and had a speed of 20 knots...

Giulio Cesare and Duilio represented a massive economic investment for NGI, which intended to put in service two transatlantic liners much superior to the previous Italian ones; their new flagships were also intended to respond to similar initiatives from rival companies, particularly the Lloyd Sabaudo which, at the same time was defining the construction contract of the future Conte Rosso with the Scottish shipyard of William Beardmore.

These events testify that the eve of the Great War was a period of great turmoil in the renovation programme of the Italian merchant marine, stimulated by the country’s industrial growth and by the constantly increasing flow of migrants to America.

In addition to Navigazione Generale and Lloyd Sabaudo, the Italia and the Transatlantica Italiana steam navigation companies also announced their intention to build new tonnage that for size, speed and luxury would represent a significant step forward compared to their previous vessels.

The outbreak of the conflict had devastating consequences on the development of these companies and on their intended new flagships, but historical analysis of this period nevertheless reveals that, remarkably, in 1914, Italy was about to take an important position in the rank of the maritime nations and line services. The emergency situation created by the long conflict would postpone but not block this evolution.

The twins Conte Rosso and Conte Verde and Duilio and Giulio Cesare, though completed in the 'Twenties, would prove modern and important vessels for many years to come.

Even more striking could have been the sisterships Andrea Doria and Camillo Cavour of the Transatlantica Italiana (designed by Ansaldo but never built) or the Kaiserin Elisabeth belonging to the Austro-Americana of Trieste (later to become known as Cosulich Line) and destroyed before she could leave the stocks of the Monfalcone shipyard.



A coloured longitudinal section of the Duilio, realised by the Ansaldo at the time of the building of the ship.



KEEL LAYING: 30/05/1914

LAUNCH: 09/01/1916

MAIDEN VOYAGE: Genova-New York 31/10/1923

SHIP YARD: Ansaldo S.A., Genova Sestri Ponente


COMPANY: Navigazione Generale Italiana, Genova

FLAG: Italian 





PROPULSION: 4 turbines direct coupled to shaft

SERVICE SPEED: 19,00 knots

TOP SPEED:  20.50 knots

POWER: 22000 SHP





CREW: 480

FATE: Bombed and sunk by Allied planes at the Vallone di Zaule (Trieste) 10/07/1944





1912 September 26th: resolution of the Board of Directors of the NGI for the construction of three new big steamers, one for the North Amrica route and two for the South America one.

1913 December 30th: sign of the construction contract (delivery second semester 1915); according to the minutes of NGI’s board of directors, the order delay was due to the new safety rules after the sinking of the Titanic.

1914 May 30th: keel laying.

1916 January 9th: launched in private form owing to the War; further construction works suspender until the end of the conflict.

1923 October 22nd: registered in Genoa.

1923 October 30th: sailed on her maiden voyage from Genoa to New York via Naples.

1928 July 24th: last crossing to New York compleated in Genoa the following 21st August; replaced by the Augustus and transferred to the Latin America route rejoining the Giulio Cesare.

1932 January 2nd: the NGI is incorporated into the Società Italia Flotte Riunite (Italian Line).

1933 September 21st: arrival at Genoa at the end of her last regular crossing to South America; entered OARN yard to be fully revamped for the South African express service; remesured at 23,636 gross tons and passengers reduced to 170 First Class; 170 Second Class and 395 Tourist Class.

1934 March 6th: first voyage Genoa–Cape Town to fullfil the mail contract with the South African government previously held by the Brittish Union-Castle Line.

1937 January 2nd: transferred to the Lloyd Triestino; maintains the same service.

1939 May 13th: laid up at Genoa at the end of her last voyage from Cape Town.

1939 June: employed for a single voyage from Cadiz for the repatriation of Italian veterans of the Spain Civil War.

1942 March: chartered to the International Red Cross for three repatriation voyages of the Italian civil population from the former East African Italian colonies.

1943 August 13th: laid up at Trieste at the end of the last voyage from East Africa.

1944 July 10th: damaged and sunk in shallow water by Allied planes while laid up in Vallone di Muggia (Trieste).

1948 February 11th: after refloating demolition commenced at the nearby San Rocco shipyard of Muggia (Trieste).




In 1926-'27 the delivery of the Roma and Augustus to NGI meant the definitive transfer of Duilio and Giulio Cesare to the Latin American route, for which they had been conceived and where they would remain also after January 1932, when the ships were given the new livery of the Italia Flotte Riunite.

In December 1933 the South African government announced that from the following March the subsidised contract for the transport of mail, until then held firmly in the hands of the British company Union-Castle Line, would be awarded to the Italian Line.

Duilio and Giulio Cesare (at least three knots faster than any other ship on that route) were chosen to operate on the new express line Genoa-Cape Town; after three months spent at the OARN workshops in Genoa, they emerged with shortened funnels and a white hull (encircled at the waterline and at main deck level by emerald green bands), deemed more suitable for sailing to hot climates.

Besides the upgrading of the accommodation for a reduced number of guests, many public rooms were updated in a much more contemporary way, taking as inspiration decorative elements originally designed for the modern Conte di Savoia.

From January 1937, with the creation of Finmare (a state-controlled concern acting as parent company to the Italian lines), Duilio and Giulio Cesare were transferred to Lloyd Triestino but, although the South African mail contract reverted to Union-Castle Line for political reasons, they continued to serve successfully on the same route.

In early 1924 NGI tested the Duilio as a cruise ship

Except for a single voyage to Cadiz in June 1939, for the repatriation of the Italian veterans who had taken part to the Spanish Civil War, the Duilio remained in service along the western coast of Africa until the outbreak of World War II, when she was first laid up at Naples and later at Genoa, before being moved to Trieste. Here she would later be transformed for a special mission.

After re-joining her sistership at Genoa, on 13th April 1942 both ships set sail from the Ligurian port for the first of three repatriation journeys of Italian civilians from the East Africa colonies, after Somaliland and Ethiopia had fallen into British hands; their trips were alternated with similar ones performed by the motor vessels Saturnia and Vulcania.

At the end of this task, in August 1943, Giulio Cesare and Duilio were again laid up, this time both at Trieste; here Duilio was hit by incendiary rockets and destroyed during an Allied raid in June 1944 together with the Italian Line's Sabaudia (the former Stockholm built for the Swedish America Line), while the Giulio Cesare, remained miraculously unharmed although she was lying at anchor very close to her sistership; a subsequent bombing, which occurred three months afterwards, would sink her as well. The two wrecks were refloated and demolished after the War, the Duilio at the San Rocco shipyard at Muggia.

Advertisement for the maiden voyage of the Duilio

A poster of the second half of the 'Twenties, when the Duilio and Giulio Cesare were transferred to the Latin America service



Well aware of the milestone that the new Duilio and Giulio Cesare would represent, the first brochure published by NGI for them boasts the title “The era of the Colossuses". Printed in Genoa at the beginning of 1914 by the Società Anonima Industrie Grafiche e Affini (better known by the acronym SAIGA), it contains eleven colour plates that reproduce the drawings prepared by Ducrot of Palermo, in charge of designing and building the first class interiors of the Duilio with the main intention of offering "not passengers but guests a delightful, fantastic, magnificent and ultra-modern health resort, with well-appointed facilities entailing a considerable sacrifice of usable space on board. Therefore the halls, the lounges, the luxury apartments, cabins, promenades and corridors, in short all the passenger areas, are unusually spacious, so as to give the illusion of being in a real floating palace. For example, the great reception hall has a surface area of 220 square metres, the promenades are veritable streets 5 metres wide that will take you on a stroll half a kilometre long! […] The service is as lavish as you could wish for, meticulously prepared and supervised by the management of the hotel chain Grandi Alberghi Bristol & Savoia Genova".

The reader is then informed of "the splendid bathrooms” with an average of one for every three passengers (this figure was unrivalled at the time, though naturally it only applied to first class), the Frahm anti-rolling talks “of proven efficiency” to reduce the atavistic fear of seasickness, and the vessels' high speed capability making it possible to cut three days off the Genoa-Buenos Aires journey of any other liner on the same route.

With the recent tragedy of the Titanic still fresh in the collective memory, the pamphlet features two pages of closely written text and the heading, in big red block capitals, "For the safety of passengers"; in fact the two ships were provided with 17 watertight compartments, seven more than required by the first London Conference of safety of life at sea and such as to guarantee that the craft “will remain seaworthy even if damage is incurred to approximately 40% of her viability”. It was pointed out to the reader, however, that this would be an “almost” impossible contingency (the use of the word “almost” being forced by the sinking of the British passenger liner two years earlier).

In any event, the vessels were equipped with “a veritable fleet of lifeboats with sufficient capacity for the entire population of the ship”, a “marvellous wireless telegraph more powerful than any other equipment in existence”, a “submarine signal device”, “fire-resisting bulkheads”, “various types of compass”, “interphone and loudspeakers” and a double-bottom, all of which made them two of the safest passenger ships of their age.

The transversal cut-away of Duilio and Giulio Cesare attached to the brochure printed by NGI in Autumn 1914

More generously sized and of equally sumptuous graphic is another 1914 brochure; in addition to the colour perspective drawings of the most representative lounges, it contains a beautiful transversal cutaway of the steamers. On an inner page a red stamp recalls that, differently from what had been stated in the text, after the War the outfitting of the first classes of both ships had been committed to Ducrot of Palermo.

The Giulio Cesare and the Duilio entered service respectively in 1922 and 1923 on the New York route, and it was only after a few years that they occasionally served the South American route, for which they had originally been designed.

The names of the ships celebrated two illustrious characters of ancient Rome, which became the inspirational theme for the promotional materials. The Trieste artist Guido Marussig (1885-1972) designed for the Duilio a distinctive logo; it was inspired by the column decorated with the rostrums of enemy ships and erected in the Roman Forum around 260 BC. The promotional material for the Giulio Cesare was more generic and it often reproduced monuments and ruins of ancient Rome or the effigy of the famous leader used on Roman coins.

With the entry into service of the Roma and the Augustus, the Duilio underwent a first remodelling of her lower classes, especially the third, in order to bring the standard closer to that of those ships. The new third class was illustrated by pamphlets of a certain quality, depicting the dining room, the ladies' and the smoking room as well as the cabins with two, four or six berths and all fitted with a washbasin.

In 1932, the creation of the new concern Italia Flotte Riunite stimulated the production of a coordinated series of new advertising material, the most sumptuous of which was of course the luxury class brochure; it features on the cover a nice view from above of a portion of the sports deck around the forward funnel animated by passengers. The inside pages contain exquisite scenes of life on board painted by George Ramon (1910-1986), painter, designer and architect who at the end of the 'Twenties had moved from Germany to Italy to work with Gustavo Pulitzer Finali on the interiors of the Conte di Savoia.


If you wish to read entirely the Premium Brochures please SUBSCRIBE to our society and access the PREMIUM area reserved to our members. If you are already a member click here



The designs for Duilio’s furnishings began just prior to the War: in fact, the ship’s keel was laid in the Ansaldo shipyards in May 1914. To fulfil its important task, the Palermo-based company Ducrot decided to expand its technical department by creating a special “marine section”.

01 DUILIO 1923 PUB 1925CA.jpg
01 DUILIO 1923 PUB DSC0010.jpg

When the ship entered service, NGI published a series of advertisements showing the coloured perspective of the First Class interiors

The sister ship Giulio Cesare arrived in Italy from Glasgow without the interior furnishings that had originally been commissioned from the famous London-based firm Waring & Gillow. Ducrot agreed to furnish the interiors and, in December 1921, the Giulio Cesare berthed at the Palermo shipyard’s fitting out quay. In just three months, all the furnishings already partially prepared for the sister ship Duilio were fitted on board. The Duilio instead was fitted out in Genoa, where Ducrot sent its skilled workers, during the last months of 1923.

Interior furnishings were based on the idea of a palatial ship, similar to a navigating grand hotel. Giving form to the middle class’ self-celebrative aspirations, Ducrot’s technical department created a representative design for the interiors of the Giulio Cesare and of the Duilio, proposing furnishings with the styles of the contemporary shore-based grand hotels. Ducrot’s technical department churned out an incredible number of furnishing style samples, as diligently reported by the accounts of the period.


On the Duilio, Louis XIV was used for the vestibule and hall, the Regency style for the ballroom and dining lounge, the “Dutch style” for the children’s room, the “Carthusian style” for the fumoir, while staterooms were decorated in Louis XVI, Adam and Directoire. The use of “very elegant decorations” was the only thing mentioned for second-class accommodations while there was nothing but a meaningful silence about third-class ambiences. The décor on both ships also included works by contemporary artists: a sculpture by Domenico Trentacoste in the two halls and paintings by Salvatore Gregorietti, Salvatore Gagliano, Vittorio Grifo and Ettore De Maria Bergler in the lounges. All artists were of Sicilian origin and had already cooperated with the Ducrot company. In particular, De Maria Bergler painted the Liberty-style frescoes in the lounge of the Grand Hotel Villa Igea at Palermo and also worked with Piaggio. The large staircase balustrades and iron skylights in the lounges were made in the Milanese workshop of Alessandro Mazzucotelli, while the decorative glass was created by Salvatore Gregorietti.


02 DUILIO 1923 PUB DSC0003.jpg
02 NGI PUB 1929CA A TESTA.jpg

"Children on board". In the late 'Twenties,the Genoese photographer Armando Testa was entrusted by NGI with the production of a series of hand coloured photograpjhs to promote their express service to South America

The shipping company had achieved its goal: “Nothing resembles the typical framework of the ship and the adaptations of its iron skeleton, they are more or less effectively disguised by wooden roofing, or by majolica encrustations, or by velvet coverings. The: wide staircases, frescoed vaults, sculpted marble fountains, a series of airy and spacious environments decorated with tapestries, pictures and sculptures are illuminated by wide windows and distributed according to the standards and opulence of a prince’s residence from the past”.


Although much less elaborate, the second class environments, on both vessels left to the execution of the shipyard, turned out to be ample and decorous, while the areas reserved for migrants were still based on the typical pre-war Spartan concept: a simple dining room, a number of public restrooms and batteries of baths and showers, the impervious f'c'castle as the only open-air space... On the Duilio, during her construction, the intended steerage dormitories were already replaced by cabins with a maximum of six occupants, reducing the berths from 1778 to 600.

03 NGI PUB 1929CA A. TESTA.jpg
03 DUILIO 1923 PUB DSC0004.jpg

"Lifeon board". In the late 'Twenties,the Genoese photographer Armando Testa was entrusted by NGI with the production of a series of hand coloured photograpjhs to promote their express service to South America

The success of the Duilio confirmed the ability of Ansaldo to build large ocean liners and its partnership with NGI, who would soon entrust the yard with the construction of the larger Roma, Augustus and, some years afterwards, the Rex.

In winter 1933-'34 the Duilio underwent what would prove to be the most important upgrading during her career, performed to cope with her new route, the express service to Cape Town via Gibraltar and the West African ports; once again the per capita space was increased by reducing to 735 the total number of guests in three classes.



bottom of page