Wednesday, April 12, 2017


In the last years there has been a lot of discussions about the UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) that possibly crashed in northern Italy in 1933. To understand the truth -because this is a highly controversial topic- about this UFO story, I am going to research data & information about this case in the following article:


June 13, 1933. A circular craft -resembling a pair of saucers joined at their outer rims- crashes near the town of Maderno, in Lombardy, northern Italy. The object, made of thin, silvery-grey metal, was about fifty feet in diameter and less than seven feet thick…. No occupants in the object were found (but some researchers think that there were recovered two bodies inside). This crash happened 14 years before the worldwide famous Roswell, New Mexico crash. Successively a spaceship was allegedly stored in the hangars of the SIAI Marchetti in Vergiate near Milan, a building destroyed by a fire in 1940.

Photo showing Benito Mussolini (to the left), who appointed Guglielmo Marconi (to the right) as head of the Gabinetto RS/33 to study the possible UFO that crashed in 1933 in Lombardy.

Indeed there were many UFO-sightings between 1933 and 1940 in Italy and a special secret Commission, during fascism, studied it. It was founded by Mussolini (with pilot Italo Balbo and Galeazzo Ciano; headed by Guglielmo Marconi and senator Luigi Cozza and astronomer Gino Cecchini). The first UFO-case was in 1931 near Venice; the second is this famous case, when on June 13, 1933 there was a UFO-landing in Lombardy, with UFO-recovery.

After this episode, Mussolini created the secret UFO-commission 'Gabinetto RS/33' (Cabinet Research and Espionage/33); he believed UFOs were Allied (or German) secret weapons, but Marconi was for the Extra Terrestral-hypothesis. We have three telegrams (there are four) about the UFO recovery near Milan in 1933, and a 'protocol' to the Prefect, for the Italian secret services and for newspapers, to cover this news. 'Gabinetto RS' investigated, between 1933 and 1940, many different Italian UFO sightings: in a case, an Italian fighter plane intercepted an UFO between Ravenna and Rome; in August 1936 there was a multiple UFO sighting (ad Adamskyan-cygar and two UFOs like Saturn) over Mestre and Venice. It is also possible that the German V-7 (a revolutionary discoidal aircraft) was initially developed after this Italian research about UFOs.

More detailed information can be read at Mussolini's 1933 UFO, by Rob Arndt

FIRST OPINION (by Antonio Huneeus)

First of all we have to remember that Roberto Pinotti, Italy's leading UFO expert and director of CUN (National Ufological Center, now the world's largest civilian UFO research organization), and Alfredo Lissoni, another CUN researcher and writer, gave a lecture, during the annual International UFO Symposium in San Marino in 2000, on the sensational discovery of alleged files going back to the 1930s, when Italy was ruled by the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini.

Copies of 18 secret documents from the Fascist era (handwritten notes and telegrams), as well as a forensic report authenticating one of the the papers (with a drawing of an UFO), were released by CUN to the Italian media. It received considerable coverage in Italy, including the national TV network RAI Uno and leading newspapers like Il Resto del Carlino, La Nazione and La Repubblica. Although these articles were posted in Italian on the web, the Mussolini UFO documents were hardly noticed by the American UFO community, so this is the first time the full story is told in any detail outside Italy.

It all began in early 1996 when Roberto Pinotti received a handful of handwritten notes on stationery bearing the seal of the "Kingdom's Senate". (Mussolini ruled Italy with an iron grip, nominally under the king). The year is 1936 and the secret agent uses simply a first name "Andrea" (Andrew in Italian) and also includes a sketch of the "mysterious airship". "It was sighted in the morning (and not in the evening) of Monday - he writes - it was a metallic disc, polished and reflecting light, with a length of ten or twelve meters. Two fighters from a near base took off, but were not able to reach it even at 130 km/h. It didn't emit sound, which would lead one to consider an aerostat. But nobody knows of balloons that can fly faster than the wind. I know for sure that it was seen by other aviation pilots ... it [report] has arrived to the hands of Ciano."

Count Ciano was Mussolini's son-in-law and Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs; he was later executed after participating in the cabal to overthrow the Duce and surrender to the Allies in 1943. Andrea's report continues: "Then, after approximately at least an hour and after passing over Mestre, it was seen as a sort of metallic tube, gray or slate." A drawing by a confidential informant was redrawn by Andrea, who explained that "A was described like a kind of aerial torpedo, with very clear windows ... and alternating, white and red lights.'B' were two 'hats, two hats like those used by priests: wide, round, with a dome in the center, metallic and following the torpedo without changing their relative positions."

The document mentions that "the Prefecture has opened an inquiry, but you can imagine that it will make little inroad and will have a similar outcome to that of '31. The Duce has expressed his worries, because he says that if it were a matter of real English or French aircraft, his foreign policy would have to start all over again."

Although Andrea's report is only one of several received since 1996, you can see that its contents are sensational - they describe a classic flying saucer report with aircraft scramble and multiple witnesses in 1936! It also, discloses that Mussolini and Ciano, Italy's number one and two leaders at the time, were intimately appraised of the situation. Indeed, other caches of documents received, always anonymously, by CUN and the newspaper Il Resto del Carlino, mention a mysterious department known as "Cabinet RS/33." It was charged with both investigating and covering up what the documents call "unconventional aircraft" or "aeromobiles."

'Cabinet RS/33' had links with the Fascist secret police OVRA and with "Agenzia Stefani," the regime's news agency in charge of disseminating Fascist propaganda. Italys most famous scientist and inventor, Guglielmo Marconi, was the director of the Cabinet, which also included several other prominent Italian astronomers, scientists and aeronautical engineers.
,br/> When WW2 began the Cabinet's secrets were shared with and literally shipped to Nazi Germany. As Lissoni points out, rumors of Nazi discs have plagued the UFO literature for decades, and one Italian scientist, Giuseppe Belluzzo, is always mentioned in conjunction with the Germans Miethe, Schriever and Habermohl. Much nonsense has been written about the so-called Nazi flying saucers - some of it unabashed neo-Nazi propaganda - yet undoubtedly there is at least some truth to the matter. The names of Miethe, et al., are confìrmed by FBI and other U.S. and German documents.

Are the "Fascist UFO Files" authentic? To Lissoni (who made principal search), Pinotti,and the CUN, they appear so. To the investigators'credit, however, the whole affair was kept strictly confidential under Antonio Garavaglia's forensic analysis was completed. Only then were the documents released to the Italian press and published in a series of articles beginning with the March issue of UFO Notiziario (and now, in a book). Garavaglia conduced a series of chemical tests of the paper and ink - remember he had originals and not copies - and he concluded they seemed authentic handwritten documents from the Fascist era. The color of the paper and ink aging process led him to believe they were genuine and not modern forgeries.

Lissoni also consulted with Andrea Bedetti, a historian and expert on Italy's Fascist period. "I cannot exclude the real existence of a Cabinet RS/33," said Bedetti. He also examined the documents vis-à-vis "the lexicon and the bureaucratic style of the period", as well as the stationery ("Kingdoms Senate" and Stefani agency telegrams) and aeronautical terminology utilized. Bedetti found that all of it was consistent with genuine Fascist-era documents. This didn't rule out a skilled forger, but it would have to be someone deeply knowledgeable of Fascist style, vocabulary and terminology. Bedetti also pointed out that in the period 1933-40 - coinciding with the alleged Cabinet RS/33- Mussolini's power was at his peak and Italy was one of the world's leading nations in aviation and military aeronautics.

SECOND OPINION (by Alfredo Lissoni)

My hypothesis is in fact that the saucer recovered in 1933 had been hidden in one of the nearest and most discrete hangars in that region - namely the hangars of the aeronautical establishments of the Siai Marchetti at Vergiate or of the Sesto Calende in the Varese region of Ticino, which at that date were under the control of General Italo Balbo (indicated by a member of the RS/33 CABINET).

The "Varese trail" had been suggested to me through several clues: namely that the messages about recovery of the UFO came from the nearby Telegraphic Office of Milano; that in those very days Blackshirts were suddenly dispatched to that region; that indeed a Varese newspaper, the *Cronaca Prealpina*, of June 20, 1933, gave the first report, emphasising that forms of life on Mars were in contact with men of Earth - almost as it were a matter of official revelation; that at the Marchetti at Sesto there was a Director with the name of Moretti; and that at the time of the Italian Social Republic, it was precisely a man named Moretti who having gone over to the Resistance, had set fire to the hangars at Vergiate (which maybe were guarding some unmentionable Space secret). And, finally, that, when the War was over, the U.S. Air Force and members of the Nazi Secret Service were infiltrated precisely into Sesto Calende, simultaneously with "voices" regarding the presence of terrestrial flying saucers kept at Vergiate, and that the entire region, from time immemorial, was at the centre of a most intense ufological activity - to such a degree that it gained the nickname of being "The Ticino Triangle".

Indeed the 'RS/33 CABINET' had continued to work right up to the time of the Italian Social Republic, the period in which a part of the documentation on UFOs, in several sealed boxes, had been sent to Berlin, while a part - "a not irrelevant part" - remained in Italy.

And, in this latest consignment of material, there were included copies of new documents which possibly demonstrated the existence of agreements between Hitler and Mussolini for the study of alien technology, agreements that had been made in 1938.

These documents were: an Agency Stefani message from Florence containing an interview with the Fuhrer Hitler when he was visiting Italy; a banknote of the nominal value of a million Lire (maybe "black funds of the RS/33 CABINET); minutes regarding the oath of secrecy given by the professors who collaborated with the Fascist Government; an invitation (registered) to Benito and Rachele Mussolini to Villa Torlonia (said to be for a "riunione riservatissima dedicada al Gabinetto RS/33" - "*an extremely private meeting dedicated to the RS/33 CABINET*").

THIRD OPINION (by George Filer)

On June 13, 1933, a bell shaped UFO crashed near Magenta, Italy just west of Milano. The occupants were tall blond Nordics with oriental like features on their light blue eyes. The Italians called the UFO la Campania; the Germans called it Die Locked.

Benito Mussolini -the Prime Minister of Italy- informed Pope Pius 11 of the crash and placed Guglielmo Marconi in charge of the special "RS-33" Study Group, which later served as a model for the US "MJ-12" group. The Japanese told the Italians and Germans that those tall blonde-haired people were in their legends; this led to the Axis Alliance. Pope Pius 11 was furious and informed President Roosevelt about the UFO crash in 1938. Winston Churchill and Mussolini also carried on secret correspondence about the 1933 crash.

In April of 1945, the 1st Armored Division captured the Marchetti Aviation Facility where the 1933 Magenta UFO was kept and it was brought to the United States.

President Eisenhower met with the tall blonde-haired people involved with the 1933 Italy crash at Edwards AFB on February 20, 1954.  Eisenhower invited Cardinal John McIntyre to the meeting since Pope Pius 11 had told Roosevelt about the Nordic 1933 Magenta, Italy crash. Two of the early model F-102 jets were being tested at Edwards AFB on the flight line, when the tall blonds met with Eisenhower and Cardinal McIntyre.


Sincerely I don't think that are fully true all these opinions about a fascist UFO in 1933.

We don't even know -as stated by researcher Francesco Dioniso- if REALLY existed the so called ''Gabinetto RS/33' (that in Italian would be: Gabinetto Ricerca spionaggio/33)! And the hypothesis that Guglielmo Marconi was working as head of this Gabinetto -for the development of Italian aircrafts similar to UFO or something similar - seems totally fantasy to me. Furthermore, there are no photos (or videos) of the alleged UFO and not even one single photo of the place where happened the crash, showing the inevitable damage in the area

The first jet airplane (the "Campini Caproni 1") in History was created just a few years after the supposed 1933 UFO crash in Lombardy.

But I have some questions in my mind related to this 1933 UFO

1) The first question that I get in my mind is: why Mussolini concealed all this? He could have done the same that was done 14 years later with the famous Roswell case, when the media was informed (even if superficially): and no damage would have hit his fascism regime in Italy. On the contrary, he could have used the 1933 case to show how fascism was dealing with this problem and studying successfully the UFO.

And this is the most intriguing area where I have to admit that may be it is true something of all these facts......Indeed, we know that the Italians were able to create a few years later the first jet airplane (the "Campini Caproni 1") in History, but we also know that the aviation industry of Italy was the last in western Europe at the end of WW1.

2) So, my second question is: Can it be that the study of the UFO stored in hangars near Milano gave the Italians the needed technology? We have to remember that Italian engineer Secondo Campini submitted a report on the potential of jet propulsion to the Regia Aeronautica, and demonstrated a jet-powered boat in Venice: in 1934, the Regia Aeronautica granted approval for the development of a jet aircraft to demonstrate the principle used by Campini and made a contract with him in order to receive 2 aircrafts with "propulsione a reazione" (jet propulsion) in the second half of the 1930s

It strikes me the coincidence that all this "jet" development started to happen exactly one year after the 1933 Fascist UFO crash.

3) Another question is related to the original idea of the disc called "Turboproietti", created during WW2 by Giuseppe Belluzzo (read for further information GIUSEPPE BELLUZZO TURBO PROIETTI (TURBINA PROIETTILE), by Rob Arndt

Working with the SS after 1943, Belluzzo designed a three motor jet pipe system that would rotate an annular wing. Belluzo had been inspired by Hermann Oberth’s orbital platform concepts since the 1930’s so he put his own engineering skill to work with this design. Here is a brief description of the design, made by Rob Arndt:

  "Jet pipes on the edge of the disc had a variable diameter. A turbine drove the pipes initially until air accelerated through the pipes. At the widest section of each pipe oil was injected and ignited. The temperature was raised quickly and at the end of each underside pipe the air reached a speed of  700 meters/second, able to allow the circular craft to spin at a rotation speed of 400 meters/second. When the fuel ran out , the explosive-laden "Turboproietti" simply dropped to the ground in similar fashion to the German V-1 missile. Hopefully, the target would receive a direct hit."

While the SS entertained the idea of this operation, an unmanned aerial "Flakmine" version was considered more important and that was what Giuseppe Belluzzo was working on in 1945 when the war ended. No prototypes were ever constructed.

And so a third question arises in my mind and it is: Is it possible that the size and form of the Belluzzo's Turboproietti can be related to the 1933 UFO, allegedly stored in the hangars of the SIAI Marchetti in Vergiate near Milan after 1933?

4) Finally a fourth question makes me indirectly think that there it is a nearly 100% probability that the 1933 UFO crash happened really and was not a simple crash of an experimental aircraft created by Germans or English scientists:

If some news of this accident appeared on local Italian newspapers and magazines (the copies are easily found in local public libraries and this fact confirms that "something" happened), why all this story about an UFO has been created in a decade when practically nobody knew about this phenomenon and nobody was going to be interested in?

According to researcher Phil H. Clark, news of the downed craft reached Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini who issued three directives: one to recover the downed UFO, the second to remove it to a secure location away from people and the third to hide all information, while creating the Gabinetto RS with Marconi to study it. But why all this mess if nobody cared about this topic, in all the countries of the 1933 world? The UFO problem was created after WW2, mainly after the famous Roswell crash....but in 1933 nobody was informed about UFOs! And not even existed the word UFO (or "flying saucers"), that appeared for the first time in 1947!

Mussolini and his Fascism was not going to get anything from all this UFO crash...So, why to invent all this? Why if there was no reason? Why -if it is fake- it was created all this UFO story, full of so many detailed & discussed events lasting until the hangar fire of 1940?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


The Italian language -for the first time in History- has reached in Italy the level to be spoken by nearly 2/3 of the Italian population in 2016. In real numbers this means than more than 60% of Italians use the Italian language when communicating in their family. And the percentage is higher if related only to young people who are 15 or less years old.

It is noteworthy to pinpoint that just 3% of Italy's population could speak the Italian standardized language properly when the nation unified in 1861: if the growth keeps maintaining the same increases, it is possible that all the Italians (excluding those who are members of language minorities, like the Germans in Alto Adige) will speak only their national language in 2061 after two centuries of unification.

Indeed the ISTAT (Italy's Institute of official statistics) has released data showing that from 1995 to 2012, the share of people using the Italian language as their main language or in combination with the dialect has steadily increased in every context: in the family, with friends and when dealing with strangers. From 1995 to 2012 the prevailing use of Italian in the family increased by about 10 percentage points (from 43.2% in 1995 to 53.1% in 2012), by 10.3 percentage points the proportion of those who use Italian language with friends (from 46.1% to 56.4%), and by 13.4 percentage points the use with strangers (from 71.4% in 1995 to 84.8% in 2012).

The sole use of dialect, especially within the family, declined quite significantly over time: between 1995 and 2012 the percentage of those who spoke dialect only in their families decreased from 23.7% to 9%; from 16.4% to 9% when speaking with friends and from 6.3% to 1.8% when speaking with strangers.

In 2012, 91.3% of the population aged 18-74 claimed to be Italian native speakers; 3% had two native languages ​​(including Italian) and 5.8% were not Italian native speakers. As a consequence of the presence of immigrants and linguistic minorities within the resident population, the share of those who spoke a mother tongue other than Italian was 8.8%.

With reference to the type of other known languages, 43.7% of the population (aged 18-74 years) spoke English, while another share of people spoke French (21.7%), German (4.8%), Spanish (4.5 %) or other languages (2.1%). For 5.1% of people resident in Italy (aged 18-74), Italian was spoken as a foreign language and not as mother tongue: therefore, Italian came third in the ranking of foreign language known, after English and French.

Presence of dialects and foreign languages in Italy in 1937, according to Clemente Merlo ("Lingue e dialetti d'Italia", Milano 1937): Tuscans (green), southern Italians (pink), northern Italians (yellow), Corsicans & Sardinian-Corsicans (light brown), Sardinians (brown), Occitans (red), Provencals (orange), Ladins (dark green), Germans (blue), Slavs (beige), Greeks (violet), Albanians (crimson), Istrorumanians (light blue), Catalans (light orange)      

Actually the Italian language is increasingly substituting the local dialects in the regions of northwestern Italy (around the original Italy's industrial triangle: Milan-Turin-Genoa), where in the main cities already 90% (and sometimes more) of the young population less than 21 years old speaks only the language of Dante.

A research done by the "Statale di Milano" university in 2015 has found that all the "Milanesi" less than 15 years old (meaning: born in our actual century) speak only Italian and just 5% of them can speak also the local dialect (but not fluently like heir grandfathers).

Death of the Italian dialects?

It’s often said that the dialects of Italy will be dead in 30 years.

Indeed, the hard or pure dialects are dying, as they are all over Europe, in Sweden, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The hard dialects are often spoken only by the old now, and many old words have fallen out of use. The hard dialects often had a limited vocabulary restricted to whatever economic activity was typical of the area. A lot of the old dialects are now being written down in local dictionaries to preserve their heritage.

The dialects were of course killed by universal education, and this was a positive thing. All Italians should learn to speak some form of Standard Italian. In the old days when everyone spoke dialect, people had a hard time communicating with each other unless there was some form of regional koine that they could speak and all understand. It doesn’t make sense if you can only talk to people in a 20 mile or less radius.

A diglossia where hard dialects would exist alongside Standard Italian was never going to work. People are pretty much going to speak one or the other. As people learn Standard Italian, their local dialect will tend to become more Italianized. In other cases, the hard local dialect will tend to resemble more the local regional dialect.

For instance, in southern Campania, the region of Naples, in a part called Southern Cilento, there are still some Sicilianized dialects spoken, remnants from Sicilian immigrants who came in the 1500’s. These dialects are now dying, and the speech of the young tends to resemble more the Neapolitan Cilento speech of the surrounding area more.

In other cases, koines have developed.

There is a regional koine in Piedmont that everyone understands. There is a similar koine in West and East Lombard, the Western one based on the speech of Ticino. There is a Standard Sicilian, spoken by everyone and understood by all, and then there are regional dialects, which, if spoken in hard form, may not be intelligible with surrounding regions. A koine has also developed in Abruzze around Pesaro. There is “TV Venetian,” the Venetian used in regional TV, a homogenized form that has speakers of local dialects worried it is going to take them out.

Even where hard dialects still exist, the younger people continue to speak the local dialect, except that it is now a lot more Italianized and regionalized. A lot of the old words are gone, but quite a few are still left. So the dialects are not necessarily dead or dying, instead they are just changing.

In the places where the dialects are the farthest gone such as Lazio and Tuscany, the regional dialects are turning into “accents” which can be understood by any Standard Italian speaker.

The situation in Tuscany is complicated. Although the hard dialects are definitely going out, even the hard dialects may be intelligible to Standard Italian speakers since Standard Italian itself was based on the dialect of Florence, a city in Tuscany.
Florence was chosen as the national dialect around 1800 when Italian leaders decided on a language for all of Italy. But the truth is that the language of Dante had always been an Italian koine extending far beyond its borders, just as the language of Paris had long been the de facto Standard French (and it still is as Parisien).

This is not to say that there are not dialects in Tuscany. Neapolitan speakers say they hear old men from the Florence region on TV and the dialect is so hard that they want subtitles. And there is the issue of which Florentine was chosen as Standard Italian. A commenter said that the language that was chosen was the language of Dante, sort of a dialect frozen in time in the 1400’s. In that case, regional Tuscan could well have moved far beyond that.

Even in areas where dialects are said to be badly gone such as Liguria, local accents still exist. It is said that everyone in Genoa speaks with a pretty hard Ligurian accent. That is, it is Standard Italian spoken with a Genoese accent.

However there are two areas of Italy were the local dialects are used by the majority of people even in 2016: southern Italy and Veneto/Friuli-Venezia Giulia. It is noteworthy to pinpoint that these areas are those were autonomist organizations (like "Liga Veneta") are strongest.

Percentage of use of dialects & foreign languages in the regions of Italy in 1984 (for 2014 -after 30 years- it is possible to additionally calculate an approximate 20% decrease: dark blue is more than 50%, blue is 20-50% and light blue is 0-20%)

In Veneto (and in the nearby Trentino and Venezia Giulia) the original dialect is considered a language: the "Venetian language". This fact is hampering in the "TriVeneto" -mainly since the 1980s- the process of growth that the language of Dante is experiencing in all the other regions of Italy.

However all modern Venetian speakers are "diglossic" (meaning: they speak 2 languages indifferently) with Italian. The present situation raises questions about the venetian language's medium term survival. Despite recent steps to recognize it, Venetian language (or dialect, as many use to say) remains far below the threshold of inter-generational transfer with younger generations preferring standard Italian in many situations. The dilemma is further complicated by the ongoing large-scale arrival of immigrants, who only speak or learn standard Italian.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


Because of their defeat in WW2 the Italians are sometimes slandered as "easy to surrender" soldiers and even worse....but reality is different from the usual propaganda done since 1945 by those who associate Italy with Nazi Germany and consequently feel hate against the Italian military. In order to demonstrate that the Italian military tradition is one of the best in world History, allow me to translate in English the following article written by M. M. a few years ago (and to add in bold letters my own comments between parenthesis in some "Nota Bene"):


There are few things I detest more than people who denigrate and mock those few who have taken up arms on behalf of others and experienced the pain and hardship of warfare, of taking lives and knowing that others are trying to take your life as well. One would think that, in these modern times, no one would be so ignorant as to slander the military forces of an entire country, yet it does happen. The one that stands out to me most of all, and which is therefore the most infuriating, is those who mock and ridicule the armed forces of Italy, usually focusing on the late Kingdom of Italy and in particular on the Second World War. This is thoroughly disgusting just as behavior goes but it is also ignorant and plainly incorrect. To make matters worse, I have even heard some Italian people, even educated Italian people, say much the same thing in more polite and respectful ways of course, by claiming that Italy has no military tradition. This is so shockingly ignorant one hardly knows where to begin in refuting it. The fact of the matter is that Italy has a very long and illustrious military history and many proud military traditions that are still drawn upon today.

(NB: Let's remember that no other country in Europe has had so many battles in its territory like Italy: since early Roman times only during the "happy centuries" of the Roman empire Italy has not been a battleground (and even in those centuries there were battles because of invasions by barbarian people who did raids inside central & northern Italy). Consequently the Italians have developed a long military experience and were feared in the classical era by everybody in the Mediterranean regions as "wolf fighters" -because they attacked in ferocious groups, like wolves do with coordination & tactics- and later were called "legionaries", whose main enjoyment was the cruel fighting of the "gladiators")

Romans and their empire

Obviously, one can go all the way back to ancient Rome for the complete story of Italian military achievements. There was Scipio Africanus who defeated Hannibal and conquered North Africa, Sulla and Pompey the Great who rose to fame in Roman civil wars. There was Julius Caesar who conquered Gaul and so much more, Marcus Agrippa who won the battles that allowed Augustus Caesar to become Emperor of Rome. Emperor Tiberius was a great soldier as were numerous other Roman monarchs, probably none so celebrated as Emperor Trajan who took the Roman Empire to its height of expansion. Even in the twilight of Imperial Rome there were men like Emperor Constantine the Great and others who accomplished magnificent military feats. Yet, having been through this argument often enough, I am well aware that (for entirely arbitrary reasons) many want to claim that the entire period of the Roman Empire somehow doesn’t count and should not be included on the “scorecard” of the Italian nation. If modern Englishmen can claim Alfred the Great as one of their own, or if the French of today can consider Charlemagne a native son, I fail to see how it is any stretch to consider the Romans to be Italians just because the modern-day people of Italy now include some additives. No one else can claim closer descent certainly.

(NB: The creation of Italy as a political entity was done by emperor Augustus and since that century the Italians identified themselves as the people living inside the peninsula with northern borders in the Alps. All the process to unite Italy with the Risorgimento was in order to recreate the "Roman Italia", that has been destroyed during the early Middle Ages. Italians like Mazzini considered Augustus as their "founding father", like some French historians consider Charlemagne as the "Father of France". Some Italian historians wrote that the Romans with catholicism and mixed with German invasors -like the Longobards- are the actual Italians: if you scratch the Christian influence in an Italian, you can find the old Roman warrior cruelty - like in the case of the Mafiosi and the Fascists, two Italian organizations not influenced/controlled by the catholic church)

Roman Italy evolution & unification: in 27 BC Augustus created the "Italia romana" -and so the inhabitants were called for the first time officially "Italians"- with all the territories south of the Alps and between the river Varo (west of actual Nizza) and the river Arsa (in eastern Istria). Later in 292 AD Diocletian added to this political entity the 3 islands of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica
Middle Ages and the Battle of Legnano

However, this makes it a little difficult to determine for these naysayers when exactly the Italians started being Italian -as absurd as that rightly sounds. Surely, once we moved beyond the first millennium of Christian history we can say that Romans, Lombards and so on were more or less coming together as Italians. Even in that time, there are great Italian victories and heroes worth remembering such as Alberto da Giussano of the “Lombard League” who defeated the German knights of the formidable Emperor Frederick Barbarossa at the Battle of Legnano in 1176. There was also, during this period and the years that followed, the rise of the Italian city-states, particularly the maritime powers of Venice and Genoa which built extensive empires throughout the Mediterranean. These were based on trade and commerce but it took highly skilled soldiers and sailors to establish and defend them, fighting against the most powerful forces of the day. One early figure of the great leaders of these states was Ordelafo Faliero, Doge of Venice, who captured Zara and Sebenico from the Hungarians and conquered part of Acre in Syria. There were many such great military leaders over the centuries, one of the most famous, from the 16th Century was the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria who won many victories and ultimately became a top commander in the employ of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

(NB: The presence of the Papacy in Rome with its own state was the main reason for the "division" of Roman Italy in many small states during the Middle Ages. But on the other side the Papacy was the main responsible of why the Muslims were able to attack Europe conquering first the Iberian peninsula and later the Balkans, but never conquered the Italian peninsula. It is usually a bit forgotten the continuous fighting on sea and land that kept Italy free from the Arab & Ottoman domination: in these battles the military tradition of the Italians was fundamental in the defense of western Europe civilization, that so could develop without attacks from the hostile Muslim word)

Renaisance and Giovanni dalle Bande Nere

Renaissance Italy was resplendent with famous warriors and victorious battles. Italian mercenaries were used across Europe and with almost constant warfare going on between the Italian states and the great powers that used Italy as a battlefield it would be impossible to list all of the significant figures and events. Italians also played a key role in the ongoing warfare against the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean. Amadeus V of Savoy, in 1315, for example came to fame defending Rhodes from the Turks with the Knights Hospitaller. Also in these times, clerical leaders were often military leaders as well and probably none are so famous as the “Warrior Pope” Julius II who waged a campaign to drive the “barbarians” out of Italy and indeed succeeded in freeing almost all of Italy from foreign control and uniting the country under papal leadership. Pope Clement VII, while not leading military forces personally, came close to such an accomplishment against the invading German and Spanish forces of Emperor Charles V thanks to the great military leadership of Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, sometimes called the last of the "Condottieri" (Military leaders), who held off imperial forces against heavy odds until his death in battle in 1526.

The bones of all inhabitants of Otranto are testimony of the military defense of the city that stopped in 1481 the Ottoman invasion of southern Italy allowing time for the successive defeat of Mehmed II (who had just conquered Constantinople): 800 accepted martyrdom from the Muslim invaders, a unique example in History of a full city refusing to surrender and deny the christian faith
There were also famous victories that, inexplicably, some people fail to associate with the Italians such as the epic naval victory at Lepanto in 1571. Most who have a passing familiarity with that famous battle are aware that the Spanish ships and overall command was held by the famous Don Juan of Austria but the vast majority of the ships were Italian and the other commanders were Italians. With much of the Spanish strength being derived from their control of Naples and Sicily, it was almost entirely an Italian force with ships and fighting men and support supplied by Urbino, Savoy, Tuscany, Genoa, Venice and the Papal States. During this same general period, the time of Tudor England, the Dutch Revolt and the Protestant rebellions in Germany, one of the most celebrated military figures was Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma who almost totally reconquered the Netherlands for Spain and was instrumental in defeating English-backed rebels in France. So great were his victories that many historians have labeled him as the greatest soldier of his time. Also, on the other side of Europe, when Emperor Constantine XI fought his gallant last-stand at Constantinople, the commander of his army was an Italian and most of the troops defending the city (about 3/5) were “Latin” Christians and a majority of those were Italians.

Another Italian military genius who commanded foreign troops was Raimondo, Count of Montecuccoli who came to great fame commanding forces of the Hapsburg Emperor. He was considered possibly the best soldier of the 17th Century, rivaled only by the great French commanders Turenne and Conde. His case is also extremely revealing when dealing with those who wish to denigrate Italian military achievements as I have come across such professed “experts” in military history who have not only never heard of Montecuccoli but have no idea who Turenne or Conde was either (something which should surely offend the proud partisans of the Kingdom of France). Another great imperial field marshal was Prince Eugene of Savoy, from the same branch of the venerable dynasty that ultimately became the Royal Family of Italy. His victories over the Turks and in the War of Spanish Succession earned him praise as the greatest soldier of his own time, rivaled only by his British ally the great Marlborough.

(NB:Italians were quite warlike during much of this period. Italian soldiers, sailors and commanders were prominently involved in fighting for the cause of Catholicism in the 16th and 17th centuries, usually fighting in the armies of the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs, along with the independent Italian states of the era. Italians were considered the second best troops in the Spanish war to subjugate the rebellious Netherlands after the Spaniards themselves (Spaniards and Italians were considered the backbone of the Spanish army in Flanders). Hanlon (who wrote the famous book "The Twilight of a Military Tradition: Italian Aristocrats and European Conflicts: 1560-1800") states that the Italians were considered brave soldiers, although not as resilient as the Spaniards. Italians were therefore considered choice soldiers for assaults, skirmishes and improvised encounters. Italians were considered excellent light horsemen for harassing, skirmishing and ambushing the enemy. Italians were at the time considered the best artillerymen and military engineers in Europe, with a distinct expertise at building military fortifications. In addition to the war in the Low Countries, Italians also served with distinction during the Thirty Years' War. For example, at the Battle of Nördlingen (1634) an army of Spanish and Italian troops decisively defeated a Swedish army.Italian soldiers also fought bravely in Hungary for the Austrian Habsburgs against the Turks during this period. In addition to fighting on land, Italians as sailors were also prominent in fighting both the Turks and their Barbary allies in the Mediterranean as well as against the Dutch and English in northern waters. Italians provided most of the sailors and about half of the soldiers in the Holy League armada at the famous Battle of Lepanto (1571): men and ships came from the maritime republics of Genoa and Venice, the Spanish crown lands in Italy, and smaller states such as Tuscany, Savoy, and even the Papal States.

Italian troops of the Napoleonic Wars

One of the many admirers of Prince Eugene was Napoleon Bonaparte who some have claimed to be as much an Italian military figure as a French one himself. He was born Napoleone Buonaparte and grew up speaking only the Corsican dialect of Italian before going to school on the continent and learning French. However, I would not try to antagonize the French by claiming one of their most celebrated military figures. It is enough though to see what credit he gave to the Italian fighting men of his day. Speaking of the contingent of the Kingdom of Italy that fought with his forces at the Battle of Borodino, Napoleon said, “The Italian army had displayed qualities which entitled it evermore to take rank amongst the bravest troops in Europe”. In southern Italy, the troops of the Neapolitan army did not enjoy the same reputation, to say the least of it. However, even there, it is worth pointing out that some performed very well under good leadership such as the counterrevolutionary ‘Army of the Holy Faith’ led by Fabrizio Cardinal Ruffo which liberated Naples, Rome and Florence. After the brief flirtation with the unification of northern Italy in the Napoleonic Wars, Italy was divided again and the next series of military conflicts involved the efforts to reunify Italy. This movement took on a life of its own and it soon became a race to see who would lead it to victory; the republican radicals of Giuseppe Mazzini or the constitutional monarchists loyal to the House of Savoy.

(NB: Some troops of the Neapolitan Army of Napoleon were partially made by soldiers related to "banditismo" (linked also to the Mafia) and they were ordered by their bosses to disobey orders and accept surrender with the enemy if paid to do so. This was the beginning of a military behavior that later (in the future years & decades) greatly damaged the reputation of some Italian units at war, where those soldiers linked to mafia & other criminal organizations did not fight as needed. But the soldiers of the Kingdom of Italy in northern-central Italy were considered some of the best in the world by the same Napoleon.)

Risorgimento and the Battle of Volturnus

As mentioned before, the House of Savoy itself produced a number of significant military leaders. Many, however, focus only on the defeats while ignoring the victories of the Piedmontese-Sardinian troops such as King Carlo Alberto at Goito or those led by General Giovanni Durando who successfully defended Vicenza and won high praise by the allies for his leadership of the Italian contingent in the Crimean War.

Certainly, however, the most celebrated Italian military figure of the period was Giuseppe Garibaldi who, acknowledging numerous distasteful opinions of his, was unquestionably a gifted leader of men. He gained fame as a guerilla fighter in South America and in Italy, was offered a top command in the United States army by President Lincoln and who defeated the French in front of Rome. His most stunning success though was when he took a little more than a thousand ragged volunteers and defeated the greatly numerically superior forces of the Bourbon Two-Sicilies to conquer the whole of southern Italy to unite it with the north for the creation of the Kingdom of Italy.

After the reunification of Italy under the House of Savoy the battle most seem to remember is the disastrous defeat at Adowa in the first war with Ethiopia. However, that ignores the numerous colonial victories before and after that battle. Many also ignore the war with Turkey in which Italy won control of Libya and became the first to use aircraft in combat.

(NB: When France started to annex the island of Corsica in the XVIII century (and then incorporated into France's borders -during the Napoleon's empire- the regions of Piemonte, Liguria, Toscana and Lazio), the first movements to defend Italy's existence aroused with Pasquale Paoli revolt in Corsica and were later followed by the birth of the so-called "Irredentism".Paoli was sympathetic to Italian culture and regarded his own native language as an Italian dialect (Corsican is an Italic language closely related to the Tuscan Italian and, to some extent, the Sardinian dialect).He was considered by Niccolò Tommaseo, who collected his "Lettere" (Letters), as one of the precursors of the Italian irredentism. The "Babbu di a Patria" (Father of the fatherland), as was nicknamed Pasquale Paoli by the Corsican Italians, wrote the following appeal in 1768 against the French invaders:'We are Corsicans by birth and sentiment, but first of all we feel Italian by language, origins, customs, traditions; and Italians are all brothers and united in the face of history and in the face of God ... As Corsicans we wish to be neither slaves nor "rebels" and as Italians we have the right to deal as equals with the other Italian brothers ... Either we shall be free or we shall be nothing... Either we shall win or we shall die (against the French), weapons in hand ... The war against France is right and holy as the name of God is holy and right, and here on our mountains will appear for Italy the sun of liberty....' Paoli and his guerrilla war attracted the admiration of all Europeans, mainly the British who since then started to be supporters of the Italian Risorgimento and who later were "fans" of Giuseppe Garibaldi)

Italians in WW1

In World War I the courage and tenacity of the Italian army was remarked upon by many observers from the other Allied powers while also noting the outdated leadership coming from General Luigi Cadorna. Everyone remembers the disaster of Caporetto but ignore the larger picture. For one thing, the mountainous front across which Italy faced Austria-Hungary was recognized as the most difficult of the war. Even hardened German officers who had served on both the eastern and western fronts said that the Italian front was the worst of all. The Austrians also enjoyed all the benefits of the rugged terrain, dug in high on the mountains with the Italians forced to attack in the open, up hill under the most difficult circumstances. Still, while overly costly in lives lost, Italy was continuously gaining ground in the successive offensives along the Isonzo leading up to Caporetto. It should also be remembered that, for that defeat, the Germans had sent in massive support for the offensive, it should also be remembered that not all the Italian forces broke (the army of the Duke of Aosta held firm) and while many claim that only the arrival of French and British reinforcements saved the Italians from total annihilation, the truth is that they arrived after the crisis was over and the Austrian offensive had run out of steam.

What is remarkable is how strongly Italy was able to bounce back after so stunning a loss. Under General Armando Diaz the Italians came roaring back, did very well in the air war and developed shock troop tactics that produced a new type of soldier that was famous far and wide for his reckless courage and no one could doubt the courage of the Arditi who charged enemy machine gun nests with a grenade in each hand and a dagger between their teeth. In the end, Italy won the battle of Vittorio Veneto that knocked Austria-Hungary completely out of the war.

People also tend to overlook the numerous conflicts Italy was involved in between the world wars. There was the pacification of Libya, the conquest of Ethiopia, the intervention in the Spanish Civil War and the occupation of Albania, all of which were Italian successes. Incredibly, some seem intent on trying to denigrate the Italians even when they are victorious. For example, some like to pretend that Libya was never totally pacified; not true. It was and, in fact, it had become such a model colony that when Air Marshal Italo Balbo died at the start of World War II, the Libyans seemed more distraught than the Italians. In the Spanish Civil War, one defeat early on is often used to tarnish the whole Italian intervention. This is stupid, it was one loss and the only one of its kind. The Italians made a very valuable contribution, particularly in the Santander offensive under General Ettore Bastico.

(NB: The first use of aircraft in bombing was done by the Italians in their conquest of Libya in 1911. The Italian military tradition has created some other military innovations, like the invention by the Italian Giovanni Luppis of the "siluri" (torpedo) that was later greatly developed during WWI: Royal Italian Navy torpedo-boats sank in 1917 the battleship "Wien" and scored another success in summer 1918 against an Austrian-Hungarian squadron, sinking the battleship "Szent István" with two torpedoes. Another famous invention was the use of underwater manned torpedoes (called "maiali") to sink enemy ships inside protected ports (like with the successful Alexandria attack in 1941 against the English battleships "Queen Elizabeth" and "Valiant")

Italian empire

The war in Ethiopia deserves some special mention because almost everyone has a totally incorrect view of the conflict. Too many accept the portrayal of it as a super-mechanized, modern Italian war machine simply massacring hordes of primitives armed with sticks and stones.

The Italian empire, with the years when its territories were conquered

This is simply a disgustingly incorrect view and an insult to the Ethiopian people as well as the Italians. The Ethiopians were not ignorant primitives. They had rifles, they had machine guns, they had artillery, European-trained military officers and European military advisors. They had an immense numerical advantage and the advantage of fighting a defensive war on their own ground. They were highly motivated and tenacious fighters who were very experienced at warfare.

Experts at the time who were hostile to Italy predicted that it would take Italy at least two years to conquer Ethiopia and many even predicted that Italy would lose because the sanctions would cause the economy to collapse before that could happen. In the end, the Italians conquered Ethiopia in seven months and that was as much a logistical accomplishment as it was a tactical one. The war in Ethiopia was a hard fought victory, it was no cake walk.

(NB: The Italian victory in Ethiopia was the last colonial conquest of History and made Africa a continent fully in the hands of Europe. The only exception was tiny Liberia, that was nominally independent but in reality under protection of the United States and indirectly controlled by Great Britain. However the Italian empire in Ethiopia lasted only 5 years, but it was followed -after the local Italian defeat by the British empire in 1941- by an Italian guerrilla war that lasted until 1943. This Italian guerrilla won praise from some English generals, because of Amedeo Guillet and other Italian officers and soldiers who fought in a desperate way only for their duty toward their "Patria")

World War 2

But, of course, most of this prejudiced view of Italian martial prowess is a result of World War II and that is no accident. It was an explicit tactic of Allied propaganda to denigrate the Italian war effort as a way to boost their own morale and to cause division between Germany and Italy, in other words, to make the Germans resentful by portraying the Italians as incompetent weaklings that had to be carried by Germany. Obviously, things did not go well for Italy but that was due mostly to being worn out by extensive pre-war operations and because of the lack of a proper upgrading of the armed forces. Contrary to what most think, Italian forces performed quite well under extremely difficult circumstances during the war and had a number of very competent commanders.

In the early days of the war in Africa, the Italian forces came closer to victory than most realize. One major success that went a long way to allowing the Italians to make a major fight in north Africa was the long-range bombing missions launched by Lt. Colonel Ettore Muti on Palestine and Bahrain which did severe damage to British port facilities and oil refineries. This caused the British considerable logistical problems but also forced them to divert resources to defend the Middle East which were badly needed elsewhere. It also helped relieve the threat to the shipping lanes in the Mediterranean, allowing Italian forces to be moved to north Africa with very few losses. Starting from Italian bases in the Dodecanese Islands, making a wide circle around British bases in Cyprus, the Italian bombers hit British possessions in the Middle East and put the oil refineries in Haifa out of operation for at least a month. British aircraft operating out of Mt Carmel responded but were too late to intercept the Italian bombers as no one had been expecting an attack so far from what most considered the front lines.

Much of the bad press Italy continues to receive usually boils down to the invasion of France, the first invasion of Egypt and the invasion of Greece. All of this has been grossly overblown. For France, the Italians were unprepared and did poorly in their first operation of the war. Rather like Britain, France, Russia and America all performed rather poorly right out of the gate as well. In Egypt, too much was being asked of a force that was woefully behind the times and in Greece, that was not the disaster everyone thinks. It did not go well certainly but things began to turn around before the Germans intervened so that it was a stalemate that existed on the Greek front, not a collapse.

Photo of ceremony when Medals were awarded by german general Ramcke to six para' of the Folgore Division after the first battle of El Alamein in 1942. In the successive November battle of El Alamein the Folgore wrote one of the most glorious pages of the Italian military tradition

It would take too long to recount in detail all of the instances in which the stereotype is wrong but here is a brief rundown: The most successful non-German submarine commander of World War II was an Italian and the Italian submarine fleet sunk almost ¾ of a million tons of Allied shipping. Italian naval forces penetrated the British anchorage at Alexandria, Egypt and sank two battleships and a tanker and by the middle of 1942 the Royal Italian Navy totally dominated the central Mediterranean. In the Battle of Britain the outdated Italian aircraft actually gave as good as they got, later produced some planes superior to their Allied counterparts and Italian planes managed to sink 72 Allied warships and 196 freighters during the war. At Gazala in 1942 it was the Italian X Corps that saved the German 15th Brigade from total destruction and it was the Italian forces in Egypt that held off the British in Egypt while the Germans retreated after El Alamein (a battle the Italian commander predicted would end in disaster and for precisely the reasons for which it did) and in individual engagements Italian forces won stunning victories over the British and the Russians.

Speaking of the Italian light infantry, Field Marshal Rommel said, “The German soldier astonished the world, but the Bersaglieri astonished the German soldier”.

In terms of military commanders, Marshal Ettore Bastico proved his competence in Spain and gave good service in North Africa, being one of the few officers Rommel would at least listen to. Marshal Giovanni Messe (an ardent royalist) won victories on the Greek, Russian and African fronts and even Marshal Graziani, though ridiculed for his failed invasion of Egypt, knew it was a no-win situation and in any event that was the only defeat of his career. The Duke of Aosta won the respect of the British for his skillful and gallant defense of Italian East Africa, Major Adriano Visconti was one of a number of ace Italian fighter pilots in the war, shooting down 26 Allied aircraft and units such as the Folgore Division earned the respect of their enemies for their courage and tenacity on the battlefield.

(NB: The military performance of Italy in WW2 was the worst in Italy's History. But this disaster happened because Italy entered the war totally unprepared and against the wish of most of his rulers and inhabitants: the same Mussolini in 1939 requested Hitler to maintain peace in Europe until 1942 (when Italy was going to have a huge peaceful "Exposition" -called "Esposizione Universale Roma"- to celebrate 20 years of Fascism). And some Historians wonder why Italy initially attacked only France and did not attack Great Britain's Malta, that was totally defenseless! Furthermore, why Mussolini wanted to escape to Switzerland in April 1945 with letters/documents, that later disappeared when he was killed? May be that the disappeared papers contained the evidences that he entered the war only against France because he was told -probably by his ex-penpal Churchill- that the war was going to finish soon after the France defeat, and Italy & Great Britain together were going to "reduce & mitigate" the victory of Hitler in a soon-to-be Peace Conference? Nobody can deny that the British in this way could have obtained that the Maltese islands (and also other British territories in Africa next to the Italian colonies) were not occupied in the month of June 1940 when the United Kingdom was very weak, allowing time for the successive build up of the british military power in those strategically important areas. Of course all these questions are speculative. But serious historians also discuss why Italy entered so "badly" a war against his former WW1 Allies, while Mussolini was building an expensive defensive wall (called the "Vallo Alpino" - VALLO ALPINO IN ALTO ADIGE (
- ) against Nazi Germany in the frontier of Alto Adige. Why Italy used huge resources to build this huge alpine wall from France to Jugoslavia ( - ALPINE WALL (
- ) and centered on the Italian frontier with Austria/Germany in 1939 and 1940, and did not use the same resources for improving the Italian armed forces, that were in desperate need (after the wars in Spain and Ethiopia) when WW2 started? The Italians have never started a war in a so disastrous way in two thousand years! And they have a huge experience of wars, so why this WW2 disaster has happened? In my opinion the answer probably can be found in the Mussolini's papers/documents that Churchill was desperately seeking, when he did a "special" holyday for some weeks in the northern Italian lakes in September 1945. A copy of these letters/documents is probably deposited in the Vatican archives -according to some historians and experts: read SECRET DIARIES AND LETTERS BETWEEN CHURCHILL & MUSSOLINI
- but for a long time will not be allowed to be read for security reasons)


Obviously, there were plenty of losses as well, the overall war was a loss for Italy and a defeat is a defeat. However, the point is that every country has its successes and every country has its failures and it is simply ignorant to slander an entire people the way the Italians have been. What started out as simple wartime propaganda has been repeated so endlessly and exaggerated out of all proportion that it is truly ridiculous. The vast majority of the sweeping generalizations that too many people make are simply untrue.

The Italians have an illustrious military history with many great victories and many brilliant military leaders to be justly proud of. I also wish more people would keep in mind that denigrating someone, even an enemy, is often just as insulting to the other side. Where is the honor in defeating a totally hapless enemy? More simply though, I wish more people would simply pause before belittling anyone who put on a uniform and went into actual combat, something most people have not done. It is a pet peeve of mine to see the brave military forces of the past denigrated by smug people who usually don’t have the first clue as to what they are talking about and the two that seem to be put down the most, and thus infuriate me the most often, are those of Austria-Hungary (Austrians and Slavs) and the United Kingdom (two empires gone to the wind, even partially because of the Italian military). It really needs to stop and people should have more decency.

Just as in art, music, exploration and so many other areas, when it comes to warfare the Italians have much to be proud of.

(NB: One of the Italian military traditions -during the Renaissance and later until Napoleon times with his mass armies- was centered on special units under an able leader, that later were called in English: "Commando" - an Italian word meaning "under strong orders")

Saturday, January 7, 2017


The Beginnings of Commercial Aviation in Italy

Italy was the first in the History of Aviation to use the airplane for bombing, during the conquest of Libya in 1911, but after WW1 faced the internal crisis that paved the way for Mussolini's fascism. So, the civilian development of its airlines was delayed for some years.

Indeed as one of the major European powers in the 20th century, one might expect that Italy would have made an early start in commercial aviation. On the contrary, Italy was actually one of the last in Europe to begin civil aviation services, despite considerable experience in military and naval aviation before 1920. Political instability was the main factor, but geography also played a part in Italy's late start since the Alps and the Apennines prevented regular civil air travel within Italy. Not until the mid-1920s, a good five years after the rest of the major European powers, did Italy become a major participant in European commercial aviation.

Like many other European nations did in their early phases of civil aviation, Italy initially formed several small companies that struggled to provide a modest level of passenger service.

The first of these was the "Aero Expresso Italiana" (AEI), founded on December 12, 1923, which began offering services in August 1926: the first flight was from Torino to Trieste with a seaplane Cant 10 with 10 passengers.

By 1930, there were five other Italian airlines, including the "Società Italiana Servizi"(SISA), the "Società Area Navigazione Aerea" (SANA), the "Società Area Mediterranea" (SAM), and the "Società Area Avio-Linee Italiane" (ALI).

Almost all of these early Italian air services were state-owned or state supported. The only major exception was the ALI, which was backed by the powerful Fiat industrial empire, a builder of automobiles. The three biggest airlines, SISA, SANA, and SAM, equally split the Italian civil aviation market, carrying about 10,000 passengers per year by 1930. If in 1925 it seemed like Italians hardly had a civil aviation sector, by 1930 they had made rapid progress. In fact, Italian commercial aviation in 1930 was third in terms of the number of passengers carried, after Germany and France, and ahead of Great Britain and the Netherlands. Most Italian routes were limited to locations geographically close to the country and flying to Germany, the Italian territories in north Africa (particularly Libya), Greece, Turkey, France, and Austria.

The "SA Navigazione Aerea" (SANA) first air service to open was from Genova to Roma, Napoli and Palermo on the island of Sicilia (Sicily) on 20 August, 1925. On 7 April, 1926 SANA started a second civil air service of Italy: Genova – Napoli - Palermo. The 1,070 km long service was operated three times weekly (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) with return on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The 1930s was a time of consolidation for the European aviation industry, and Italy was no exception. In August 1934 SAM, SANA, and SISA combined to form a single national carrier known as "Ala Littoria", which was owned by the government. The creation of "Ala Littoria" was largely motivated more by political changes in Europe than by commercial interests: Benito Mussolini's fascist party had gained power in Italy, and the new government was eager to display the Italian flag as a symbol of the country's new prestige. Mussolini's conquest of Albania and Ethiopia in Africa (called Abyssinia by some historians) was aided by the Ala Littoria airline, which helped maintain transportation routes between Rome and the hinterlands. One company, ALI, remained independent of government control and maintained its operations, mostly to Nazi Germany-an Italian ally- with the strong support of the Fiat company.

Italy used planes in the 1920s much like those used by other European countries at the time: a mix of mostly German (the Junkers G-24 and F.13 and Dornier's Wal and Super-Wal) and Dutch (Fokker F.7b) aircraft. The SAM company also used a fleet of Caproni and Savoia-Marchetti flying-boats. After nationalization of the Italian airlines and the formation of "Ala Littoria", the Italians began to use planes designed and built by Italians. These were mostly bombers converted for civilian use such as the three-engine Savoia-Marchetti S.73 monoplane.

A Piaggio P 108C that in 1942 should have serviced the transatlantic route to South America

Ala Littoria

In order to study in detail the main first commercial airline of Italy, we have to pinpoint that Ala Littoria was incorporated in 1934, with the aim of making it Italy’s main national airline. The airline was formed as a result of the merger of SAM, SANA,and AEI. In addition, in 1935, Albania’s "Societa Adria-Aero Lloyd" and "Nord Africa Aviazione"(NAA, an air-line operating in Lybia) were absorbed by Ala Littoria. Umberto Klinger, previously a director of SAM, was appointed chief executive of Ala Littoria at the end of 1934; his huge experience in civil aviation and airline management was a key factor in his selection.

By the end of 1935, the only private airline that remained in operation in Italy was ALI, owned by the FIAT industrial group. Ala Littoria’s inherited route network was extensive and ranged throughout Europe and Italy’s African colonies. It was at the time of the war in Ethiopia that fascist “colonial aviation” came into being, as a result of consolidation in the domestic aviation market and the need for air links both to and within Italy’s overseas colonies.

Ala Littoria’s equipment included three-engine air-craft for domestic and European links and four-engine craft for the longer international routes. Its fleet included seaplanes for access to coastal and lakeside airports. At its height in late 1939, Ala Littoria flew to thirty-eight airports in every European country and in Italy’s African colonies, with a fleet of 132 aircraft. From 1938, connections had also been established with South America with a route to Buenos Aires. It was also proposed a route to North America and India/Japan in the 1940s, but war stopped it.

Passenger numbers reached 50,000 per year by the start of World War II, with more than 3,570,905 kilometers flown per annum. Ala Littoria’s development from 1934 through 1940 made the Italian civil aviation market the fifth most developed in the world by 1940, after the United States, the Soviet Union, Germany and Great Britain. Furthermore, from the establishment of Italian East Africa in 1936 onward, the Ministry of Aeronautics and Ala Littoria were active in developing a colonial civil aviation network, connecting Italy’s North and East African colonies with each other and with Italy, while creating internal routes within individual colonies.

By 1939, ten airports and one seaplane landing area were used for civil aviation traffic in Italian East Africa alone, a more developed colonial aviation network than in Italy’s other colonies. Libya, for example, featured only four airports and two seaplane landing areas in use by civil aviation traffic in 1939. Reflecting Ala Littoria’s key role in maintaining links between Rome and Italy’s colonies, the airline was accorded the lion’s share of facilities and hangar space at these airports, as seen in airport planning maps.

Furthermore in 1937, Assab airport in Eritrea was sufficiently well established to be able to accommodate Amelia Earhart and her aircraft in her ill-fated round-the-world attempt. Additionally, as has been noted, the airline enjoyed strong political support: it was championed by Italo Balbo (the would-be successor of Mussolini), while Mussolini’s son Bruno was, briefly, one of its managers.

First international & intercontinental routes

While in the late 1920s the Italian commercial flights reached European & Mediterranean countries around the Italian peninsula, in the 1930s there were new routes with long distance flights toward other continents.

Indeed the British airline company "Imperial Airways" wanted to operate in the late 1920s a through service from London via France, Italy and Greece to Egypt and India. The Italian government demanded from the British that the "SA Navigazione Aerea" would be able to pool between Genova and Alexandria. When the British refused to agree, they were forced to re-route the air service. The Italian government refused the British to enter Italy via France and thus the route had to be rescheduled and changed into a flight from London to Basel (Switzerland), then to a train ride to Genova (Italy), where passengers, mail and freight were transferred to the Short S.8 Calcutta flying boats for the sea-trip to Alexandria in Egypt. The curious point here was that the Italians allowed the British to leave Italy from an Italian port, but Imperial Airways Ltd was not allowed to cross Italian soil to Genova.

Imperial Airways Ltd finally could open its air service on 30 March, 1929. As a countermeasure the Italians started two weeks later a parallel air service. On 15 April, 1929, the SANA opened an air service from Genova to Roma, Napoli, Kerkira, Athenia, Rhodos, Tobruk and Alexandria in the former British protectorate of Egypt (total length of the air service was 2,895 km). Imperial Airways Ltd had to fly from Genova to Roma, Napoli, Corfu, Athens, Suda Bay (Crete), Tobruk and Alexandria. With two airline companies flying to Alexandria, the Italian regarded it as a pool service. In the first (and only) year of operation, the Dornier Superwal of "SA Navigazione Aerea" flew 190,947 km (on 33 return trips), and transported 257 passengers (average of nearly four passengers per trip in an aircraft with nineteen seats), 3,952 kg mail and newspapers and 36,731 kg goods and luggage. The air service had merely a political meaning, as in 1930 it had already been closed down again. The two governments failed to reach an agreement and thus the services had to be discontinued by SANA. The British continued to operate as previous and the public did not care for the extra train ride. In fact, at a later stage the passengers, goods and mail had to travel by train from Paris to Brindisi, from where the Imperial Airways Ltd flying boats transported them to Egypt and beyond.

The Italians in the early 1930s discontinued the air service to Alexandria and concentrated on their original network of 1928. Roma – Genova (430 km, 3 hours flying) was operated six times weekly, as well as the air service between Roma, Napoli and Palermo (640 km, 5½ hour flying). In Palermo, "Società Aerea Mediterranea" – SAM, the new state-owned airline company offered a connection to Tunis. The service to France and Spain was divided into two services: Roma – Genova – Marseille (745 km, 7 hours flying) and Genova – Marseille – Barcelona (770 km, 7 hours flying). The first service was operated on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while latter it was flown on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The train from Roma to Genova and Marseille could travel the distance in 24 hours, so compared with the flying-time of seven hours there was a great improvement. From Genova to Barcelona a train would use 28 hours, a fast steamer 21 hours. Again a flying-time of merely 7 hours was an impressive improvement. The "SA Navigazione Aerea" continued the air service to Tripoli in Italian Libya as well, but the landing was done even at Siracusa only on demand. Jane’s mentioned also a landing at Malta on demand by passengers.

Map of Ala Littoria flight routes in 1939

"Ala Littoria" played an important role in controlling Italy's colonial empire in north and east Africa. But in establishing routes from Italy to Africa, "Ala Littoria" had to overcome many geographic obstacles. For example, airplanes of the 1930s had great difficulty reaching Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, which is located about 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) above sea level. One of the company's proudest achievements occurred in November 1935, when "Ala Littoria" began full passenger service between Rome and Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, on the east coast of Africa, thousands of miles from southern Europe. The prestigious route was called "Linea dell'Impero", and the airports connected were those of Rome-Benghazi-Cairo-Kartoum-Asmara-Addis Abeba-Mogadishu.

In 1939, attracted by the idea of establishing a direct regular service between Italy and Italian Eastern Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana) bypassing the British colonies/protectorates of Egypt & Sudan, Bruno Mussolini (in the meantime appointed general manager of LATI) and his staff carried out a long technical cruise with their improved Savoia-Marchetti SM.83 to Tripoli and the Kufra Oasis (in southeastern Libya), Asmara, Massaua, Gura and Agordat (Eritrea). The voyage (still partially commercial) proved to be very useful to acknowledge those flight experiences necessary for the future war missions. On June 15, 1940 – only five days after the Italian declaration of war – their Savoia-Marchetti SM.83 "615-1" took off from Guidonia (the air base near Rome) to Asmara, via Benghazi (Cyrenaica, Libya), with six passengers and 100 kilograms of mail onboard, officially starting the ‘special’ air links with the Impero (Empire). It was a full success, that opened a new trans-saharian flight route in Africa between Italian Libia and Eritrea/Ethiopia. So, other six flights (now fully military) were completed in 1940 within the end of June, twelve in July and two in August, carrying on the whole 27 passengers, 406 kgs of luggage, 5753 kgs of mail and 4047 kgs of ammo, medicals and spare parts.

It is noteworthy to pinpoint also that on March 1938 the airline "Ala Littoria" did the first record flight from Rome to Argentina with the route Roma-Cagliari-Bathurst/Gambia-Bahia-Rio de Janeiro-Buenos Aires, using a special hydroplane of the model Cant Z 506, but later the company was substituted by the newly created "Linee Aeree Transcontinetali Italiane" (LATI) for the Latin American flights.

LATI initially started flights from Rome to Rio de Janeiro, but in 1939 enlarged the route until Buenos Aires (with mail services until Chile and Bolivia/Peru).LATI (
LATI was ready to use the best Italian airplane of prewar era, the Piaggio P 108C (that was the civilian version of the state-of-the-art P 108 bomber), but when the airplane was ready in early 1942 the USA entered war and blocked the Italian transatlantic flights.

"Ala Littoria" routes in 1940 grew to 37,110 kms, mainly in the Mediterranean and Africa. This accomplishment -as indicated before- made the airline the fifth in the world (after the USA, URSS, Germany and UK's national airlines).

Like all other air services in Africa (including those offered by the Belgian airline "Sabena"), the Italian "Ala Littoria" shut down all its operations with the coming of World War II. The Italian company also had to eventually terminate services in Europe as the chaos of the war reached a peak by 1943. With the exception of sporadic operations of the independent ALI, which continued flights between the two Axis powers, Germany and Italy, for most of the war, there was no civilian Italian air service to mention.

1947 Photo of an ex-Italian Air Force type -the Savoia-Marchetti SM.95, a plane that had been at the center of one of Italy’s most audacious wartime efforts: “Operation S” (the bombing of New York City)- with the insignia of "Alitalia"

After WW2: Alitalia

When Italy resumed commercial aviation operations in the postwar era, there was a burst of civil activity as at least seven companies formed to carry passengers. None of the new companies, however, had any connection with prewar companies such as "Ala Littoria". Major British and American firms, such as "Trans World Airlines" (TWA) and "British European Airways" (BEA) contributed to the restoration of Italian commercial aviation by financing the establishment of two major Italian airlines, "Aerolinee Italiane Internazionali" (Alitalia) and "Linee Aeree Italiane" (LAI).

Alitalia expanded rapidly in 1946/1947.  New aircraft were added, including another ex-Italian Air Force type, the Savoia-Marchetti SM.95, a plane that had been subject of one of Italy’s most audacious wartime efforts, “Operation S”, the bombing of New York City.

Later these two companies (Alitalia & LAI) served as the backbone of Italian civil air activity into the 1950s and eventually merged into a single airline known as "Linee Aeree Italiane" (Alitalia) in September 1957. "Alitalia" remains the airline most commonly associated with modern Italian commercial aviation.