WW1 Italian Cruisers

WW1 Italian Cruisers

Regia Marina (1886-14) approx. 29 cruisers

Foreworld about ww1 Italian cruisers

Italy started with a motley collection of ships in 1861, coming from an array of regional Royal navies. There will be a fully-blow post about Italian ships in 1870. After a serie of corvettes, starting in 1869, the third, Colombo, was clearly registered as a “cruiser-sloop” and therefore is seen like the forerunner as the lineage. However we will not dwelve in detail into these, as only two were still active in WW1, as partially armed training ships, and sailing, steel-hull vessels. Engineers like Micheli, Vigna and the famous Brin worked on these designs, mostly from Venice. Their machinery, rarely developed over 3500 ihp, served as auxiliary; The earlier ships had them removed entirely.

It’s in 1876 that was launched the first Italian torpedo cruiser, Pietro Micca. She was followed by Tripoli, the Goito and Folgore, Partenope classes, partially in service when WW1 broke out. in fact, only for were semi-active, retained in harbour duties or as minelayers.

Note: Torpedo Cruisers of the Italian Navy has been partially reviewed there already, the post will be enhanced.

From Protected to Armoured cruisers

The next chapter of this story is about Italian Italian Protected cruisers, steam-only steel ships built in classes: The Agordat, Bausan, Etna class, Dogali, Piemonte, Umbria class (‘Regionali’), and Calabria. As other navies, the Regia Marina from there jumped to the next step: Armoured Cruisers, but still built its last protected ships for colonial duties, Libia (1912) and the Campania class (1914).

Piemonte in the 1880s

The first was Marco Polo, followed by the much larger Pisani class, and the excellent Garibaldi class (on which we will delve deep). From there, the Regia Marina designed its last and best armoured cruisers, short of semi-dreadnought (Cuniberti was a proponent of the type), Pisa and San Giorgio classes, before from 1910 building scout cruisers, the Nino bixio class and Quarto. There were the last before WW1 broke out and from there, naval construction was all but stopped for smaller ships. Next would be post-Washington designs, now in rivalry with France.

Nino Bixio

A point about …Italian Dispatch Vessels

Also sometimes associated, but much older and not retained in service by WW1, were a serie of wooden dispatch vessels, rarely assimilated to cruisers. The Sesia, Esploratore (paddle steamers, 1863), Vedetta (iron sloop), Staffetta (1876), Rapido (1876), Barbarigo class (1879), Messagero (1885), Archimede class (1887). Their common denominator was a powerful steam engine and little rigging; Their 1000 tonnes assimilated them to sloops and gunboats rather than cruisers and they were specifically built to bring dispatches to larger -supposedly slower- ships. An sold tradtion going back to fast cutters, over-rigged schooners bringing communications between ships of the line.

The last however are interesting and they were still around in WW1: The Archimede class.
Archimede and Galileo Galilei were built at Venice DyD as steel dispatch vessels, the first since the Barbarigo class in 1879. Both were designed by Carlo Vigna, with a very elongated hull (9/1 ratio) of 70 x 8 x 3.75 m. They displaced 772-776 tonnes light, 886-950 fully loaded, propelled by a single VTE steam engine, four cyl. boilers, 1384/1411 ihp and 12 knots (15.9 knots on trials). They were armed with four 4.7 in/24 guns.

Their crew varied from 74 to 104 in peacetime and wartime. Both were completed in 1888 and received in 1895-97 two 57 mm and 2x 37 mm revolver to deal with torpedo boats. In 1906 Galilei was given new four 57 mm/43 and one MG. Complement was reduced in 1906 and she was reduced to harbour duties in 1913, discarded and scrapped in 1916. Her sister ship Archimede was discarded in 1907 and used afterwards as an harbor powder hulk until the 1920s when she was discarded. In Italian they were called “avviso”, which is almost the same as the French “aviso”, related to carry “avis” (dispatches).

Giorgios Averoff, built in Italy, based on the Pisa class and flagship of the Greek Navy for half a century (colorized by irootoko JR)

Origins of Italian Cruisers

The steam corvette Caracciolo, launched on January 18, 1869, in Castellammare di Stabia, Italy, from L’Illustrazione Italiana, Year XVLII, No 20, May 16, 1920.

Italy became independent and unified in 1861, and the Navy was created by decree 17 March. It is generally admitted Italian cruisers took back their lineage into the wooden corvettes ordered by the new government. These “corvettes” were about 1500-2700 tonnes whereas Frigates of the time were around 3000-5000 tonnes, and ships of the lines started at this level. These Corvettes discarded before WW1 were Pisani, Colombo, but the others were still around in 1907 (Caracciolo, Columbo (ii)), and Gioia, Vespucci went through the war and until the 1920s as training vessels.

-Caracciolo (1869): Ordered in 1864, laid down 1865 at Castelammare di stabia, this fully-rigged corvette was designed by the General inspector and chief engineer Guiseppe Michelli. She was first named Brillante, but this was changed to Caracciolo in 1869, before the was completed in July 1870.
She displaced 1553 tonnes for 64.30 x 10.94 x 4.97 m, propelled by a single shaft reciprocating steam engines with four cyl. boilers, for 973ihp and 9.2 knots over 960 nm. She was armed by 6 x 160 mm ML.
From 1875, she became a torpedo engineers TS and was modernized in 1893-94: Her powerplant was removed and she was rearmed with two 75 mm and four 57 mm guns, and before that as TS she carried a single 15-in TT.

Vettor Pisani (1969): Started two years later in 1867 at Venice as Briosa but completed in 1871, designed by the same engineer, she was heavier and carried six 4.7 in, two 75 mm, two 57 mm, and two 37 mm guns. She displaced 1676 tonnes, for dimensions of 65.10 x 11.84 x 5.28 m, a machinery by Guppy of Naples with 2-cyl boilers which developed 1004 ihp, enough for 9.76 knots. In 1879 she was reconstructed and from 1885 became a cadet TS at Leghorn.

Cristoforo Colombo (1875): Still a wooden corvette, fully rigged as a barquentine, Colombo was designed by superstar engineer Benedetto Brin, also built at Venice DyD. Machinery came from Penn of London, and as defined in the blueprints and admiralty papers of the time, as a a “sloop-cruiser”, with a radical increase in size, armament and speed. She was armed with QF 4.7 in BL guns, and later had a single 14-in TT. Her machinery produced 3782 ihp thanks to six boilers, so she reached 16 knots, twice than former Corvettes. She is considered by experts as the first true Italian cruiser, and she was discarded in 1891 with little changes.

Flavio Gioia (1881): This was the first Italian steel corvette, designed by Eng. Inspector Carlo Vigna and larger than the Colombo. She was built at Castellamare di Stabia. She was fitted with Penn machinery, single shaft HR, 8 boilers, 4156 ihp for 14 knots, and armed with eight 149 mm, quite an increase in capabilities, completed by three fast-firing 3-in guns. There was in addition a sloped sizes protective deck and cellular layers. Completed in 1883, she was used as a TS in 1893n with just four 4.7 in/40 guns and two 14-in TTs, and went through WW1. After 1920 she was discarded, but kept as TS for boys at Naples as CM181, until 1823 when she was sold for BU.

Amerigo vespucci (1882): By the same engineer and at Venice, still a steel corvette. Her machinery came from Ansaldo, one shaft HR, 8 boilers and 3340 ihp for 13.66 knots on trials. This was rather disappointing as 14 knots was targeted. Armed as the Gioia, with a protective deck and cellular layer, in 1893 she was converted as a Training ship armed like the Gioia. She was only discarded in 1928.

Cristoforo Colombo (ii) (1892): The second cruiser of the name was built at Venice under supervision of Benedetto Brin, as a barque-rigged, steel corvette lightly armed to be used as a station ship in the red sea. Displacing 2713 tonnes, she measured 76.40 x 11.30 x 5.69 m, and had a single reciprocating shaft, 6 boilers, her engine was rated for 2321 ihp, enough for 13 knots. She was lighty armed, with just eight 4.7 in/40 guns (later six) and two 75 mm. Her hull was copper-sheated. Completed in 1894 she served until March 1907.

Italian Protected Cruisers

The first of these was built in UK, to have a state of the art example of the type. She was designed as a TB hunter but failed in this task. The following Etna class were rather small and slow and fare little better in this area, and most were discarded when WW1 broke out. The remainder served in menial duties.

Giovanni Bausan (1883)

Giovanni Bausan was a protected cruiser designed and built by Sir W G Armstrong Mitchell & Co.’s Elswick in UK, as Italy did not have experience in protected cruisers yet; Giovanni Bausan entered service in May 1885, the first ship built for the Italian fleet and the basis for other designs built in Italy such as the Etna class. Intended as a “battleship destroyer” armed with tow 10-inch (254 mm) guns to defeat other cruisers, she was slow and not ideally armed for her primary task and had some design flaws making her unfit for the task at head.

Giovanni Bausan was frequently deployed abroad and covered landings during the conquest of Eritrea in 1887–1888, as flagship, also taking part later in the Venezuelan crisis of 1902–1903 and the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–1912. She covered there landings on the coast of North Africa. In 1914 however, the old cruiser was too slow to follow the fleet and was relegated to secondary tasks. At first she was a distilling ship, a seaplane depot ship, she ended completely disarmed and mothballed, then sold in March 1920.


Displacement: 3,082 long tons (3,131 t)
Dimensions: 85.3 m x 12.8 x 5.6 m (280 x 42 x 18 ft 6-in)
Propulsion: 2 shafts compound-expansion steam engines, 4 × Scotch marine boilers, 6,470 ihp (4,820 kW)
Performances: 17.4 knots (32.2 km/h; 20.0 mph), Range 3,500 nautical miles/10 knots
Armor: Deck: .75–1.5-inch (19–38 mm)
Crew: 13 + 254
Armament: 2 x 10-in/30 (254 mm), 6 × 5.9-inch (150 mm)/32, 4 × QF 6-pdr, 2 × QF 1-pdr, 3 × 14-in (360 mm)

Etna class (1885)

Etna, Stromboli, Vesuvio, Etorre Fieramosca

Etna was the only survivor of a class of four protected cruisers dating from 1885-1888. Designed by Carlo Vigna, they were based on the Giovanni Bausan of 1883. They were originally armed with two 254 mm guns, 6 of 152, 5 of 57, 5 of 37, 1 Revolver, 2 machine guns and 2 to 3 torpedo tubes. In 1900 they were rearmed with 1 gun of 75 mm and 4 TLT, then in 1907-1909 (Not for the Stromboli and the Fieramosca, decommissioned at these dates), their 254 mm guns, two of 152 mm were removed, and we added 2 pieces of 120mm, while there were only 2 pieces of 47, 2 of 37 and 2 TLT left. The Vesuvio was decommissioned in 1911, before the first Balkan war, while the Etna was converted into a training ship and served as such from 1907 to 1914. At the time of the war, she was assigned as port coast guard, after having served as a floating HQ, then a supply ship and finally a HQG for the entire Italian fleet, in Taranto. It was not demolished until 1921.

Author’s illustation of the Etna class


Displacement: 3390t, 3700t. FL
Dimensions: 91.4 x 13.22 x 5.8 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts DE, 4 cyl. Boilers, 7200 hp. 17 knots.
Armor: Deck 30 mm, Blockhouse 13 mm
Crew: 321
Armament: 4 x 152, 2 x 120, 2 x 47, 2 x 37 mm, 2 x 450 mm TTs.

Dogali (1885)

Dogali was a one-off experiment, designed by the British naval architect William Henry White and built at the Armstrong Whitworth shipyard at Elswick. She had the distinction of being the first warship equipped with triple-expansion engines. Originally she had been ordered by the Greek Government under the name of Salamis, but the latter could not afford her, and she was resold after completion to Italy, renamed after the Battle of Dogali. Armed with six 5.9 in (120 mm) guns she could reach a top speed of 19.66 knots (36.41 km/h; 22.62 mph) on trials, becoming one of the fastest cruisers at the time.
Her career was rather bland however: She visited the United States in 1893 (World’s Columbian Exposition). In 1908, the ship was sold to Uruguay and renamed 25 de Agosto and later Montevideo. In 1914, the cruiser was withdrawn from service, but she was not disposed of until 1932 when she was sold for scrap.


Displacement: 2,050 long tons (2,080 t)
Dimensions: 76.2 x 11.28m x 4.42 m (250 x 37 x 14.5 ft)
Propulsion: 2-shaft TE engines 17.68 knots, Range 4,000 nmi/10 knots
Crew: 224–247
Armament: 6 × 152 mm, 9 × 57 mm, 6 × Gatling guns, 4 × 356 mm TTs
Armor: Deck: 50 mm, CT 50 mm, Gun shields: 110 mm

Piemonte (1888)

RN Piemonte was designed at the request of the Italian government, which wanted to strengthen the fleet in the event of a new war against Austria. The order was placed at the Armstrong-Elswick shipyards. Chief engineer Philip Watts took the opportunity to test a new configuration, equipping this ship, much larger than the Dogali (ordered three years earlier from the same yard), with a full provision rapid-fire artillery, a world’s first. But the optimism or placing six 6-in (152 mm), six 4.9-in (120 mm), and ten 57 mm undermined her stability and was reduced in 1891. Piemonte kept howevr two 6-in, ten 4.9 in and six 37 mm guns and in 1913, the last 6-in guns were deleted and light weaponry was revised again (see specs sheet).

Her overall protection was good, but not complete. She lacked in particular a double bottom hull, and ballasts were missing at the level of machinery. Piemonte was one of the oldest cruisers in service with the Italian Navy in 1914: She had been launched in 1887 and completed in 1889. Her heyday came in 1911, after a series of brief engagements against the Turkish Navy on January 7, 1912, off Kunfida in the Red Sea, when she defeated a Turkish flotilla made up of no less than eight Turkish gunboats and an armed yacht. She had no other such favorable occasions during the great war as she served mainly as an escort. She was decommissioned in 1920.

Author’s illustration of RN Piemonte in 1912


Displacement: 2443t, 2500t FL
Dimensions: 97.83 x 11.62 x 4.86 m
Propulsion: 2 mach. VTE, 4 boilers, 13,000 hp. 22.3 Knots
Armour: Blockhouse 76 crew, 190 turrets, 76 deck, 52 mm shields
Crew: 310
Armament: 10 x 120, 6 x 57 mm, 2 x 37 mm, 2 x 305 mm sub TTs.

Umbria class (‘Regionali’ class) (1891)

Umbria, Lombardia, Etruria, Liguria, Elba, Puglia

In 1887, chief engineer Edoardo Masdea designed a series of lightweight protected cruisers intended to perform various roles in an economical manner. The first, Umbria, was started in 1888 in Orlando (Chantiers Leghorn), and the others, Lombardia, Etruria, Liguria, Elba and Puglia from 1889 to 1893 in Castellamare, Ansaldo (Genoa), and Taranto for the last. They were launched between 1890 and 1898, and put into service in 1894-1901. The Puglia, whose construction took place over eight years, was totally outdated. They turned out to be too cramped, lacking in protection, speed, autonomy … As and when they were partially disarmed or rearmed. Their basic artillery consisted of four 6-in (152 mm) including two in tandem on the forecastle and aft, eight 57 mm QF, two 37 mm QF, 2 Maxim machine guns and 2 torpedo tubes.

Their career was long enough, but not as cruisers: RN Umbria was sold to Haiti in 1911, renamed Ferrier and sank at sea, Lombardia became a submersible supply ship in 1908, as Etruria in 1916 (which sank at anchor in 1918 due to the accidental explosion of an ammunition barge). In 1911, RN Liguria became an observation balloon platform, as was Elba in 1913, converted the following year into a tanker and seaplane transport. RN Puglia was rearmed as a minelayer with seven 3-in guns (76 mm), on 37 mm, one 40 mm AA in July 1916. All were struck off the lists in 1920-23 and scrapped.

Author’s illustration of the Regionali class


Displacement: 2250-2690 t, 2410-3110 t. FL
Dimensions: 88.20 x 12.10 x 5.45 m
Propulsion: 2 shaft VTE, 4 cyl. Boilers, 7677 hp. 19.8 knots.
Armor: Crew Deck 76, Shields 114, Blockhouse 76 mm
Crew: 278
Armament: 6 x 120, 6 x 57, 2 x 37, 1 MG, 2 x 450 mm TTs.

Calabria (1894)

RN Calabria was designed in 1891 by the chief engineer Edoardo Masdea (who later signed the two Vettor Pisani). The admiralty specifications demanded a colonial vessel halfway between a cruiser and a gunboat. Recognizable by her classic masts and single funnel this stocky vessel was launched at La Spezia shipyard in 1894 and commissioned in 1897. Her hull made extensive use of zinc plates and wood (for tropical use and to combat heat and rust).

Calabria’s range was 4,730 km at 10 knots average (2,500 nautical miles). Her original armament included four 6-in (152 mm) of 40 caliber, four 5-in (120 mm) 40 caliber, eight 37 mm 20 caliber rapid fire guns, 2 Maxim machine guns and two side torpedo tubes. Rearmed in 1914 she was obsolete as a fleet cruiser, and actually used as a colonial station in North Africa. In 1921, she was rearmed again and permanently reclassified as a gunboat with a singl 6-in (152mm), six 5-in (120 mm), eight 57 mm, two 37 mm, one 40 mm AA. She was struck off the lists in 1924.

Author’s illustration of the Calabria

Specifications (as built)

Displacement: 2450t, 2660t. FL
Dimensions: 81 x 12.7 x 5 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 4 cyl. Boilers, 4260 hp. 16.4 knots
Armor: Deck 51, Blockhouse 51 mm
Crew: 250
Armament: 6 x 120, 6 x 57, 2 x 37, 1 MG, 2 x 450 mm TTs.

Agordat class (1900)

Agordat, Coatit

RN Agordat and the Coatit were started in Castellamare in 1897 and designed by Nabor Soliani as “scouts” – (esploratori). Launched in 1899 and put into service in 1900, they differed in the height of their funnels, those of the Agordat being two meters higher. They also had two masts originally, but in 1910 the front mast was removed. The two ships therefore served as reconnaissance vessels in 1914-18, not giving satisfaction due to their poor speed and range. In 1919, RN Coatit was rearmed with two 5-in (120 mm) and classified as a minelayer, while RN Agordat was rearmed with two 5-in (120 mm), eight 3-in (76 mm) and re-classified in 1921 as a gunboat. Both were reformed in 1920 and 1923, and sold for BU.

Author’s illustration of the Agordat class in 1914


Displacement: 1340t, 1292t FL
Dimensions: 91.6 x 9.32 x 3.6 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts TE, 8 Blechynden boilers, 8,300 hp. 23 knots.
Armor: Deck 19 mm
Crew: 185
Armament: 12 x 76 mm, 2 x 450 mm TTs.

Libia (1912)

This cruiser was originally ordered by Turkey who wanted a sister-ship to Hamidieh, entrusted in 1910 to Elswick-Ansaldo in Genoa. But if it was started in 1907, its construction was suspended and resumed at the time of the first Bakan war, for the benefit of Italy this time. Renamed Libia, it was launched in November and completed in March 1913. It took part at the end of the Second Balkan War, then in the Great War, as an “esploratori” (scout) although its speed was a handicap for this role. During the conflict, he received 3 pieces of 76 mm AA. Finally, its 152 mm guns were withdrawn in 1925. It was classified as a “cruiser” in 1929, and withdrawn from service after its many years of station, mainly as a colonial cruiser in Africa, in 1937.


Displacement: 3760t, 4466t. FL
Dimensions: 111.8 x 14.5 x 5.5 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts TE, 16 Niclausse boilers, 11,500 hp. 23 knots.
Armor: Deck, CT 100 mm, shields 76 mm
Crew: 314
Armament: 2 x 152, 8 x 120, 8 x 47, 6 x 37 mm, 2 x 450 mm TTs.

Campania class (1914)

Campania, Basilicata

The Campania class was two small protected cruisers, Campania and Basilicata, last ships of that type as they were replaced by light cruisers. This class was tailored for overseas colonies, based on the Calabria. They both had limitations due to their design and an eventful career. In addition of colonial duties, both ships served as training ships for naval cadets. They were small, just 76.8 meters (252 ft) long, 83 m overall for a beam of 12.7 m and 5 m draft and displaced 2,483 tons standard, 3,187 long tons fully loaded. They had one funnel and two pole masts with spotting tops. The crew comprised 11 officers and 193 sailors plus 100 cadets, and their officers and support staff.

The ships’s propulsion consisted of two VTE steam engines fed by four coal-fired, cylindrical fire-tube boilers, trunked into a single funnel. Output varied from 5,001 ihp for 15.7 knots to 4,129 ihp (3,079 kW) on Basilcata (15.5 knots). Their cruising radius was 1,850 nautical miles (3,430 km; 2,130 mi). They were armed with six 6-in (152 mm)/40 in single mounts, shielded, on the forecastle, stern, and broadside in sponsons; They fired AP/HE shells at 690 mps, and this was completed by two Ansaldo 3-in (76 mm) low-angle QF plus three 76 mm/40 AA, two 47 mm and two machine guns. Armor was limited to a 25 mm (0.98 in) armored deck, 50 mm walls of the conning tower.

Rare fact, both has been built in the same slipway and therefore were launched the same day. They served in Italian Libya, making uneventful careers. Basilicata on 13 August 1919 however had a boiler explosion as she was moored in Tewfik, southern Suez Canal. She sank and was raised for BU by September 1920. Campania became a gunboat, with two 6-in guns removed and became a full-time training ship in 1932 until March 1937, stricken and sold.

Author’s illustration of the Campania


Displacement: 2480t, 3190t. FL
Dimensions: 76.8 x 12.7 x 5 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts TE, 4 Cyl. boilers, 5,000 hp. 15.5-15.7 knots.
Armor: Deck, CT 50 mm, deck 25 mm
Crew: 214 (+150 cadets and staff)
Armament: 6 x 152, 5 x 76, 2 x 47, 2 MGs.

Italian Armored Cruisers

ARA San Martin, one of the export cruisers of the Garibaldi class, a stunning success. The usual exporter champion was the British Elswick (Vickers Armstrong) yard.
In all, Italy only fielded ten armoured cruisers until the trend faded out after the launch of the dreadnought: The prototype Marco Polo (1892), the two Pisani (1895), the three Garibaldi (1897) (and built 7 more), the two Pisa (plus the Greek Salamis) and the two San Giorgio. This was little compared to the French Navy, more so compared to the British Royal Navy, but sufficient while facing Austria-Hungary. There are reasons while this was the case: Smaller budget, and no real utility compared to other navies with large colonial empires, which used their armoured cruisers as substitutes for battleships on distant stations and escort, while they also could be used as hunters to prey on merchant traffic while negating any cruiser escort or taking place in a regular battle line (like British ones). In a general sense, the confines of the Mediterranean asked for lighter, smaller ships. Nevertheless, the design advantages was well understood, so much so that the success for the Garibaldi class on the export market, not a small feat at that time, were due to the fact the ships were still reasonably large but perfectly balanced between the firepower, speed and armor, while offering a better bargain than the costlier British or French vessels.

Marco Polo (1892)

Marco Polo in 1917 at Castellorizo

The Marco Polo was the first Italian armoured cruiser, designed by chief engineer Carlo Vigna in 1889, and started in January 1890 in Castellamare di Stabia. She was based on the Etna, but larger and theoretically faster, without however 10-in (254 mm) guns. Instead she had 6-in (152 mm) guns supplemented by an important 120 mm QG guns battery. But this choice led to several criticisms, and the Marco Polo was generally considered to be too lightly armed for her class. In addition, her predicted speed of 19 knots was never reached and she remained as slow as Etna.

In 1911, she was partially disarmed: Keeping her six 6-in (152 mm) guns in a classic lozenge arrangement, one on the forecastle, another at the rear, and the other four on the flanks in open casemates, but sacrificed six 120 mm guns on the original ten, six 57 mm guns on 9, and four TTs instead of five. She took part in the great war, without notable facts, and was taken in hand in 1917 for a conversion as a troop transport. She came out modified under the name of Cortellazo, at the same time as Zenson ex-Carlo Alberto, on April 4, 1918. In October 1920 she would be renamed Europa, but was retired, reactivated in 1921 under the name of Volta and eventually discarded and scrapped in 1922.

Author’s illustration of the Marco Polo in 1914


Displacement: 4500, 4820 t. FL
Dimensions: 106.50 x 14.57 x 5.88 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 4 cyl. Boilers, 10,660 hp. 17.8 knots
Armor: Belt 150, blockhouse 150, shields 45, deck 30
Crew: 480
Armament: 6 x 152, 4 x 120, 6 x 57, 2 x 37, 2 Howitzer, 2 MG, 4 x 450 mm TTs.

Vettor Pisani class (1895)

Vettor Pisani, Carlo Alberto

RN Vettor Pisani 1895 in 1912
These two armored cruisers succeeded the unique Marco Polo. Critics concerning the latter (Weak Armament and armor) led engineers under the direction of Edoardo Masdea to design much heavier vessels (7,000 tons at full load against 4,800 to house a battery of twelve 8-in (152 mm) instead of six).

Despite everything, they remained deprived of heavy guns unlike those which equipped other contemporary ships. Started in 1892 at La Spezia and launched in 1895 and 1896, they were completed in 1898 and 1899. The two cruisers differed by their masts, the Pisani having a single central mast while the Carlo Alberto had two masts in order to be used for the first tests wireless Marconi telegraphy in open sea, carried out in 1902 and crowned with success.

Italian armored cruiser Carlo Alberto anchor

From 1907, RN Carlo Alberto served as a training ship for torpedo boats and gunners, and from 1910 returned to its role as initial cruiser. In 1917 after a service without notable facts, it was taken in hand for reconversion in transport of troops. On April 4, 1918 he was renamed Zenson and resumed service until 1920. Vettor Pisani for his part had a career also without notable facts during the great war and was struck off the lists in January 1920.


Displacement: 6400-6600t, 7000-7100 t FL
Dimensions: 105.70 x 18 x 7.20 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 8 cyl. Boilers, 13,220-13,250 hp. 19 knots.
Armor: Belt 150, CT 150, shields 45, deck 30; Crew 480
Armament: 12 x 152, 6 x 102, 14 x 57, 6 x 37, 2 Howitzer, 2 MGs, 4 x 450 mm TTs

Garibaldi class (1899)

RN Garibaldi, Ferucio, Varese – Exports: ARA Garibaldi, Belgrano, Pueyrredón, San Martin, IJN Nisshin, Kasuga, Spanish Colon

ARA San Martin, one of the export versions of the Garibaldi class – colorized by irootoko Jr.

These Italian cruisers-battleships were among the best of their time: They were built in more than 10 units, and sold to Argentina, Spain, Japan. Italy kept three of these ships: The Varese (launched in 1899), the Garibaldi (1899) and the Francesco Ferrucio (1901). Designed by the chief engineer Edoardo Masdea in 1893, they combined elements that were to make their success: Speed, powerful armament, and satisfactory protection given their measured proportions. In short, they were very versatile and in their place within the line fleets, conceived as the perfect intermediaries between heavy cruisers and battleships. In addition, they were built quickly (4 years against 6 to 9 for French ships) and at a lower cost than other European shipyards. It was the first major export success for Italian military shipbuilding.

The ships of this class, as well as those sold abroad all saw fire: The only Spanish Colombo was sunk during the battle of the bay of Santiago de Cuba, then hardly delivered, the two Japanese Kasuga saw the fire at Tsushima, and the four Argentine General Garibaldi class ships (the first dating back to 1895) a civil war. As for the three Italian ships, they were in combat during the great war, and only the Garibaldi (Italian) was sunk, torpedoed by the U4 on July 18, 1915. Varese was used as a training ship from 1920, put to retirement in 1922 and demolished in 1923 while the Ferrucio suffered the same fate from 1924, and until 1934. She then served as a floating barracks before being struck off the lists in 1930. The Garibaldi class is yet to be covered in a dedicated post.

Author’s illustration of the Garibaldi in 1914


Displacement: 7235t, 7929t FL
Dimensions: 111.75 x 18.25 x 7.10 m
Propulsion: 4 shafts VTE, 24 boilers, 14,000 hp. 20.2 Knots.
Armor: Belt 190, CT 190, turrets 190, deck 30, shields 51 mm
Crew: 510
Armament: 1 x 254, 2 x 203 (1×2), 14 x 152, 10 x 76 mm, 2 Maxim MG, 4 x 450 mm TTs.

Pisa class (1907)

Pisa, Amalfi

These two buildings were designed in August 1904 by engineer Giuseppe Orlando on the model of the Regina Elena, in a reduced version. They were started in Orlando, Leghorn, and Odero in Sestri Ponente in February and July 1905, launched in September 1907 and May 1908 and put into service in September 1909, six years after their conception. They were still inferior to the battle cruisers that had appeared at the same time. RN Amalfi’s career was cut short during the conflict as it was sunk by UB14 (U26 under Austro-Hungarian flag) on ​​July 7, 1915 in the north of the Adriatic. This was a German submersible operating under the Austrian flag because officially the Kaiser was not yet at war with Italy. RN Pisa for her part received a front mast, and her tertiary artillery was modified for fourteen 76 mm and six 76 mm AA guns. In 1921 she was relegated to coastal defense, then became a training ship. A Macchi M7 reconnaissance seaplane was added in 1925, and it later she served as a training ship for naval lieutenants. She was withdrawn from service in April 1937.

Author’s illustration of the Pisa in 1914


Displacement: 9832t, 10,600t. FL
Dimensions: 140.5 x 21 x 7.1 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 22 Belleville boilers, 20,000 hp. and 23.6 knots.
Armor: Belt 200, Deck 130, blockhouse 180, turrets 160-130 mm
Crew: 687
Armament: 4 x 254 mm (2×2), 8 x 190 mm (4×2), 16 x 3-in (76 mm), 8 x 47 mm, 4 MGs, 3 x 450 mm TTs.

San Giorgio class (1907)

San Giorgio, San Marco

The Pisa had not given any satisfaction (they were nevertheless replicated to a copy for Greece under the name of Giorgios Averoff, and the latter was still in use in the fifties) and the engineer Edoardo Masdea was entrusted with the task of improve them while keeping their hull. The plans were thus definitively established while construction had already been launched in Castellamare di Stabia in July 1905, then in January 1907 for the second when the hold was released. This process saved time. The two ships were launched in reduced offset, in July and December 1908, and accepted in July 1910 and February 1911.

Their main innovation was to raise a forecastle in order to improve seakeeping, housing, but also redistributing machinery, giving these two groups of funnels, lowered following sea trials. RN San Marco was equipped with a completely different machinery, since she was given two Parsons turbines fed by 14 Babcock & Wilcox boilers and mixed heating (coal/oil), and San Giorgio kept the classic classic triple expansion machines.

Less powerful, the latter was barely slower, half a knot. These two ships took part in Balkans was of 1912-13, then the great war. In 1916 a front mast was added to them, while their light artillery was increased to ten standard 3-in (76 mm) and six AA guns. After the war, San Marco was still in use until 1931 before being converted into a radio-controlled target ship, captured at La Spezia by the Germans in September 1943, then scuttled at the end of the war, refloated and BU in 1949. RN San Giorgio was completely rebuilt to serve as a training ship before ending her career scuttled at Tobrouk in January 1941.

Author’s illustration of the San Giorgio in 1914


Displacement: 10,167 t, 11,300 t
Dimensions: 140.8 x 21 x 7.3 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 14 Blechynden dual fuel boilers, 19,600 hp. and 23.2 knots
Armor: Belt 200 mm, Deck 50 mm, Blockhouse 254 mm, Turrets 200-160 mm
Crew: 705.
Armament: 4 x 254 (2×2), 8 x 190 (4×2), 18 x 76, 2 x 47, 4 MGs, 3 x 450 mm TTs sub.

Italian Scout Cruisers

Nino Bixio class (1911)

Nino Bixio, Marsala

Two “Esploratori” (scouts) were started in Castellamare on February 15, 1922, the Nino Bixio and the Marsala. They had been designed by Guiseppe Rota and we expected high speed from them, which was ultimately disappointing in practice. Only the second managed to “touch” the contractual speed, 27.5 knots, but due to a specification setting the power at 22,500 hp. Their move much larger than expected in the end was largely responsible. They were launched in December 1911 and March 1912, and commissioned in May and August 1914, too late for the Second Balkan War, but early enough for the Great War. They experienced machine reliability problems and were not as active as, for example, the Austro-Hungarian units of the Admiral Spaun class. As a result, they had no notable action to their credit and were struck off the lists in 1927 for Marsala and 1929 for Bixio.


Displacement: 3,575t standard – 4,141t. FL
Dimensions: 140.3 x 13 x 4.1 m
Propulsion 2 shafts TE, 14 Blechynden boilers, 22,500 hp. 26-27 knots.
Armor: Deck 38 mm, CT 100 mm
Crew: 296
Armament: 6 x 120, 6 x 76, 2 x 450 mm TTs, 200 mines.

Quarto (1911)

RN Quarto was the third Italian modern scout cruiser in service in 1915, a light protected cruiser intended as scout by the Regia Marina. She was started in 1910 at Venice NyD as an alternative to the Nino Bixio class and were arguably better at all accounts. She traded speed for protection but still was well armed, and moreover Quarto was a reliable gun platform and seaworthy. She was used extensively during the war and her career went on long after the war. However in WW2, she was used as a blockship. However already during the war, cheaper “flotilla leaders” were orefeoored over cruisers, notably the the Poerio, Mirabello and Leone classes.


Dimensions: 131,6 m x 12,8 m x 4,1 m (432 x 42 x 13 fts)
Displacement: 3,281 t standard, 3,441 tonnes FL
Crew: 12 + 311
Propulsion: 2 shaft Parsons turbines, 10 boilers, total 25 000 hp
Speed: 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph)
Range: 2,300 nmi (4,300 km; 2,600 mi) @ 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Armament: 6 × 120 mm (4.7 in), 6 × 76 mm (3 in), 2 x 47 mm, 2 × 450 mm (17.7 in) TTs, 200 mines
Armor: Deck: 38 mm (1.5 in), Conning tower: 100 mm (3.9 in)

Cruiser prizes (1919)

Technically these cruisers should not been studied in this post, as they are a consequence of WWI and did not participated in this war under Italian flag. But rather served for the whole interwar, giving however precious technical updates to Italian engineers for designing the 1920s generation of light cruisers:
Taranto: This was the ex-SMS Strassburg of the Magdeburg class, a recent ship (1911) designed by Hans Bürkner, rearmed during the war with seven 150 mm (instead of the original twelve 105, a bit light for her 5500 tonnes), and refitted with new mixed boilers. She was acquired in July 1920 but not commissioned before 2 june 1925 as Taranto. The main guns were unchanged byu renamed 149mm/43 and the original 88 mm AA replaced by Italian 3in/40 AA. Tarento also operated a Macchi M7 seaplane from 1926 and from 1931 a Cant 24R. In 1936 she was taken in hands to be converted for colonial service (see the WW2 section).
Brindisi class: This is called a “class” because there were two ships of the same type, acquired on 19 September 1920: SMS Holgoland and Saida, renamed Brindisi and Venezia respectively. These fast Austro-Hungarian scoutsn, related to the Admiral Spaun class has been the nightmares of the Italians in the Adriatic and now they changed hands. The guns were called in Italian nomenclature the 100mm/47 and from 1917 they had been fitted with a single 66 mm AA gun, replaced by a 37 mm Breda AA gun in Italian service. They were recommissioned on 7 june 1923 and 5 July 1921 respectively. See the WW2 section for more.
Ancona: The ex-SMS Graudenz was acquired in June 1920. She was an improved Graudenz class vessel launched in 1913, rearmed with seven 15cm/45 guns, and underwent significant changes during the interwar at Tarento: Her coal capacity was increased as well as oil capacity (1280 and 1520 tonnes in wartime). She was recommissioned in May 1925 and in 1926 carried a M7 ter seaplane, and in 1928 her forecastle was rebuilt and the bow lenghtened to mount a catapult for the seaplane. She was stricken in 1937.
Bari: The ex-SMS Pillau acquired in July 1920 had a complicated history. She was ordered and designed in Schichau, home of German TBs and destroyers, by the Russian Imperial staff, to serve as light minelayers for the baltic. Recommissioned on January, 21, 1924 she was refitted and later rebuilt in 1934-35 for colonial duties. Six boilers and one funnel removed, oil tanks enlarged for 4,000 nm at 14 knots; power reduced to 21,000 hp, 24.5 knots, and shortened remaining funnels, and in 1939, she had six 20 mm/65 and six 13.2 mm MGs added. See the ww2 section for more.

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Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1865-1905 & 1906-1921

Author: dreadnaughtz

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