Roma class ironclads (1864)

WW2 Italian Navy Italian Regia Marina, 1863-1896: RM Pirofrigata Roma, Venezia

The Roma class ironclads were built in Italy for the Italian Regia Marina from 1863 during the rapid expansion of the newly created fleet. Only two were built, Roma and Venezia, the first having five 254 mm (10 in) and twelve 203 mm (8 in) guns but completed in 1869 she missed the war and battle of Lissa. Venezia was converted into a central battery ship during construction (eighteen 10-inch guns)and was completed in 1873, equally missing the war. They ended having an uneventful career, withdrawn from service and versed into auxiliary duties in 1880 and 1890, stricken in 1895, broken up for scrap in 1896 (Roma was already badly damaged by fire in 1895). #regiamarina #italiannavy #ironclad #roma #venezia

Roma at La Spezia as completed

Development history

Venezia in construction
The Roma class were designed by Insp. Eng. Giuseppe De Luca as broadside ironclads in the wake of the general expansion of the Regia Marina, soon after the indepedence, fearing a war with Austria (which indeed broke out in 1866). However in 1864 as both had been laid down and were in construction at Cantiere della Foce (Genoa, NW Italy), some navies already started to work on the next generation or ironclads: The central battery ships. The idea was instead og having a full broadside and trying to protect all, concentrating less, but way more powerful guns into a smaller citadel, with extra protection and better traverse for the mounts. This enabled the ships to be shorter and required less armor, so making them faster and more agile. De Luca thus proposed to the admiralty to suspend work on the sister ship Venezia and re-designed her into a central battery ironclad while under construction. This was accepted not without resistance as it was feared she would not be ready if a war broke out, which was the case. In fact none of the two sisters were completed in time. Roma was launched on 18 December 1865 but it was recoignised she would not be ready in time, and construction was suspended, resuming post-war, meaning when completed in 1869, she was completely obsolete.
Her sister was also suspended and completed even later, by April 1873 (ten years in construction !), and so too was near obsolete. Part of this, apart events, was due to the relative inexperience of the Genoa yard.

The Austro-Italian ironclad arms race

⚙ The naval Arms Race

Italian navy Regia MarinaKuK Kriesgmarine KuK Kriesgmarine
Formidabile class 1860
Principe di Carignano class 1861
Re d'Italia class 1861
Regina Maria Pia class (1862)
Roma class (1863)
Affondatore (1863)
Principe Amedeo class (1864)
Drache class (1860)
Kaiser Max class (1861)
Erzherzog Ferdinand Max class (1863)

Design of the class

Hull and general design

Launch of Venezia in 1869

As customary, the Roma class were wooden-hulled, however some structural elements were made in iron. Still there were not enough to have them considered of “mixed” construction. They varied in dimensions after Venezia was converted into a central battery ship: Roma measured 79.67 meters (261.4 ft) between perpendiculars. The overall length was superior due to her bowsprit mast. Her beam was 17.33 m (56.9 ft), average draft of 7.57 m (24.8 ft). Venezia was slightly longer at 79.65 m (261.3 ft) between perpendiculars, beamier at 17.48 m (57.3 ft), draftier of 7.6 m (25 ft). Roma displaced 5,698 long tons (5,789 t, normal load) and Venezia more, 5,722 long tons (5,814 t). Respectively fully loaded they displaced 6,151 long tons (6,250 t) on average. Their crew comprised during their early career between 549 and 551 officers and men.


They had both a single-expansion steam engine, drivin a single four-bladed screw propeller. Steam came by six single body cylindrical fire-tube boilers running on coal. They were all trunked into a single funnel amidships, a classic feature of the time. Top speed was 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph) on average, from 3,670 indicated horsepower (2,740 kW) which also was in the norms of the time. Range was 1,940 nautical miles (3,590 km; 2,230 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) based on their coal supply (unknown). Since confidence in steam power was relative at the time, she was fitted with a three-masted barque rig for long-distance, spread between four masts (with the bowsprit) over 31,833 square feet (2,957.4 m2), three stages per past, of total sail area. This meant they needed topmen for this task in addition to the gunners and machinists. A crowded ship indeed.


Protection was limited to a belt in wrought iron, 150 mm (5.9 in) thick, extending the entire length of the hull at the waterline for Roma. Venezia as redesigned had no belt but instead a casemate also in wrought armour plating, 121 mm (4.75 in) thick over the central casemate.



Roma being a broadside ironclad as completed, her main battery comprised however only five 254 mm (10 in) guns (one oin deck with some traverse, four in battery amidships) and twelve 203 mm (8 in) guns.


Venezia being completed as a central battery ship her battery consisted in eighteen 254 mm gun located in an armored casemate amidship. The gun plan showed six per side, two in corners, four broadside in the casemate, but with limited traverse.


In 1874–75, both ships had their batterey removed and replaced by eleven 254 mm guns (Roma) or eight 254 mm, one deck 220 mm (8.7 in) (Venezia).
From 1886, Roma replaced the 254 for 220 mm guns and in 1890 she only had five 8 in guns.
Venezia became a training ship in 1881, with four 75 mm (3 in) guns, four 57 mm (2.2 in) guns for instructional purposes.

Roma profile

⚙ specifications

Displacement Normal 5,698 long tons (5,789 t), Full load 6,151 long tons (6,250 t)
Dimensions 79.67 x 17.33 x 7.57 m (261 ft 5 in x 56 ft 10 in x 24 ft 10 in)
Propulsion One screw prop. marine steam engine, 6 fire-tube boilers 3,670 ihp (2,737 kW)
Speed 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)
Range 1,940 nmi (3,590 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Armament 5 × 254 mm (10 in) guns, 12 × 203 mm (8 in) guns
Protection Belt armor: 150 mm (5.9 in)
Crew 549–551

WW2 Italian Navy Roma

In service in 1869, three years after the Third War of Independence, Roma was found in a new context of disgrace for the Italian Navy and budget constraints. She worked at first with a limited crew, while other older broadside ironclads saw their crew disbanded. Between 1874 and 1875 she had a major armament upgraded, as saw earlier, gaining eleven 254 mm (10 inches) guns.
In November 1881 she was in Naples during a violent hurricane, broke her moorings and ended gently bumping alongside the coastal ironclad Principe Amedeo, so neither reported significant damage.
In 1890, Roma was considered obsolete, and she had a nucluse service crew, armed with five 203 mm guns (8 inches), her engine completely worn, masts cut out, she was permanently anchored as a floating battery as the defensive system of La Spezia naval base.

After she was stricken from the navy’s list on 5 May 1895, she remained in La Spezia now disarmed and used as ammunition depot, loosing her name, freed for a more modern vessel. On 28 July 1896 during a storm, she was was struck by lightning, caught fire and to avoid explosion as the fire was uncontrollable, a torpedo boat immediately on guard that day was ordered to open fire, and she was torpedoed, sinking on site. After a month her wreck was refloated, raised to the surface and sent for breaking up for scrap at the Arsenal.

WW2 Italian Navy Venezia

Built at the Genoese Foce shipyards from February 1863 under the inspector general of the Naval Engineers, engineer Giuseppe De Luca’s design, she was not completed before April 1873, after ten years of work. Indeed while not launched yet it was decided to convert her as the first Italian central battery ironclad. Sje would have only 17 main guns, while a brand new casemate was built amidship. In the end she was able to fire in chase and retreat with two main guns, plus lighter ones on deck, and four each broadside. She had far more value than her obsolete sister.
In all she had twenty-three years of service (detailed records in research) seeing only cruises and yearly fleet exercises wthout notable event. Venezia never was deployed in operation at tha time of “pax britannica”. Between 1874 and 1875 she was modenrized, keeping her casemate but with eighteen 254 mm cannons, one 220 mm with 360° traverse on deck.
In 1881 the admiralty saw her as obsolete. Her masts were cut out and her armament removed. She became at that stage a torpedo training ship in La Spezia, a role she kept until 23 August 1895, stricken, her name freed for other ships. She was BU in 1896.

Read More/Src


Fraccaroli, Aldo (1979). “Italy”. Gardiner, Robert (ed.). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905.
Ordovini, Aldo F.; Petronio, Fulvio & Sullivan, David M. (December 2014). “Capital Ships of the Royal Italian Navy” 1860–1918 Warship International 51
Sondhaus, Lawrence (1994). The Naval Policy of Austria-Hungary, 1867–1918. Purdue University Press
Sondhaus, Lawrence (2001). Naval Warfare, 1815–1914. New York: Routledge.
“The Naval Demonstration in the Adriatic”. The Illustrated London News. London: George C. Leighton.

Links Roma Venezia
on Classe_Roma Roma-class

Author: dreadnaughtz

Naval Encyclopedia webmaster. Find more on the "about" page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *