Italian ironclad Italia

Italia was an Italian ironclad battleship build for the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy), the lead ship of the Italia class. She and her single sister ship, Lepanto, had lengthy construction times. Italia was laid down in January 1876, launched in September 1880, and completed in October 1885. She was armed with a main battery of four 17 in (432 mm) guns mounted in a central barbette and was capable of a top speed of 17.8 knots (33.0 km/h; 20.5 mph). Unusually, for ships of that era, Italia had an armored deck rather than the typical belt armor.

Italian battleship Italia (1880) at La Spezia 1897.jpg
Italia at La Spezia in 1897, showing her original appearance with six funnels and a single large central mast.
Name: Italia
Namesake: Italy
Operator: Regia Marina
Builder: Regio Cantiere di Castellammare di Stabia
Laid down: 3 January 1876
Launched: 29 September 1880
Completed: 16 October 1885
Struck: 16 November 1921
Fate: Scrapped, 1921
General characteristics
Class and type: Italia-class ironclad battleship
  • Normal: 13,678 long tons (13,897 t)
  • Full load: 15,407 long tons (15,654 t)
Beam: 22.54 m (74 ft)
Draft: 8.75 m (28 ft 8 in)
Installed power:
  • 11,986 ihp (8,938 kW)
  • 8 oval and 16 cylindrical boilers
Propulsion: 4 shafts, 4 compound engines
Speed: 17.8 knots (33.0 km/h; 20.5 mph)
Range: ca. 5,000 nautical miles (9,260 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 669–701
  • 4 × 17-inch (432 mm) guns
  • 7 × 5.9-inch (150 mm) guns
  • 4 × 4.7-inch (119 mm) guns
  • 4 × 14-inch (356 mm) torpedo tubes

Italia spent the first two decades of her career in the Active and Reserve Squadrons, where she took part in annual training maneuvers with the rest of the fleet. She was withdrawn from service in 1905 for a significant modernization. Upon returning to service in 1909, Italia was employed as a training ship. During the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–1912, the ship provided fire support to Italian troops defending Tripoli in Libya. She was used as a floating battery at Brindisi after Italy entered World War I in 1915. The ship was rebuilt as a grain carrier in December 1917 – June 1918. Italia served in this capacity for only a short time, being stricken in November 1921 and then scrapped.


Line drawing of the Italia class

Italia was 124.7 meters (409 ft) long overall and had a beam of 22.54 m (74 ft) and an average draft of 8.75 m (28 ft 8 in). She displaced 13,678 long tons (13,897 t) normally and up to 15,407 long tons (15,654 t) at full load. She had a crew of 669–701 officers and men.[1]

Her propulsion system consisted of four compound steam engines each driving a single screw propeller, with steam supplied by eight coal-fired, oval boilers and sixteen fire-tube boilers. Her engines produced a top speed of 17.8 knots (33.0 km/h; 20.5 mph) at 11,986 indicated horsepower (8,938 kW). She could steam for 5,000 nautical miles (9,300 km; 5,800 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).[1]

Italia was armed with a main battery of four 17 in (432 mm) guns, mounted in two pairs en echelon in a central barbette. Three guns were 26-caliber guns, while the fourth was a slightly longer 27-caliber version. She carried a secondary battery of seven 5.9 in (150 mm) 26-caliber guns and four 4.7 in (119 mm) 23-caliber guns. As was customary for capital ships of the period, she carried four 14 in (356 mm) torpedo tubes.[1]

Unlike other ships built at the time, Italia dispensed with vertical belt armor. Her designer, Benedetto Brin, believed that contemporary steel alloys could not effectively defeat armor-piercing shells of the day, and so he discarded it completely. Italia was instead protected by an armored deck that was 4 in (102 mm) thick. Her conning tower was armored with 4 in of steel plate. The barbette had 19 in (483 mm) of steel armor.[1]

Service historyEdit

Construction – 1902Edit

Italia at her launching

Italia was under construction for nearly 10 years.[2] She was laid down at Regio Cantiere di Castellammare di Stabia shipyard on 3 January 1876, originally under the name Stella D'Italia. She then spent over four-and-a-half years on the building ways and was launched on 29 September 1880. She was not completed for another five years, her construction finally being finished on 16 October 1885. She nonetheless was completed 22 months before her sister Lepanto, which took almost 11 years to build. After Italia was completed, several smaller caliber guns were added, including two 75 mm (3.0 in) guns, twelve 57 mm (2.2 in) 40-caliber guns, twelve 37 mm (1.5 in) revolver cannon, and two machine guns.[1]

Italia took part in the annual 1888 fleet maneuvers, along with the ironclads Caio Duilio, Lepanto, Enrico Dandolo, and San Martino, a protected cruiser, four torpedo cruisers, and numerous smaller vessels. The maneuvers consisted of close-order drills and a simulated attack on and defense of La Spezia. Later that year, the ship was present during a naval review held for the German Kaiser Wilhelm II during a visit to Italy.[3] Italia served as the flagship of the 2nd Division of the Active Squadron during the 1893 fleet maneuvers, along with the ironclad Andrea Doria, the torpedo cruiser Iride, and four torpedo boats. During the maneuvers, which lasted from 6 August to 5 September, the ships of the Active Squadron simulated a French attack on the Italian fleet.[4]

Italia as she appeared after her 1905–1908 refit

In 1895, Italia and Lepanto were assigned to the Reserve Squadron, along with the ironclads Ruggiero di Lauria and Re Umberto.[5] Italia was not assigned to either the Active or Reserve Squadrons in 1898, though she took part in the annual fleet maneuvers that year.[6] In the early 1890s, the Italian Navy considered rebuilding Italia along the same lines as Enrico Dandolo,[7] which had received new, quick-firing 10-inch (250 mm) guns in place of her slow 17-inch guns.[8] Italia and her sister were to have their guns replaced with new 13.4-inch (340 mm) guns,[7] but by 1902 this plan had been abandoned as too costly.[9]


In 1905, Italia went into drydock for a major reconstruction that lasted into 1908. Her six funnels were reduced to four, and a second mast was erected. One of her 5.9 in guns, six of the 57 mm guns, and eight of the 37 mm revolver cannon were removed. After returning to service in 1909, she served as a torpedo training ship; she served in this capacity through 1910.[1] At the start of the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–1912, Italia was assigned to the 5th Division of the Italian fleet, along with her sister Lepanto and Enrico Dandolo.[10] In December 1911, Italia and Lepanto were sent to Tripoli, replacing the three Re Umberto-class ironclads, to support the Italian garrison that had captured the city. The two ships were sent in large part because the Italian Navy had a large stockpile of 17 in shells.[11]

She was employed as a training ship for petty officers in 1912, and by 1914 she was stationed in Taranto as a guard ship. Italia was laid up on 1 June 1914 and stricken from the naval register three days later. Despite having all of her secondary guns removed, the ship was towed to Brindisi on 20 April 1915, shortly before Italy entered World War I, to defend the harbor. She was formally returned to the naval register on 23 May, the day Italy declared war on Austria Hungary, and was recommissioned on 1 June as a "first class auxiliary". She remained at Brindisi until 16 December 1917, when she was taken to La Spezia for conversion into a grain carrier, retaining only two of her 4.7 in guns. She was transferred initially to the Ministry of Transport on 1 June but was quickly reassigned to the State Railways on 27 July 1919. She remained there briefly, returning to the Navy on 13 January 1921. Italia was finally stricken on 16 November 1921 and subsequently broken up for scrap.[1][12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gardiner, p. 341
  2. ^ In comparison, the preceding ironclad Caio Duilio took only seven years to build, and the subsequent ironclad Ruggiero di Lauria took less than six and a half years. See Gardiner, pp. 340–342
  3. ^ Brassey (1889), p. 453
  4. ^ Clarke & Thursfield, pp. 202–203
  5. ^ Brassey (1896), p. 65
  6. ^ Garbett (1898), pp. 200–201
  7. ^ a b "Italy", p. 46
  8. ^ Gardiner, pp. 340–341
  9. ^ Garbett (1902), p. 1076
  10. ^ Beehler, p. 10
  11. ^ Beehler, p. 47
  12. ^ Gardiner & Gray, p. 255


  • Beehler, William Henry (1913). The History of the Italian-Turkish War: September 29, 1911, to October 18, 1912. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute. OCLC 1408563.
  • Brassey, Thomas A., ed. (1889). "Foreign Naval Manoevres". The Naval Annual. Portsmouth: J. Griffin & Co.: 450–455. OCLC 5973345.
  • Brassey, Thomas A., ed. (1896). The Naval Annual (Portsmouth: J. Griffin & Co.).
  • Clarke, George S.; Thursfield, James R. (1897). The Navy and the Nation, or, Naval Warfare and Imperial Defence. London: John Murray. OCLC 640207427.
  • Garbett, H., ed. (1898). "Naval Notes – Italy". Journal of the Royal United Service Institution. London: J. J. Keliher. XLII: 199–204. OCLC 8007941.
  • Garbett, H., ed. (1902). "Naval and Military Notes – Italy". Journal of the Royal United Service Institution. London: J. J. Keliher. XLVI: 1072–1076. OCLC 8007941.
  • Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-133-5.
  • Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1921. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-907-3.
  • "Italy". Notes on the Year's Naval Progress. Washington, DC: Office of Naval Intelligence: 445–48. 1895.