ITALIA FLOTTE RIUNITE
The “Società Italia di Navigazione”, better known internationally as the Italian Line, began operations in 1932 and, for many years, remained one of the leading companies linking Europe with the Americas. Some of the most renowned and celebrated liners in the World sailed under its flag: Roma, Augustus, Giulio Cesare, Conte Grande, Conte di Savoia, Rex, Saturnia, Andrea Doria, Cristoforo Colombo, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raffaello... The last two, still well remembered, had the task of closing down for ever the liner service between Genoa and New York in 1975. But when it was at the height of its existence, in the ’Thirties, the Italian Line had a fleet of 680.000 gross tons and ran both passenger and cargo liners in regular services to North and South America, Australia, South Africa and the Italian colonies. When, on the 10th June, 1940, Italy entered the Second World War, the government in Rome “forgot” to inform the Italian merchant ships and as a consequence many of them fell into enemy hands or were sunk. Some of the liners which remained in Italian waters when the hostilities began were used to ferry men and equipment to North Africa, becoming easy targets for enemy submarines and taking thousands of young men to the bottom with them.
By the end of the War, only 95 Italian merchant ships totalling a mere 330,000 tons remained afloat whereas before the conflict the country’s merchant fleet of 786 deep sea ships had amounted to ten times that total.
The draft of the peace treaty of Paris foresaw that Italy would not be allowed to build new liners for the Atlantic run for a decade; but thanks to the diplomatic skills of the Italian Prime Minister, Alcide de Gasperi, during his first mission to Washington in January, 1947, the American government decided to support Italy. Besides the sale “at cost” of 50 Liberty cargo ships, President Truman agreed to the return of the four surviving major Italian liners: Saturnia, Vulcania, Conte Biancamano and Conte Grande; above all, he granted De Gasperi the right to build two new liners for the express route between Genoa and New York which, in the early ‘Fifties, finally re-established the Italian Line’s high class service on this most prestigious international route: they were the Andrea Doria and her sister ship Cristoforo Colombo. The swift reconstruction of the Italian merchant marine, not so much in terms of quantity but, above all, of quality astonished the World and the new post-War ships became known as “the Renaissance Fleet”.