Because of the division of Italy into many small sovereign states and to the later drive for unification, the first great national shipping companies did not emerge until the second half of the Nineteenth century. There were, however, some tentative attempts to establish intercontinental steamship lines by the famous Florio family of Sicily and by the Genoese entrepreneur Raffaele Rubattino, who was famous for placing his steamships Piemonte and Lombardo at the disposal of Giuseppe Garibaldi for his famous expedition of The Thousand in 1860, which helped to bring about the unification of Italy. An important exception was that of the Lloyd Austriaco, later Lloyd Triestino, founded in Trieste in 1836 which is today the oldest existing shipping company. (At that time, Trieste was, of course, still part of Austria.)In 1881, the biggest Italian shipping company was born, with the second largest fleet in the Mediterranean, as the result of the fusion of the Florio and Rubattino fleets: the Navigazione Generale Italiana (NGI). As the Nineteenth century turned into the Twentieth, this concern absorbed almost all the other companies carrying emigrants to the Americas, such as La Veloce, the Lloyd Italiano, La Società di Navigazione a Vapore Italia and La Società Italiana Servizi Marittimi (Sitmar). Some years later, in Trieste, the Cosulich family started an analogous service to North and South America with their Austro-American company and, in the first year of the Twentieth century, the third major Italian shipping company, the Lloyd Sabaudo, was born in Turin. These three great concerns eventually merged in 1932 to form the Italia Flotte Riunite, one of the giants of transatlantic navigation, which, among great celebrations, sent to sea such ships as the Conte di Savoia, Rex, Andrea Doria, Cristoforo Colombo and, finally, the sisters Michelangelo and Raffaello, the last “ships of state” which were laid up in 1975.Through the stories of these companies and their ships it is possible to read and analyse different aspects and various themes of human society, politic, technology and art, among which are the evolution of means of publicising and promoting travel by sea. The best artists and illustrated worked at the production of authentic masterpieces of graphic art to illustrate posters, brochures, leaflets, menus, passenger lists, programmes, etc., creating a stream of work which is of notable artistic and historic interest.
The dates under the ship’s name refer to the entry into service for the Owners and to the last voyage for the same company
* Click to view the technical sheet
ITALIA A VAPORE